David MottonSee other tow car reviews written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
Škoda's Karoq is comfortable and keenly priced, but how does it fare as a tow car?
The Škoda Karoq indirectly replaces the Yeti, although it's quite a bit larger, to better rival the likes of Nissan's Qashqai and Seat's Ateca. There's a choice of petrol and diesel, as well as two-wheel- and four-wheel-drive. We're testing the 2.0-litre diesel 4x4 in mid-spec SE L trim.
What are we looking for? In solo driving, the Karoq's comfortable ride is an asset, but is the suspension too soft for towing? Is the Škoda practical enough to compete against so many tough rivals? We put it to the test to find out.
We've towed with the Karoq before, at the Tow Car Awards testing earlier in the year. It finished a commendable second in class to the Peugeot 5008, missing out largely because it wasn't as stable as the Peugeot at high speeds.
The caravans used for the Tow Car Awards don't have stabiliser hitches fitted, but the Swift Expression 590 we used for this test did. As you'd expect, this helps with stability on motorways and A-roads.
From time to time there was slight movement, usually when caught by a sudden gust or when overtaking a high-sided vehicle. But for the most part, any minor sway died down without the need for steering corrections.
Our test route included some hilly A-roads, which gave the Škoda's performance a stern test. We could feel the weight of the caravan towing uphill, changing down to fifth or even fourth gear to hold speed on a particularly lumpy stretch of dual carriageway.
On flatter roads, the Karoq's engine was more at ease, but overtaking always needed the right gear and a straight stretch of road with plenty of visibility.
We've towed with many cars fitted with this engine, and it's certainly up to the job. But in this case, it doesn't feel quite as punchy as when fitted to a lighter vehicle that is pulling a lighter caravan.
That said, there's still enough pull to handle a hill start on a 1-in-10 slope. We found the electronic parking brake held car and caravan still, and released smoothly without allowing the outfit to roll backwards.
Our test took place in the dry, so wasn't especially taxing for the Škoda's four-wheel-drive system. Clearly, this would have been a benefit had the road been wet or slippery.
During the test, we hitched and unhitched the van a number of times. Hitching up was always easy, thanks to good clearance around the towball and access to the electrics, which face sideways on the towball neck.
This neat arrangement keeps the electric socket clear of the bumper. The towball itself drops at the press of a button in the boot, although it must be fixed in position by hand. The towball and 13-pin electrics cost £850.
Without the weight of a caravan, the Karoq shifts at a good pace. The engine combines strong performance with respectable economy - we routinely saw 50mpg or better in solo drives.
Škoda has tuned the Karoq's suspension to favour comfort over sporty handling. That's no bad thing, as the Karoq's ride is calm and composed over all but the worst surfaces.
Driven with enthusiasm on a country road, the Karoq handles securely enough, but compared with a Seat Ateca, it feels floaty and leans more in cornering.
At motorway speeds, there's some road noise, but not enough to cause any irritation.
Aside from a couple of quirks, the Karoq is well thought out.
Cabin quality is good, with a premium look and feel. The driving position is comfortable.
In the back, there are air vents between the front seats to help keep the temperature acceptable for all passengers. There's plenty of headroom and legroom, but the picnic trays on the front seat backs steal a centimetre or so.
SE L spec has VarioFlex rear seats - three individual chairs which slide, recline, tumble forward or can be removed.
With the seats fully back on their runners, there's 479 litres of luggage space, about the same as the Škoda's key rivals. Sacrifice some legroom and that extends to 588 litres.
Folding the seats down gives more space, although they don't sit flush with the boot floor, not ideal if you want to load a long item. They can be removed to maximise space, but then you need somewhere to store them.
The Karoq is good value, and research by our colleagues on What Car?'s Target Price team shows that discounts of £1000 or more available.
Fuel bills should also be affordable. Although the official combined figure is 56.5mpg, we saw closer to 50mpg. When towing the Swift Expression, the Karoq achieved 28.2mpg.
Resale values are predicted to be strong - What Car? expects the Škoda will be worth 50% of the original price after three years and 36,000 miles.
|Engine size||1968 cc|
|85% KW||1327 kg|
|Towball limit||88 kg|
|Maximum towing limit||2000 kg|
|Torque||251.0 lb ft|
|Official MPG||56.5 mpg|
|Towing MPG||28.2 mpg|
Škoda's Karoq is one of our favourite SUVs of this size. It's keenly priced, comfortable and stable in most conditions. More pulling power would make it even better.