Manufacturers are increasingly shoving as many bells and whistles into their vehicles as possible, to the point where many buyers expect luxury levels of technology even from mainstream brands.
In the case of our 2019 Skoda Karoq 110TSI long-termer, it offers some of the Volkswagen Group's latest and greatest driver assistance and convenience features, which are what we're having a closer look at in this latest update.
Standard inclusions like touchscreen audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, automatic headlights and wipers, along with a rear-view camera, mean the Karoq is pretty well-off for technology at the base level.
Our tester's full array of option packages bring more high-end features like lane assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Traffic Jam Assist for the standard adaptive cruise control (stop/start functionality for slow-moving traffic), and Emergency Assist – which will bring the vehicle to a stop if it detects the driver is incapacitated.
That's in addition to other available goodies like adaptive LED headlights over the standard fixed halogen units, a big 9.2-inch navigation system with gesture control and DAB+ radio over the standard 8.0-inch system, a 10-speaker Canton audio system, wireless phone charging, electric driver's seat adjustment with memory, front parking sensors, selectable drive modes, and heated front seats.
Our tester is also fitted with the previously $700 Virtual Cockpit driver's display, which is now standard for MY20.
It's a quite comprehensive spec sheet, and pretty much right on par with – if not bettering that of – the more expensive Audi A3 (also based on the MQB platform) I had as a long-termer earlier in the year.
Let's start with the infotainment. The 'Columbus' 9.2-inch navigation system is a familiar one seen in various Volkswagen and Skoda models from the Golf and Tiguan to the Octavia and Superb. It offers clear, crisp graphics and relatively snappy response times, while also offering convenient functions such as swipe and pinch gestures like a smartphone.
Skoda and Volkswagen's factory navigation system works pretty well, and projects maps and guidance onto the 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument binnacle. Inputting addresses is a cinch thanks to the quick response and QWERTY keyboard, along with the ability to search for various POIs on the move.
Other functions using the factory interface include adjustment for things like the configurable LED cabin lighting, available in numerous colours, along with vehicle functions and driver-assistance systems. Navigating (if you'll excuse the pun) through the various associated menus is pretty simple, too.
The Virtual Cockpit display offers a range of different menus and skins to add an extra degree of personalisation, with the colour theme determined by the cabin lighting colour chosen – which is pretty cool.
You can opt for conventional dials, a central tacho with digital speed readout, and some more minimalist layouts to offer more space to show maps or vehicle data. It's right up there with Audi's system and the newest Volkswagen unit, though we'd like to see a larger 12.3-inch display if we're being nitpicky.
On the road, there are plenty of gadgets and gizmos to keep you on the straight and narrow, while also helping you avoid collisions.
We haven't tested the autonomous emergency braking system (not that we want to, as you'd imagine), while the lane-assist system has the option to keep you from drifting out of your lane or keep you in the centre for semi-autonomous capability. I personally find the latter a little too intrusive, so I've kept the former engaged.
The adaptive cruise-control system with Traffic Jam Assist is excellent and generally pretty spot on, though there has been the odd occasion in slow-moving highway traffic where it hasn't detected the lead vehicle and forced me to hit the brakes myself.
Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are two of my favourite features in any car, and the VW Group system doesn't beep annoyingly like equivalent systems from other brands. The rear-view camera is nice and clear on the large infotainment display, too.
Overall, the Skoda Karoq not only impresses with the amount of tech on offer, but also with how well those features operate in execution.