David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
To me, 'Karoq' sounds like someone saying 'carrot' with a mouthful of toffee.
But, odd name aside, there's a lot to like about Škoda's newest model.
Calling the new car Karoq does underline that the new model is part of a growing family of Škoda SUVs along with the larger Kodiaq, which the Karoq closely resembles.
It also distances the car from the Yeti, perhaps understandable given that the Karoq is quite a bit larger than the car it replaces.
The Škoda Karoq is 4.38m long, some 16cm longer than the Yeti – and the extra space is noticeable in the back of the car, with more legroom than before.
Luggage room has also grown. Entry-level SE cars have 521 litres for bags with the back seats upright. That's 91 litres more than a Qashqai and 18 litres more than a Sportage.
A flexible space
Step up to SE L or Edition spec and the Karoq comes with Varioflex seating instead of the conventional split-fold seats of the SE.
Varioflex cars have three individual rear seats which slide back and forth, fold forward, tip up against the front seats or can be removed completely to maximise luggage space.
With Varioflex, luggage space is 479-588 litres, depending on the position of the rear seats. That increases to 1810 litres with the seats removed, although this does have the drawback of needing to store them somewhere.
So, the new Škoda Karoq is roomy for its size. It offers a welcoming environment for the driver, too, with a relatively high driving position, lots of adjustment for the seat and wheel, and a comfortable seat.
The dashboard design looks much like the Kodiaq's, and the standard of finish is just as high.
Škoda thinks the two most popular models will be the 150PS (148bhp) petrol and the diesel with the same power output – and I've now had the chance to drive both.
Diesel by default for the 'what tow car' question?
The 2.0-litre diesel is the car with the strongest on-paper towing credentials.
Škoda quotes kerbweights ranging from 1561-1633kg for the 4x4 manual. That gives an 85% match figure of at least 1327kg.
The noseweight for this model is 88kg, and the legal towing limit is 2000kg.
It should make a handy tow car. The suspension is tuned for comfort rather than a really sporty driver, and there's a lot of lean in corners.
Frankly, the old Yeti is more fun on a favourite back road. But vertical movements over bumps and crests are quickly brought under control, which bodes well for stability when towing a caravan – and we certainly look forward to hitching up to truly see what tow car ability it has.
There's plenty of poke to handle a suitably matched tourer, with 251lb ft of torque from 1750-3000rpm. For really punchy performance a 190PS (188bhp) version of the engine will be available, but not until a few months after the car's UK launch.
As well as the manual, I drove the same car with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. It suits the character of the car well, with slick gearchanges and a willingness to change down in a hurry when required, especially in sport mode.
As a manual, this model returns 56.5mpg, which drops to 54.3mpg with the DSG. Both figures comfortably beat those of the 150PS 1.5 TSI petrol (52.3mpg for the manual, 51.4mpg for the DSG). But the petrol car compensates in other ways.
Making a case for petrol
There's a quiet but persistent drone from the diesel at motorway speeds, whereas the TSI is hushed and unobtrusive. Accelerate hard and the TSI sounds smoother than the diesel.
However, for four-season caravanners it's a shame there's no 4x4 version to boost the TSI's kerbweight and traction.
Go for the manual, and the 1.5 TSI has a kerbweight of 1378-1458kg including 75kg for the driver. That gives an 85% match figure of at least 1171kg. The legal towing limit is 1500kg, and the maximum noseweight is 75kg.
It's worth noting that the front-wheel-drive petrol didn't feel as well tied down as the diesel 4x4, in particular at the back of the car.
That's likely to be because the four-wheel-drive model has more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, rather than the tie-bar axle of the front-wheel-drive cars.
I also took a steer in the 1.6 TDI with 115PS (113bhp) and 184lb ft. It bowls along well enough in solo driving, but the 2.0-litre is a much better choice for regular towing, not least because kerbweights for the 1.6-litre start from a more modest 1426kg.
The 115PS 1.0 TSI petrol is well worth considering if you are looking for a second car. It's far livelier than its modest capacity and power output would lead you to expect.
But it's likely to make an underwhelming tow car for anything much heftier than a trailer tent.
Prices and specs
Prices start from £20,875 for the 1.0 TSI SE manual. SE cars come with 17-inch alloy wheels, a multi-function steering wheel, a DAB radio with eight speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and more.
SE L trim adds £2290 to the price, with spec upgrades including 18-inch alloys, Alcantara upholstery, satellite navigation with an eight-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, keyless entry and a start-stop button, a rear-view camera and Varioflex seats.
Top-end Edition cars have 19-inch alloys, an uprated sat-nav with a 9.2-inch screen, electric front seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof and wireless phone charging, for £2595 more than SE L cars.
All models have front, head, knee, curtain and front side airbags, and autonomous emergency braking. There's no Euro NCAP result as yet, but other recent Škodas have persistently scored the maximum five stars.
So, where does the Karoq sit in the SUV pecking order?
But if you are looking for a comfortable, family-friendly tow car, the Karoq has a lot to recommend it. Even with a daft name.