Despite being billed as an SUV, compact crossovers like 'Dwayne' our 2019 Skoda Karoq 110TSI long-termer tend to spend more of their time on the urban grind than anything else.
So, it's fitting that this next update for our long-term loan is a look into how the Czech SUV fares as a city commuter.
Much of our time spent with the Karoq since picking it up has been driving to and from the CarAdvice Melbourne office during the week. The daily commute to and from work is something that most car buyers would be doing every day.
Travelling from Melbourne's eastern suburbs during peak hour tends to involve a lot of driving well below the posted speed limits, which is due to high traffic and roadworks as you get closer to the CBD. For this task, the Karoq has proven to be quite a capable companion.
Given the Skoda's focus on comfort and practicality, its cabin and drivetrain are relatively well suited to stop/start driving, though like everything there are some minor drawbacks.
The driver's seat is nice and comfortable, while there's plenty of movement (aided by the optional electric adjustment) and a memory function so you can find and save your perfect driving position. Even in its lowest setting, the driver of the Karoq sits quite high, giving you a commanding view of the world around you while also complementing the large glasshouse for good outward visibility.
On the move (or in bumper-to-bumper traffic), the Karoq's cabin is well insulated from the outside world, letting minimal noise from the road, traffic or engine into the cabin. It's surprisingly refined despite the Czech brand being viewed as the more affordable offering of the Volkswagen Group.
It rides pretty well, too, even with the optional 19-inch 'Crater' alloys and low-profile tyres fitted to our test car. Our only complaint is that it can get a little sharp over the hardest imperfections in pothole-ridden Melbourne.
As for the drivetrain, the 110kW/250Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine generally does a good job of getting up to speed with little fuss, though at times can be hampered by the seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic and idle stop/start system – something we've complained about numerous VW Group models.
When accelerating, upshifts are seamless and almost imperceptible, which is awesome. However, when launching from the lights or crawling in traffic it can often get confused, either starting in the very short first gear and feeling a little too eager to get going, or sticking to second gear and getting stuck in a low-down torque hole.
I personally feel like I've gotten used to the quirks of the set-up and have adjusted my driving style accordingly (the transmission is meant to 'learn' your driving style, too). However, some of my colleagues have complained about the occasional hesitation and jerkiness of the engine and transmission in urban driving.
As for fuel consumption, the Karoq is impressively efficient despite its size.
The 1.5-litre petrol engine features 'Active Cylinder Management' technology, which can shut two of the four cylinders under low-stress driving, and you know it's engaged when you see the 'eco' icon show up in the instrument cluster. It tends to happen between 60–80km/h when cruising.
Even with a skew towards high-traffic inner-city driving, the Karoq's trip computer has stayed comfortably below an indicated 8.0L/100km since the start of our loan – pretty good given we're now well over 2000km into our time with the vehicle. It's not quite as good as Skoda's 5.8L/100km combined claim, but not bad given the vehicle's size and the type of driving we've been doing.
Beyond the powertrain, the Karoq's compact dimensions and good steering weight mean the little Skoda is easily manoeuvrable around tight city streets and car parks.
Helpful features included as part of the various option packages specified to our test vehicle include all-round parking sensors and an automated parking assistant, along with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. We've been impressed with the functionality of most of these gadgets, though we haven't been brave enough to trial the semi-autonomous Park Assist just yet.
If you often park in the inner city, where paying parking fees at a meter is common, the Karoq's windscreen-mounted ticket holder is just another 'Simply Clever' touch.
Stay tuned for our next long-term update, where we'll take a closer look at the Karoq's open-road capability.