Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI SE L

Specifications: Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI SE L

  • Run by: David Ross since May 2022 / Lawrence Allan since August 2022 
  • Price when new: £30,950 (£33,470 including options)
  • Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
  • Power: 150PS
  • Torque: 250Nm
  • Claimed economy: 43.5mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 147g/km
  • 0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
  • Insurance group: 18

Report 1: The latest Skoda Karoq joins our fleet

We'll be running the updated Skoda Karoq for six months. Is this the ideal family-friendly SUV?

Date: 3 May 2022 | Current mileage: 478 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 37.5mpg

After six months with our Skoda Octavia vRS Estate I'm (sadly) giving up an estate and switching to everyone's favourite thing these days: a family SUV. I've not gone far from the brand, swapping the Octavia Estate for a Karoq, Skoda's equivalent of the SEAT Ateca and its rival for cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Tucson.

I'm certainly going to miss the performance of the Skoda Octavia vRS. Instead of the 2.0 TSI with 245PS, our Skoda Karoq is powered by a 1.5 TSI Evo petrol engine with a more sedate 150PS. What I am looking forward to, though, is better fuel economy, which will come in very handy with fuel now knocking on the £2.00 a litre mark.

Indeed, as an affordable to run and versatile family car, our Skoda Karoq should tick lots of boxes. It has lots of interior space, a good sized boot and the usual Skoda practical touches to make life that bit easier.

Our car is a mid-spec SE L and comes with plenty of kit including wireless Apple CarPlay, a reversing camera and heated front seats and steering wheel (roll on winter). The kids are already excited by the trays for the rear seats and the iPad holders in the headrests. Easily impressed it seems.

Our Skoda Karoq is also fitted with the optional £600 Amundsen Package Plus which adds a virtual cockpit - that's a posh phrase for digital dials instead of the old analogue ones - along with a wireless charging pad for your phone. Other extras include the fetching Petrol Blue metallic paint and a removable tow bar (somehow £1000...)

And the final price for all that? A surprising £33,470. That's not quite what we'd call affordable, but it's the going rate for an SUV of this size and competitive. But to give it context, a Karoq SE L 1.5 TSI DSG now costs £30,950 (without any options) compared to £25,815 for the same car in 2018. That's a big jump over four years.

We also went for a DSG automatic, because no one wants the hassle of changing gear when you've got three demanding children in the back who are asking you questions non-stop and/or throwing Wotsits on the floor. It does cost £1500 extra over the manual but we think it's a worthwhile investment for the convenience factor.

So over the coming six months we'll be seeing whether the newly revised Skoda Karoq fits the brief as a family SUV and how it compares to the competition. Following on from the Octavia vRS Estate, it has some big shoes to fill.

Report 2: What's new with the Skoda Karoq for 2022?

Four years after its launch, Skoda has revamped the Karoq for 2022 with styling tweaks and new equipment. So what's new?

Date: 24 May 2022 | Current mileage: 602 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 37.8mpg

The Skoda Karoq has proved a huge success for the brand. It's the best selling model in the Skoda range after the Skoda Octavia, which just shows you how popular family SUVs have become. And despite strong competition - pretty much every brand now has an SUV of some sort - the Skoda Karoq has managed to hold its own and prove a popular UK seller.

Four years on from being introduced, the Skoda Karoq has now been updated with a mild facelift and some equipment changes. It follows on from the Skoda Kodiaq which was revised in 2021 and follows the same formula.

Not that Skoda has gone overboard with the cosmetic changes. In fact most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference from a quick glance. But Skoda has in fact given the Karoq a new front end with slimmer headlights and a wider grille.

Skoda refers to it as 'a refined SUV design language and much more self-assured'. Don't you just love marketing speak. There are at least some new paint colours with metallic Phoenix Orange and Graphite Grey added to the range. 

Park old and new side by side and the difference are a little more noticeable but we'd still describe them as subtle rather than sweeping. Basically the front is a bit more 'pointy' while the rear lights are narrower. Still, the Skoda Karoq has sold extremely well up till now so the brand isn't going to mess with a winning formula.

The white car above is in fact the Skoda Karoq we ran in 2019 - a Skoda Karoq 2.0 TDI Scout. But times have changed and the Scout trim was dropped in 2020 due to low demand while the 1.6 TDI engine has also been ditched as more people switch to petrol.

Inside the only obvious difference between old and new is a redesigned steering wheel with a more modern look and metal controls. The rest of the changes are essentially to the options list, so for example you can splash out on triple-zone Climatronic climate control and an electrically adjustable front-passenger seat with memory function that wasn't available before.

It's fair to say Skoda has gone for a gentle evolution with its mid-life refresh of the Skoda Karoq but in reality, there was very little wrong with it before. One future change will see the virtual cockpit - an option on our car - become standard across the range. That will be part of another raft of equipment upgrades due in a few months which we'll be interested to discover.

Report 3: Very capable but also boring?

The Skoda Karoq does a lot of things very well as a family SUV, but it seems fun is way down the list.

Date: 7 June 2022 | Current mileage: 797 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 37.7mpg

We're just over a month in with our Skoda Karoq and so far I've been very impressed. What has really shone through is just how well-suited to everyday family life it is. The excellent ride quality is a big part of that - the Skoda Karoq is incredibly comfortable, the suspension dealing particularly well with some of the terribly potholed roads where we live.

You'd file the Skoda Karoq under 'easy to drive'. It's undemanding and relaxing, which is exactly what the majority of buyers choosing a family SUV of this ilk are after. The fact ours is a DSG automatic only adds to that easy-going nature, as does the quiet and smooth 1.5 TSI petrol engine.

So far so good then. But there is a large fun-shaped hole with the Skoda Karoq. Yes it's very accomplished in so many areas, but it's also a bit, dare we say it, boring...

Not that there's anything wrong with that. The Skoda Karoq is a car you buy very much with your head rather than you heart. It's a bit like buying a washing machine - yes it does the job you ask it do (and does it very well) but it doesn't give you a warm glow while it's on the rinse and spin cycle.

And indeed, that sums up family SUVs for many buyers. Once you've gotten over the excitement of having a new car, models like the Skoda Karoq, Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai Tucson are simply A to B transport - the cars you see on the school run and parked at the train station. Not to be disparaging but we doubt many people get excited about a Qashqai...

But as the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate we ran previously proves, family practicality and driving enjoyment don't have to be mutually exclusive. And there are some family SUVs out there that do err on the side of sportiness if not embrace it entirely. The Ford Puma and Mazda CX-30 for example.

I suppose if I could sum up the Karoq in one word, it would be 'reassuring'. It's the kind of car that isn't going to get the attention of the neighbours, but after a long day of London offices and train commutes, getting behind the wheel of the Skoda Karoq in the station car park feels comforting. Like a nice blanket and a cup of tea.

While I appreciate that, I personally like cars that have a bit of character, or at least a bit of spirit. And for all the good things the Skoda Karoq does, for me it's just missing that X factor that gives a car that extra sparkle. 

Report 4: What's the Skoda Karoq boot space like?

The Karoq is billed as a family SUV, so how big and useful is the boot when it comes to family life?

Date: 23 June 2022 | Current mileage: 1192 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 38.2mpg

Having switched directly from the Skoda Octavia Estate to the Skoda Karoq, I suppose it was inevitable that I'd immediately notice the difference in space, especially with three children (one of who is under 12 months) and all their gear to move around.

Comparing the two is perhaps unfair. The Skoda Karoq is never going to be as spacious as the Skoda Octavia Estate as the figures show. The Karoq is after all akin to a Volkswagen Golf in terms of dimensions and considerably shorter than an Octavia Estate.

That said, the Karoq still has a very useful and large boot. It has 480 litres of carrying space (you can move the seats forward but that basically limits rear legroom to pretty much zero). That said, it can't compete with the Skoda Octavia Estate that can swallow 640 litres of stuff.

For us, the biggest difference is the depth of the boot. With the Octavia Estate we could slide the littlest one's Nuna pushchair all the way in and it would leave us with carrying room behind. Or we could even carry it lengthways. That's not the case with the Karoq and it means you have to slide and squeeze other things in.

What the Karoq does have, though, is its clever VarioFlex seats. Standard on our Karoq SE L and upwards (its an option on cheaper models), instead of a rear bench seat there are three individual chairs that can slide back and forth. The idea is that you can trade legroom for boot space individually, but for us we've found the fact you can recline them the most useful.

With various car seats for our 9, 7 and (almost) 1 year old, it can be tricky to get all to fit in safely and also comfortably for the kids. But being able to adjust the seat back really helps. You can even take all the seats out completely if you want, but we've found folding them down is more than enough space for us when we need to move bikes or carry the odd big box to the tip.

The boot has useful storage sections in the sides and flip down hooks too, handy for keeping shopping bags from falling over and bottles rolling around the boot. As usual with a Skoda, it's very practical. There's even a removable torch which, if nothing else, can entertain the kids for five minutes...

Aside from that, the Karoq has continued to be a no-nonsense family SUV that's proving a great runaround for us. Economy is only okay at around 37mpg, although we'll be hoping that improves over the coming months.

Report 5: Is there a hybrid Skoda Karoq?

As we're seeing more hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid cars on the market, will there be an alternative to petrol and diesel in the Karoq?

Date: 5 July 2022 | Current mileage: 1608 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 37.9mpg

The Skoda Karoq sits slap bang in the middle of the most competitive part of the car market - the family SUV. Pretty much every major manufacturer has at least one family SUV in its line-up. Indeed Skoda alone has four SUVs - the Skoda KamiqSkoda Karoq, all-electric Skoda Enyaq and the seven seat Skoda Kodiaq.

But it's the Skoda Karoq which is its most popular SUV. It competes with the likes of the incredibly popular Nissan Qashqai, the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson, among lots of other models from Vauxhall, Ford and just about everyone else. Basically what you'll see at any supermarket car park on a Saturday morning.

Where the Skoda Karoq differs from the Qashqai, Sportage and Tucson is that it's not available as a hybrid. At the moment there's only petrol and diesel options. Whereas both the Sportage and Tucson are plug-in hybrids and the Qashqai is available as a hybrid.

So the question is, will there be a Karoq hybrid any time soon? Skoda already has plug-in hybrid models in the shape of the Skoda Superb iV and Skoda Octavia iV. These both combine a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with an electric motor, the latter gives a 35 mile purely electric range.  

It would make a lot of sense then for there to be a Karoq iV using the same set-up. Skoda doesn't have hybrids and the Enyaq is the flag bearer for its electrification so plug-in hybrids make a lot of sense.

For us, a 30 mile+ range would mean we'd rarely be using the fuel tank as most of our journeys are short, local trips. It's something we took advantage of with our Volvo V60 T8 during the fuel 'crisis' in 2021.

However, we spoke to Skoda who told us that having just launched the facelifted Skoda Karoq there are currently no plans for it to be part of the iV electrified range of cars. Instead we can expect the Skoda Karoq replacement to be a fully electric car. Skoda is ramping up its EV programme and will have at least three electric vehicles in development as early as 2026.

So for now, it seems that Skoda Karoq owners will have to make do with petrol and diesel power. Unless they make the switch to either a Skoda Octavia or Skoda Superb, both available as a PHEV, or fully commit to the electric Skoda Enyaq. 

Report 6: MPG in our Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI

We've stuck with a petrol engine with the Skoda Karoq but will we regret not choosing the 2.0 TDI when it comes to fuel economy?

Date: 19 July 2022 | Current mileage: 2201 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 37.9mpg

One of the things we mulled over when choosing the Karoq was whether to go for a petrol TSI engine (as in the Skoda Octavia vRS we ran) or switch to a TDI diesel like our own Skoda Superb Estate. Skoda has ditched the 1.6 TDI but still offers the 2.0 TDI with 150PS - the same engine that's in our Superb.

It has identical power to the 1.5 TSI and while the diesel has the torque advantage, the TSI is far quieter and smoother. Plus given how expensive diesel fuel is, it's also cheaper to fill up at the local Esso...

But what of a actual economy? Well the Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI DSG has claimed economy of 43.5mpg, which we thought quite low considering the far more powerful Octavia 2.0 TSI 245 vRS we ran previously posted a claimed 40.3mpg.

So far - and with 3000 miles now on the clock - we're seeing about 38mpg on average. I say average as there's seemingly no way to actually display a long term average mpg figure on the trip computer. Unless I'm being very thick. (Edit: we've worked out how to do this now, but the average figure is still around 38mpg)

While a petrol engine makes perfect sense for the kind of driving we do, I do miss the economy of a diesel. The 2.0 TDI 150 DSG Karoq has a claimed 55mpg and from our experience with our own diesel Skoda Superb, you'd be likely to see at least late 40s without much effort. 

Hopefully the fuel economy will increase closer to 40mpg over the next few weeks with a number of longer motorway trips planned - while a new custodian is on the cards too. Meanwhile I will just enjoy the lack of diesel clatter when I start it up each morning... 

Report 7: Was the Skoda Yeti cooler?

If you follow these updates you may have noticed two key things about our Skoda Karoq: that the mileage has shot up, and that the average miles-per-gallon figure has risen too.

Date: 1 September 2022 | Current mileage: 3246 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 41.5mpg

That's down to the fact that the Karoq is now being run by a different custodian (Lawrence Allan), who spends a lot more time pounding up and down the motorway, either to the office or to various airports and locations around the UK on car launches. The sustained high speed cruising has had a positive effect on the Skoda's MPG, which is now creeping ever closer to the claimed figure. 

The new minder of the Karoq has found it one of those cars that you slip into like your favourite pair of shoes. Skoda has a knack of making cars so logically designed and intuitive to use that you don't need to spend ages fiddling with the tech, working out how to turn features like lane assist off (something this tester is never keen on) and trying to get comfortable.

When we swapped into it from David's use we simply connected our phone, quickly adjusted the wheel and seat and felt right at home. Mainstream family cars like this don't need to be over-endowed with gimmicks or confusing, button-less interfaces. 

On the subject of familiarity, we recently parked up at a local historic house and found some handy company when returning back. We're not sure if it was targeted parking or sheer luck, but a local Skoda Yeti owner had positioned their car - in exactly the same paint colour, by chance - alongside the Karoq.

It got us thinking about the controversy when the Skoda Karoq was launched back in 2017. Effectively replacing the much-loved Yeti, the Karoq took a bit of stick from car fans and the motoring press for being too dull. Skoda, it seemed, thought it took too much of a risk with the love-or-hate styling of the Yeti and went for a more mature, conventional look. So conventional, in fact, that it just looks like a lightly restyled SEAT Ateca from some angles. 

There's an obvious reason for that: it's based on the Ateca underneath (and the Volkswagen Tiguan) as sharing platforms and mechanical bits between VW Group brands massively reduces costs, and helps keep the price keen enough for the Skoda to be one of the more affordable cars in its class. 

Still, I do think it's a shame that the Skoda Karoq's design lacks some of the personality and character that made the Yeti such a hit with a loyal band of owners. So loyal, and clearly satisfied, that we know of a number that simply replaced their Yeti with another Yeti when the mileage got too high...

Seeing it side-by-side you might not say the Yeti stands out, but bear in mind we're comparing a refreshed 2022 model to a design that first arrived in 2009 and you see just how radical the Yeti looked. The latest Skoda Enyaq iV and Fabia show the sharper-suited direction the brand is taking, so maybe the Karoq's eventual replacement might jazz things up a bit. Still, if function matters to you more than form the Skoda Karoq remains up there with the very best family SUVs

Report 8: Using the Skoda Karoq for tip runs and towing

We reckon the Skoda Karoq punches above its size and weight when it comes to the practical tasks.

Date: 30 September 2022 | Current mileage: 4028 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 41.0mpg

The image in question was taken by my stepfather, who borrowed the Karoq for the day to transport bags of hedge cuttings to the local waste recycling centre. While he was at least clued up enough to work out how to open the boot and draw back the load cover (sheer expertise..) the phone call came when he had to work out how to fold the back seats.

You see - as David highlighted in previous reports - our Skoda Karoq SE-L comes as standard with VarioFlex seating. Whereas lesser Karoq specs get a simple fixed rear bench with the usual 60/40 backrest folding, VarioFlex splits the bench into three individual seats that slide, recline and fold in a 40/20/40 split. 

It's an option on the base trim and one well worth going for, we reckon, as it transforms the Karoq from a decent family SUV into something genuinely flexible. The only problem is working out how to fold the backrests. In most cars there is either a lever on the top of the seatbacks or levers on the sides of the boot, but the Varioflex seats have a fabric loop jutting out of the seat base where the seatbelts are mounted. 

They're a bit more fiddly than the usual solutions, but once folded the boot capacity increases from its very generous 588 litre maximum (up 67 litres from the standard seats) to 1605 litres. Want even more space? Those VarioFlex seats can be removed entirely to allow for a total of 1810 litres, but they are awfully heavy.

Those figures might be difficult to quantify, but as a comparison the VW Golf (the car I ran previously) is only 10cm shorter than the Karoq in exterior length yet has over 200 litres less boot capacity. Sure, the Skoda doesn't have the load length of an estate car, but in terms of cramming things in up to the window it's impressive given the car's fairly compact size. 

Another useful feature is the Skoda Karoq's double-sided boot floor. At some of the hedge cuttings were wet we flipped it over from the fabric side to the rubberised side to avoid any staining. How about the rear picnic tables with the pop-out cupholders? Well I don't have kids, but even if I did they seem too easily breakable to be trusted with unruly children who might snap them in a matter of minutes. 

One option I've not used is the £1090 tow bar, which erects itself (ahem) electrically or neatly folds back into a space behind the bumper. I'm told the Skoda Karoq is an accomplished tow car with a braked towing capacity of between 1400 and 2100kg depending on engine, but I have nothing to tow. An industry colleague who shall remain nameless says they leave theirs fixed in place to deter tailgaters who, in the event of a rear-end smash, would come off noticeably worse colliding with the solid metal tow bar. How ingenious...

Report 9: our time with the Skoda Karoq is up

We've enjoyed our six months with the Skoda Karoq, but can we still recommend it as one of the best family SUVs?

Date: 31 October 2022 | Current mileage: 5000 | Claimed economy: 43.5mpg | Actual economy: 41.1mpg

The Karoq itself has been through change, first being pressed into demanding family life with David, its first custodian. He loved the overall space and the flexibility that the VarioFlex rear seating allows, making it a doddle to deal with child seats, pushchairs and luggage for the family holidays. 

Despite David's complaint that the Skoda Karoq lacks character and excitement (one I can also agree with) he considered it like your favourite pair of 'pottering about' shoes - hardly something that you're going to want to show off to friends or neighbours, but extremely comforting to slip into after a long, hard day. 

In August David handed over custody of the Karoq to me. Needless to say I wasn't laying awake at night thinking about running the boxy Skoda as my daily driver when I don't have kids, but when the time came I was instantly happy with how easy it is to live with. 

Getting in many of today's cars for the first time (as I do on a weekly basis testing cars) can require a read of the manual to grasp where everything is along with hours of learning, but the simplicity of the Karoq's dashboard and control layout meant I just climbed in, adjusted my seat and drove off.  

During my circa 2,000 miles using the Skoda Karoq for motorway commutes, airport duties, zipping through town to the shops and lugging things to the tip I never once felt annoyed by anything the car did. For fans of symmetry it just so happened that the Karoq was collected by Skoda with precisely 5,000 miles on the clock. 

It's refreshingly free of vices - physical buttons for climate controls and other features means no delving through menus on the touchscreen, while wireless Android Auto meant as soon as I started the car I had access to apps I regularly use like Spotify and Waze. I also love that lane assist doesn't turn itself back on after you've turned it off once, because on the rural lanes I find myself on it's more of a frustration than a safety feature in any car. 

Perhaps the lack of the latest gadgetry such as adaptive cruise control, massaging seats and a head-up display might not cut it for those after a cutting-edge SUV, it never really bothered me. The fundamentals were there: the heated seats and steering wheel were a godsend as cold weather set in, while the configurable digital instruments and touchscreen are easy to use and crystal clear. 

And given the car's relative age compared with fresher family SUV rivals it still feels bang up to date to drive, with a nice blend of composed handling, great visibility and a ride that smothers the worst potholes. The 1.5 TSI engine paired with the DSG gearbox made for effortless progress, although in the last few hundred miles we've noticed the lower speed changes aren't quite as smooth as they used to be - perhaps a service or software update is in order. A real-world 41mpg is pretty good given the car's size and the useful performance on offer, too. 

My one complaint? Like David found, it's not stylish and there's very little surprise and delight on offer apart from the handy array of 'Simply Clever' features dotted about. If I only had access to one car perhaps I'd want something with a bit more showroom appeal. But really, that's it. I was so impressed with the Karoq's range of talents that my new long-term test car (as you'll see above) is another Skoda - the brand's smallest car, the Fabia. We'll have more on that soon.