Skoda is one of the few remaining brands to have a passenger car as its best-selling model. You may have already guessed that it’s the Octavia.
At the end of November 2020, the Czech brand had also yet to join those manufacturers whose SUVs outsell all of their passenger cars. That’s all but guaranteed to change in 2021 with the arrival of the Czech brand’s latest SUV, the Kamiq (pronounced Kammick).
It also follows the construction formula of other Skodas – sharing a VW Group platform, drivetrain and various other components. Specifically, in the Kamiq’s case, it’s related to the also-new Volkswagen T-Cross (as well as the upcoming Skoda Scala hatchback).
At 4.24m long, it stretches a bit further nose to tail than its German cousin, and is actually closer to VW’s T-Roc, which sits on a slightly different version of the MQB platform.
Pricing kicks off at $26,990 for the 85TSI manual, with just an extra $1000 on top for the drive-away offer. For the vast majority of buyers, the key price tag is the $27,990 for the 85TSI auto – or $29,990 drive-away.
That immediately makes the Kamiq highly competitive, yet the chock-a-block standard equipment list makes the Skoda something of a standout for a car costing less than $30,000 all inclusive.
There are 18-inch alloy wheels (where 17s are more common at its pricepoint), privacy glass, LED headlights, fully digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive cruise control and even an automatic tailgate.
Not even the new $29,490 drive-away ZST Excite SUV from bargain-focused MG can match the Kamiq overall for gear.
|2020 Skoda Kamiq 85TSI|
|Engine||1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||85kW @ 5500rpm, 200Nm @ 2000–3500rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch auto|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||5.0L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||4.9L/100km (mixed) / 6.6L/100km (urban)|
|Boot volume||400L / 1395L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (tested 2019)|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30, MG ZST, Toyota C-HR, VW T-Cross|
|Price as tested||$27,990 ($29,990 drive-away)|
Safety-minded features include fatigue detection, tyre pressure monitoring, multi-collision brake, AEB and rear manoeuvre braking assist (which helps prevent the driver from hitting a car when reversing into a parking spot).
There are a couple of blots on the Kamiq’s equipment card. Integrated navigation isn’t standard, and blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alert form part of a $4100 Driver Support Pack. While not a cheap package, it also includes leather and ‘suedia’ upholstery instead of the standard cloth, heated seating front and rear, plus a semi-automatic parking system.
A $3800 Tech Pack is also available, bringing a larger (9.2-inch) touchscreen display with navigation, a cornering function for the LED headlights, animated turn indicators up front, voice command, wireless Apple CarPlay and an upgraded audio system.
Buyers can also tick a panoramic sunroof for $1300, while optional exterior paints are $550 or $1110 for a Velvet Red premium paint.
Skoda’s servicing program has desirable 15,000km intervals (or every 12 months). Pricing isn’t among the lowest in the segment – costing $1124 over three years or $2198 over five – though money can be saved by buying a service pack upfront or incorporating it into your finance: $800 for three years or $1400 for five years.
Skoda is a brand that tends to focus attention more on functionality rather than form, yet there is a charming simplicity to the Kamiq’s cabin.
It’s not without its flourishes, either, with its contorted chrome doorhandles, dimpled leather steering wheel, or the multi-fabric upholstery (with door panels matched to the main cloth). The upper dash and front upper door cards are soft to the touch, giving the Kamiq a quality advantage over the T-Cross.
Overall, the Kamiq succeeds in creating a premium-mainstream experience (whether that appeals to 20-somethings or not).
The digital driver display brings a touch of Audi-ness (and is even given the same Virtual Cockpit name as Skoda’s German luxury stablemate uses for its digital cluster). A View button on the steering wheel scrolls through a variety of layouts, which can be tweaked further via the central screen.
The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen takes the free-standing, tablet-style approach, with physical dials for volume and on/off. The main screen occupies only about 60 per cent of the display, though doesn’t look too undersized, while the shortcut ‘buttons’ either side make it easy to switch quickly from function to function.
Image tiles on the main menu page make for a visually interesting way of presenting the various functions/selections. The Driver Assistance section also provides cool graphics for representing various aids. For example, you touch a ‘vehicle ahead’ graphic for the adaptive cruise system or the ‘lane markings’ graphic for the lane-keeping aid.
The Kamiq’s basic audio sounds good, too.
Practical thoughtfulness has long been at the heart of Skoda, and it’s no surprise that even its smallest SUV provides excellent storage and some clever little tricks here and there.
Wide door cubbies up front are larger than they appear as they continue behind the lower door panel. There’s a pull-down compartment on the driver’s side of the dash. The glovebox is well sized, and is even more spacious thanks to one of the slimmest owner’s manuals we’ve seen. Plus, there’s a large overhead sunglasses holder.
A smartphone has a natural home on the wireless charging tray. Owners just need to ensure they have a USB-C cord for smartphone connectivity.
Caught out by an unexpected downpour? The Kamiq follows the Skoda trend for offering an umbrella secreted in a door (the driver’s door in this case). Frosted windscreen? Then open the fuel flap to find an ice scraper.
The back seat is excellent if you can get over the disappointment of the Kamiq’s lack of centre armrest. But there’s so much leg room that tall adults can occupy both front and rear seats, head room is equally generous, and the rear bench’s outer seats are immensely comfortable.
Rear air vents are standard, there are more USB-C ports in the back, and storage spots include seatback pouches and useful door pockets shaped for bottles.
Open the auto tailgate and you’re greeted with a 400L boot, which is a decent volume – if smaller than the 433L of the Kia Seltos but ahead of the 385L claims of the twin T-Cross (though, with its sliding rear seat fully forward te T-Cross can expand to 455L at the expense of passenger leg room).
It’s one of the cleverest boots in its class, though. There are nets galore, for starters: across the floor, across the seatbacks, across the sides, and even under the parcel shelf. No loose items will be rolling around in the back of the Kamiq, and those are standard – not accessory add-ons.
The floor features a removable reversible mat, with plastic one side and carpet on the other. There’s a bag hook on each side of the boot, plus hooks on the seatbacks – which can be easily removed when needing to use the top tether points. (There’s a little storage section where the hooks can be kept safely, too.)
There are two boot lights – one of which, again in Skoda tradition, is a removable LED torch.
Seatbacks fold 60-40 to expand cargo space, though the floor is stepped rather than flat. A temporary spare wheel resides under the floor.
The entry Kamiq features the same 85TSI combination of 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo and seven-speed dual-clutch auto as the T-Cross, yet unlike its VW twin it also offers more performance with an alternative 110TSI variant.
Keener drivers might well be drawn to the latter, which features a 110kW four-cylinder turbo engine and has a 0–100km/h claim of 8.3 seconds compared with 10.0 seconds for the 85kW 85TSI auto (or 9.9 seconds for the manual 85TSI).
Although the 85TSI’s acceleration isn’t rapid by any stretch of the imagination, the base Kamiq is perky enough to fill a traffic gap on demand while generally producing satisfyingly linear acceleration.
There’s a pleasing response from low revs as the Kamiq surges nicely in the transition from light to medium throttle-pedal pressure. This is accompanied by the three-cylinder’s distinctive thrum.
As with many of these turbo three-pots, the Kamiq needs to run on 95RON unleaded at a minimum. That’s not ideal for buyers looking to keep fuel costs to an absolute minimum, though the 85TSI’s fuel consumption proved to be more than reasonable during our time with the car.
Two stints involving a 50-50 mix of suburbs and freeways each produced a figure of 4.9 litres per 100km, which is below the Kamiq’s official consumption of 5.1L/100km. An additional test loop focused purely on urban running then registered a very respectable 6.6L/100km.
Skoda says the manual Kamiq is fractionally more economical.
As with the T-Cross, the gearbox has occasional hesitancy – usually when asked to get away from a junction quickly – and the stop-start system could be quicker to re-engage the engine.
Neither spoilt our enjoyment of driving the highly accomplished Kamiq. The steering has a lovely delicacy to it, feeling effortless and totally smooth – and with a welcome touch of extra weight over the T-Cross’s steering.
The Skoda’s ride is also fantastically compliant. Potholes, badly scarred surfacing, sharp ridges… The Kamiq’s suspension simply shrugs off the worst roads that can be thrown at it (or, rather, under it) with remarkable ease.
In terms of the tricky task of cushioning and isolating occupants while also ensuring good body control, the Kamiq excels. Although it may fall short of the high bar set by the Ford Puma for driver engagement, the Kamiq is brilliantly well rounded when it comes to the everyday motoring experience.
It’s also a very strong package all round, if not quite perfect.
Blind-spot monitoring and navigation shouldn’t be options, and auto high beam and speed-sign-reading tech are missing completely.
The related upcoming/delayed Scala hatchback is also actually better value – not only a bit cheaper, but also offered with the larger of the Kamiq’s two engines in every model. The Scala also has a larger (467L) boot.
That’s a familiar story in the small-SUV category, though, where the more popular higher-riding models carry a premium over their passenger-car relatives.
Compare the Kamiq directly with its peers and it stakes a claim for ‘best in class’ honours.
The base model has features such as a fully digital driver display and auto tailgate you don’t expect for less than $30,000 drive-away. There’s a smart-looking cabin that’s spacious and brimming with clever considerations. And the Kamiq steers and rides with a quality that wouldn’t be out of place if the model wore the badge of a luxury brand.