People buy SUVs because they're more practical, right? Well, that's not always the case – so we're taking a closer look at the comfort and practicality of our 2019 Skoda Karoq 110TSI long-termer.
The Czech brand's mantra is 'Simply Clever', and likes to add thoughtful touches throughout its models to make things that little bit easier.
For example, there's an umbrella in the boot, along with a removable LED torch that clips in as the luggage area light source. There's a small rubbish bin that clips into the door bin, and a clip on the windscreen so you can clearly display your parking ticket.
The Karoq also gets a very clever rear-seat system called VarioFlex. It allows you to fold, tumble and even remove each seat individually in the second row.
It enables the Karoq to open up the rear luggage area to a whopping 1810L with the back seats removed – for reference, the dimensionally larger seven-seat Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace claims a maximum load capacity of 1775L with the second and third rows folded.
With the second row in place in its rearmost position, the Karoq offers a decent 479L of boot space. Slide the outer seats forward and that expands to 588L.
Fold the rear seats down, and the Karoq offers a van-like 1605L up to the roof, with the space itself nice and square, while the low rear bumper means there's not a huge lip to lift things over.
Moving things around is quite easy, too, thanks to the ergonomic handles and straps used to slide and fold the seats (also demonstrated in the clip above). There are also hooks and nets about so you can keep loose items secure.
If you haven't guessed already, there's a ton of space on offer, which is great if you need to move furniture, or even as simple as lugging around your kids' pram and all their stuff without fuss.
Our tester is also fitted with the optional electric tailgate with gesture control, which can be operated by a switch in the front of the cabin, via the key fob, or by waving your foot under the rear bumper. The luggage cover also attaches to the rear door, so you don't have to move it out of the way yourself – another Simply Clever touch.
Beyond its load-lugging capabilities, the Karoq actually stacks up reasonably well for a young family of four. There's good room in the rear for kids and average-sized teenagers, and there are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the outboard rear seats, along with top-tether mounts behind all three pews in the second row.
Head room is pretty good for taller passengers, though leg and knee room can get a little tight behind a taller driver (like six-foot-one-ish me).
Rear amenities are pretty good, though, with a fold-down centre armrest, rear air vents, big door bins, map pockets behind the front seats, individual reclining rear seats, and outboard pews that slide fore and aft.
Comfort up front is better again, with supple, supportive seats (trimmed in leather on our tester as part of the various option packages fitted) that offer good amounts of adjustment all round. The driver's seat is electrically adjustable in our tester, including lumbar support, and offers memory settings for three drivers.
All the controls fall easily to hand, and the various screens, buttons and dials are logically laid out – though the climate controls are a little low-set, so you may need to take your eyes off the road to engage the air-recirculation function, for example.
The overall perception of quality is generally pretty good, being on par with the related Volkswagen Tiguan, and more so in some areas.
Skoda has been fairly liberal with the use of soft-touch materials across the dashboard, adorning the top and belt-level sections, along with the two bits of trim that line each side of the centre console where your leg comes to rest.
On the doors, the top layer is again the yielding, squishy type of plastic, though the door insert and grab handle are of the hard, scratchy variety. So far we haven't notice any flexing or squeaking from the door handle like I've noticed on a previous test car, which is a good sign.
The perforated flat-bottom sports steering wheel is a nice touch (again, part of the option packages), and ahead of the driver in this tester is the optional 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster.
Compared to the unit used in Volkswagen models, the Skoda's display offers a greater range of personalisation, to the point where you can change the colour theme to match the ambient lighting.
It's a high-resolution and crisp display with quick and smooth refresh rates so it feels really high end, pretty much at Audi levels – though the Virtual Cockpit offered in the luxury brand's latest models is compatible with Google Earth maps and some other extended functions.
Plenty of storage is available up front, too, including large door bins, a tray to store your smartphone that doubles up as a wireless charger (the latter as part of an option pack), a cubby under the centre armrest that includes an insert that is a tray on one side or a storage console with cupholders on the other, along with a sunglasses holder on the headliner.
One highlight worth noting is that there's enough room for larger smartphones to sit in the charging tray, even when wired in via USB for Apple CarPlay (often overlooked by manufacturers). Also, the sunglasses holder is deleted when the panoramic sunroof is optioned (not fitted to our tester).
To sum up, the Karoq offers surprising levels of comfort and space despite its relatively compact dimensions, and really stays true to Skoda's reputation for maximising the practicality of its products.
Stay tuned for our next long-term update, where we'll have a look at the Karoq's infotainment and technology suite.