Table of Contents
The Czech brand’s mid-sized SUV receives a midlife refresh, with an enhanced equipment list along with a price hike.
- Punchy 2.0-litre turbo-four
- Handsome exterior styling
- Excellent ride and good dynamics
- Telling lack of standard safety tech
- Some options should be standard
- No longer the value equation it once was
2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline
The facelifted Skoda Karoq has arrived in Australia and, much like the brand itself, without much fanfare.
But, the Czech brand’s player in the hotly contested medium SUV segment continues to surprise and delight; an unconventional offering from an unconventional brand.
It’s something of a puzzle to us here at Drive that the Karoq doesn’t get more attention. While its Kamiq and Kodiaq stablemates enjoy healthy sales in the small and large SUV segments respectively, the Karoq doesn’t trouble VFACTS’s finger-counters to the same level.
But, in a segment where value is key, price rises, even if as Skoda points out they represent better value in terms of included equipment, can dull some of the value gloss.
How much does the Skoda Karoq cost in Australia?
The Skoda Karoq range comprises just two variants: the entry-level Style and the range-topping Sportline.
But, don’t imagine the differences are purely features-based. Instead, each Karoq has its own distinct engine and transmission combo, and its own distinct character.
The entry-level Style is powered by a 1.4-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine sending drive to the front wheels. It’s priced at $42,990 drive-away.
Stepping into the Karoq Sportline brings all-wheel drive (as opposed to the Style’s front-wheel-drive platform) and a more powerful (140kW against the Style’s 110kW) 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.
It’s priced at $49,990 drive-away. It’s also the car we have on test here.
That pricing represents a $3000 increase over the previous model, although Skoda is keen to stress it also comes with $4100 additional value in the shape of goodies usually reserved for options.
Now standard items include full matrix LED headlights including adaptive high-beam, front parking sensors (in addition to rear sensors), ‘virtual pedal’ hands-free power tailgate opening, digital radio, wireless charging, extended pedestrian protection (for autonomous emergency braking), rear dynamic indicators, luggage nets and rear spoiler.
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That’s on top of a decent list of standard equipment.
Highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, digital radio, a 10.25-inch digital instrument display, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, leather sports steering wheel with paddle-shifters, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, adaptive cruise control, fog lights with cornering function, and some sporty-looking black exterior styling elements including grille, mirrors, roof rails, and window frames.
Of course, no new car – or medium SUV – worth its salt would allow itself to be driven out of the showroom without a few options added on. Our test car is no different, wearing $8900 of added goodies including a $1900 panoramic sunroof, an $1100 coat of Velvet Red ‘special paint’, and the big-ticket $5900 Premium Pack.
That last pack bundles in a raft of equipment, although some earn our ire for not being standard-fit.
The most visible is a 9.2-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation (un-optioned Karoq Sportlines make do with an 8.0-inch screen and no sat-nav).
The Premium Pack also adds front and rear (outboard) heated seats, headlight washers, a heated steering wheel, a heat-insulating windscreen, adaptive chassis control, park assist, lane assist, a 360-degree-view camera, traffic jam assist and emergency assist.
Skoda says the $5900 Premium bundle represents a 36 per cent discount over the full retail of included items priced at $9230.
Skoda also points out that rear cross-traffic alert is no longer included in the bundle, and is now part of a $1200 option that also includes blind-spot assist. Both are key safety items that really should be standard-fit, especially in a vehicle priced at the circa $50K mark.
All up, our test Karoq is priced at $58,890 drive-away, which is getting up there in Australia’s hottest new car segment.
|2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline
|Colour of test car
|Premium Pack – $5900
– 9.2-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation
– Heated seats (front and rear)
– Headlight washers
– Heated steering wheel
– Heat-insulating windscreen
– Adaptive chassis control
– Park assist
– Lane assist
– 360-degree-view camera
– Traffic jam assist
– Emergency assist
Panoramic sunroof – $1900
Premium paint – $1100
|Price as tested
|Volkswagen Tiguan | Toyota RAV4 | Mazda CX-5
How much space does the Skoda Karoq have inside?
Skoda has always skirted the line between mainstream and the affordable end of premium.
Don’t expect leather, though, the seats in the Karoq Sportline are trimmed in cloth. But far from feeling cheap, the seats look and feel great, highlighted by some fancy diamond-shaped quilting finished with contrast stitching. They’re super comfy too.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel – with paddle-shifters – feels nice in hand, while ergonomically everything falls nicely to hand.
Storage options include the traditional pair of cupholders that flank a key-sized slot perfect for, well, the Karoq’s key. If you’re not using the cupholders, they can be lifted out and flipped over to create a handy shallow tray that’s ideal for slimmer items, such as smartphones or wallets.
The dashtop also features a shallow – and lidded – storage area, while the door pockets can accommodate bottles. Missing in action are some Skoda favourites, however. There’s no umbrella in the door, nor is there a tiny little garbage bin located in the door pockets.
There are, though, some slim elastic straps in the door pockets ideal for securing slimmer objects such as a tablet. We’d prefer the return of the umbrella over a piece of elastic, though.
The second row is spacious enough in the outboard seats, with plenty of toe, knee, leg and head room. Things get a bit tight in the middle pew, with an imposing transmission tunnel eating into floor space.
The optional panoramic roof keeps things nice and airy back there, while storage amounts to a pair of cupholders in the fold-down armrest. Charging options in the second row run to a single 12V plug, and climate control in the second row amounts to a pair of air vents.
Thanks to the optional Premium Pack, the outboard seats in the second row are heated.
Cargo capacity runs to 521L with the second row in use and expanding to 1630L with the back seats folded away in 40:60 split-fold fashion. Unlike the Karoq Style, the Sportline misses out on Varioflex individually folding and removable rear seats.
Keeping your goodies secure in the back is helped by an array of cargo nets, which are standard-fit in the Karoq Sportline. A space-saver spare wheel resides under the boot floor.
|2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline
|521L seats up
1630L seats folded
Does the Skoda Karoq have Apple CarPlay?
The regular Karoq Sportline is equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s basically a conduit for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, and some of the car’s functions such as drive modes. There’s no sat-nav.
Our test car, though, was fitted with the $5900 optional Premium Pack, and that brings with it a larger 9.2-inch screen with satellite navigation. We’d argue this should be standard in the range-topping Karoq.
CarPlay works seamlessly, and is quick to pair wirelessly without any of the glitches wireless connectivity can sometimes throw up.
The screen itself is fast to respond to inputs and features ‘gesture control’, where an approaching hand can expand on-screen menus for a cleaner look when dormant, but added functionality when required. It’s a bit hit-and-miss, and one of those features no-one really asked for.
A wireless smartphone charging pad is augmented by two USB-C plugs out front, while the second row scores a single 12V plug to squabble over.
Traditional dials for the dual-zone climate controls are a welcome feature, as too many brands are switching to fiddly touchscreen-accessible interfaces for keeping the ambient temperature inside just right.
Skoda’s 10.25-inch digital driver display continues, in our eyes, to be among the best in the business. Everything about it feels just right. From the simple yet clear graphics, the ease of configurability, even the use of fonts, Skoda’s interpretation of the wider Volkswagen Group’s driver display tech is, to our yes, the flag-bearer.
As well as its sharp appearance, the system is easy to configure to taste via steering-wheel-mounted switches and has the ability to display as much or as little information as you want.
Is the Skoda Karoq a safe car?
The Skoda Karoq was awarded a five-star safety rating by ANCAP back in 2017.
It scored a decent 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 79 per cent for child occupant, 73 per cent for pedestrians, and scraped in a 58 per cent pass mark for its safety assist systems; the last marked down (0.0 out of 3) for Skoda’s lane support systems being optional for the base model.
What safety technology does the Skoda Karoq have?
The passage of time hasn’t changed Skoda’s philosophy in terms of safety. Autonomous emergency braking is fitted as standard, along with adaptive cruise control, driver fatigue detection, and tyre pressure monitoring.
But, in an era where the focus on safety and its systems grows ever larger, the Skoda Karoq still requires option boxes be ticked for the full suite. Lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are all optional in the Sportline, while the entry-level Style misses out completely on the last two.
It’s a misstep from Skoda in an era where safety and its associated technologies are not only commonplace, but also increasingly standard on even the most affordable cars in new car dealerships.
The Skoda Karoq’s airbag count runs to seven.
How much does the Skoda Karoq cost to maintain?
A five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty underpins the Skoda Karoq, while service intervals stretch out to 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first.
Skoda offers two service packs at the time of purchase. A five-year pack runs to $1550, while opting for the seven-year commitment asks for $2400, or around $342 per year.
Comprehensive insurance runs out to $1053.30 per annum based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
|At a glance
|2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline
|Five years, unlimited km
|12 months or 15,000km
|$1550 (5 years)
$2400 (5 years)
Is the Skoda Karoq fuel-efficient?
Skoda says the Karoq Sportline will use just 6.6L/100km of premium 95-octane unleaded petrol on the combined cycle. Our week saw an indicated 9.8L/100km skewed towards urban driving.
The fuel tank measures in at 55L.
|Fuel cons. (claimed)
|Fuel cons. (on test)
|95-octane premium unleaded
|Fuel tank size
What is the Skoda Karoq like to drive?
Skoda has long impressed by offering an engaging time behind the wheel.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine under the bonnet is a tried and trusted unit from within the broader Volkswagen stable, and in this Skoda Karoq application it’s good for 140kW and 320Nm and a 0–100km/h sprint time of 7.0 seconds.
Sending those outputs to all four wheels is Skoda’s iteration of the VW Group’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (DSG) transmission.
And straight off the bat, it’s an utterly charming combination.
The response from the engine and transmission combination is silky smooth, with one minor quibble. Acceleration from standstill elicits the tiniest amount of hesitation from the dual-clutch transmission, the DSG taking a moment to consider its options before helping the Karoq to move away at a brisk pace.
It’s the only time you’ll notice any lag; the rest of the driving experience is smooth and intuitive.
Tootling around town at city speeds (40–60km/h) is as effortless as it is quiet, the Karoq a commendably smooth operator. And a burst of acceleration – such as entering a motorway – does little to challenge the mid-sizer.
Highway cruising is a refined experience, the Karoq remaining quiet and unflustered.
That’s only enhanced by the dynamic chassis control, Skoda-speak for adaptive dampers.
In the Comfort setting, the ride is pleasant and well cushioned, ironing out minor scrapes and holes with ease. It’s a similar tale in the streets and laneways of the inner city, not always the best canvas for our nation’s road-builders. The Karoq navigates these holes and patchy surfaces with aplomb.
Switching to Sport mode adds a touch of brittleness, while still remaining within acceptable levels of firm. Bump absorption is harder-edged, for sure, and you’ll question whether using Sport in urban environments is the best use of adaptive damper technology.
But out on some rural back roads, the firmer ride comes into its own, providing a solid platform for some more spirited driving.
The transmission, too, in Sport mode is an eager participant, holding onto engine revs willingly to provide sharper acceleration out of corners, say. Use the paddle-shifters if you want even more engagement, the gearshifts sharp and razor-like in their precision.
But as much fun as the Karoq can be when you want it to be, its happy hunting ground really is around town and the suburbs – an accomplished medium SUV with a pleasant manner.
Easy to drive, easier still to park, spending time behind the wheel is nothing but pleasing.
|2023 Skoda Karoq Sportline
|2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
|140kW @ 6000rpm
|320Nm @ 1500–4100rpm
|Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
|Power to weight ratio
|Spare tyre type
Should I buy a Skoda Karoq?
Skoda has always been a bit of an interesting proposition in Australia, with relatively affordable offerings that matched the larger VW Group’s levels of refinement in a value proposition that was hard to match.
But, like everything, times change, and the price hikes endured by the Karoq have taken some of the gloss off what is otherwise a tidy medium SUV.
Add in that some of the features included in expensive option bundles really should be standard, and the Karoq, while still an engaging and utterly charming SUV to drive, starts to creep into the upper reaches of the mainstream medium SUV segment.
A starting price (without any options) of $49,990 drive-away for the Karoq Sportline sees it go up against some pretty stiff competition from a host of mainstream rivals. Adding almost $10,000 of options only dilutes the Karoq’s appeal.
A refined interior, while not exactly screaming from the rooftop of luxury, still provides a sense of European style. And the experience behind the wheel is at once easy and capable.
Still, for those who like to be a little bit different, the 2023 Skoda Karoq presents as a decent mid-sizer, even if its value equation is no longer what it once was.