On paper, these two mid-spec, all-wheel drive, medium SUVs – one European, one Japanese – are similar. On the road, it’s a different story.
Meanwhile, the CR-V is a family hauler through and through, playing in that saturated mass-market space where the warranties are long and the list of competitors even longer.
In reality, however, these are both top-spec, all-wheel drive, medium SUVs for under $50,000. So if you’re cross-shopping them together, you’re not wrong.
In this comparison, we were looking for an SUV that can be capable in both urban and extra-urban environments, with a focus on family-friendliness, utility, comfort and value for money.
Pricing and Spec
On first check, the Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline on test appears to be the far more affordable car, kicking off from $43,990 before on-road costs. That’s compared to the Honda CR-V VTi LX AWD, which attracts $47,490 before on-road costs.
However, with a handful of option packs, the Karoq’s as-tested price rockets up to $47,790 before on-road costs, meaning they’re more or less on par.
The VTi LX grade sits atop the crowded CR-V pile, with buyers only able to opt for seven seats in the next grade down – the VTi L (well L7 in seven-seat guise).
While front-wheel drive is available on most other grades, the VTi LX is exclusively available in all-wheel drive.
Meanwhile, the Karoq’s line-up is far more streamlined, offering the choice of only two variants: the front-wheel drive, less-powerful 110TSI, and the all-wheel drive, sportier 140TSI.
While both Skoda and Honda are brands regularly praised for their ingenious use of cabin space, the Honda inches ahead in the size stakes – measuring 4.6m long, 1.8m wide and almost 1.7m tall, with a 2.6m wheelbase.
The Skoda looks markedly smaller from the outside, and the main difference is in length, with the Karoq measuring roughly 38cm shorter than the CR-V, but boasting a wheelbase that’s much the same as the CR-V (2.63m as opposed to 2.66m).
Based on first impressions alone, the Skoda certainly feels like the more premium offering from outside the cabin. The statement grille, crystal headlights and black exterior accents give it a more modern, sporty look.
Meanwhile, the CR-V features more rounded edges, with its conventional styling making it look like a more traditional family car.
Both cars are in an appealing shade of red – the difference is the CR-V’s is standard, while the Karoq’s costs $1100.
Tech and Infotainment
Once inside, the Skoda and Honda each have their merits on the equipment front.
The Karoq is more obviously glitzy, with two large, high-resolution digital displays accented by glossy black finishes across the dash and centre console. The digital driver display is crisp and sizeable, with a digital speedometer and in a snappy mix of black and red, in keeping with the sporty theme throughout.
Unfortunately, the initial experience using the central touchscreen wasn’t a positive one, with the interface frozen on a ‘loading’ screen for my entire first-impression 25-minute drive home.
Additionally, a lot of the technological highlights came as part of the $4100 optional Tech Pack, including the 10-speaker Canton sound system, DAB+ digital radio, the wireless phone charger and the hands-free electric tailgate.
Even the 9.2-inch glass touchscreen is an optional extra, with the rest of the Karoq range typically receiving an 8.0-inch unit.
Mercifully, dual-zone climate control is standard, and while our test car wasn’t equipped with it, model-year 2021 Karoqs offer standard wireless Apple CarPlay, too, although Android Auto is still only accessible via a cable.
Comparatively, although it’s all arguably a little less fancy in its delivery, the CR-V offers a veritable feast of tech as standard, with no option packs required.
There’s a wireless phone charger, DAB+ digital radio, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen that is nowhere near as high-quality as the Skoda’s, but is functional nonetheless.
On our test car, the infotainment screen required you to answer a prompt every time the car turned on, acknowledging that you will use it safely, which can prove annoying.
Like the Karoq, there’s no head-up display, but a colour LCD driver display has a more prominent speedometer than any of the Karoq's multiple display options – although the sloped angle means it can be harder to see in full sunshine.
Both cars received a five-star safety rating from ANCAP in 2017. A 2021 update to the Honda line-up means all models bar the base receive Honda’s safety suite, with the VTi LX grade adding a multi-angle reverse camera and front and rear sensors.
Both cars receive adaptive cruise control – the Skoda’s is accessed by a fussy stalk on the steering wheel, while the Honda’s is via steering wheel buttons – and iterations of a reverse camera.
The Skoda on test adds an effective park assist function as part of the $4100 Tech Pack, which will detect a parallel or perpendicular parking spot and do the steering for you.
On the tech and equipment front, the CR-V wins by way of standard inclusions and functionality, but the Karoq deserves points for more premium-feeling execution.
Despite its more diminutive exterior dimensions, the Skoda is quite generous when it comes to interior space once you’re inside.
The sport-bucket-style seats are finished in Thermoflux fabric with white cross-stitching rather than leather, which still feels premium, but one complaint is that the front seats, although supportive and heated, are manually adjustable, which feels incongruous with a car at this pricepoint. They pair nicely, however, with the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the sporty pedals.
While there are lots of storage options, everything is on the smaller side – the door bins are narrow and the centre console is limiting, although the fact it sits low and is narrow means elbow room in the front is maximised.
Head room in the front is good, too, because the seating position feels a little lower to the ground than larger SUVs, while visibility is excellent. Overall, you won’t feel cramped, but families might be left wanting for storage options in the front.
In the back, the 140TSI skips the VarioFlex sliding/tumbling/removable rear seats of the lower grade (with a regular slip/fold function instead), but is roomy nonetheless, offering about 10–15cm of knee room and 5–10cm of head room depending on the height of the occupant.
There are outboard ISOFIX points for child seats, and a middle seat that will comfortably accommodate an adult on short-to-mid-length drives, plus rear seat heating as part of the $2600 optional Travel Pack.
It does feel somewhat dark without the inclusion of a sunroof, but the extra window behind the C-pillar adds a lighting boost.
Although the back seat is more basic than the front seat, there are two air vents, a 12-volt outlet, a huge armrest with cupholders and access to the boot via a lever in the armrest.
The Skoda’s boot offers 521L of storage with the second row in place, or up to 1630L with it down flat and loaded to the roof.
It’s quite utilitarian in its feel, with side compartments and storage nets for loose items, hooks, levers in the boot to lower the rear seats with ease, lights, a 12-volt outlet, a rubber mat to cover the floor, and a temporary spare wheel under the floor.
Jump into the CR-V’s cabin and everything is just, well, bigger. While the Karoq is to be applauded for making the most of its smaller dimensions, the Honda actually feels like the more practical, comfortable car – in both its dimensions and its packaging.
There’s a generous sunroof that makes the already accommodating cabin feel even larger, leather-appointed seats (with electric adjustment!), a leather-appointed steering wheel and dash, capacious cupholders and a huge centre console.
The execution of the front seat and dashboard – with its bizarrely located gearstick sitting above the centre console – is it a bit strange and less elegant than the Skoda’s, but it’s certainly a comfortable place to be. The sheer amount of elbow room between driver and passenger is awards-worthy.
Jump in the back seat and it’s comically accommodating. Even middle-seat passengers will relish in the amount of leg room – there’s at least 20cm of room behind the driver (if you’re not a giant).
The windows sit lower than in the Karoq, furthering the illusion of space and light, and the seat spacing is ample, allowing for three adult passengers or two child seats with room for someone in between.
The Honda’s boot appears huge, with a power tailgate (the Skoda has one, too) opening up on a cavernous space with height, width and depth on its side – and even a full-size spare under the floor.
If you’re a numbers person, however, there’s apparently only 1L of boot space between the CR-V and the Karoq – although the CR-V’s boot offers 28 more litres of room when the second row is folded and the boot is loaded to the roof.
Once again, the CR-V claims the top spot in terms of practicality, space and packaging, but the Karoq gets an honourable mention for making the most of what’s on offer.
|Honda CR-V VTi LX AWD||Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline|
|Engine||1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol||2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||140kW @ 5600rpm, 240Nm @ 2000–5000rpm||140kW @ 6000rpm, 320Nm @ 1500–4100rpm|
|Transmission||Continuously variable automatic||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim, combined (ADR)||7.4L/100km||6.9L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||9.8L/100km||9.2L/100km|
|Boot volume (behind third row / behind second row)||522L/1658L (to roof)||521L/1630L (to roof)|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2017)||5 stars (2017)|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited kilometres||Five years/unlimited kilometres|
|Servicing costs||$1949 for five years or 50,000km||$1400 for five years or 75,000km|
|Price as tested (before on-road costs)||$47,490||$47,790|
Both cars are all-wheel drive and quite capable of handling steep gravel roads and wet weather, with the Honda offering roughly 44mm more ground clearance than the Skoda.
Beyond that, they have quite distinct engines and gearboxes.
While the Skoda’s 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Honda’s 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo petrol engine is paired to a continuously variable transmission.
The dual-clutch transmission is a little more exciting on the road, but with more eccentricities, while the constantly variable transmission is unexciting yet smooth.
Although power outputs are the same in both cars – 140kW – the Skoda feels like the punchier vehicle, offering a maximum of 320Nm of torque compared to the Honda’s 240Nm.
Combined fuel consumption in the Karoq is quoted as 6.9L/100km, but several days of urban driving punctuated with an overnight trip to the countryside brought it to 9.2L/100km, which was higher than the quoted urban figure of 8.7L/100km.
To add insult to injury, Skoda calls for minimum 95 unleaded, so you’re likely to pay a little more at the bowser for each refill.
Comparatively, a week in the Honda came in at 9.8L/100km – much higher than the quoted 7.4L/100km combined figure – but that was with mostly urban driving in traffic and minimal freeway sprints. It drinks 91 unleaded.
On the Road
To simplify matters, the Karoq is undoubtedly the more enjoyable car to drive. When offered the choice of the Karoq or the CR-V for a weekend of touring, the decision was easy.
The dual-clutch gearbox is punchy and delivers power at higher speeds in a gutsy manner that feels inherently sporty, with a bit of a growl that really adds to the excitement.
The steering is similarly engaging and decidedly un-SUV-esque, and it handles like a much smaller car around corners and at higher speeds – in fact, it’s easy to forget you’re in an SUV at all.
At lower speeds, the drivetrain can be a bit less polished, with slight lag off the line and some fidgeting in stop-start traffic. The idle-stop system doesn’t help – while it’s quick to work, it’s quite pronounced and can generate an unpleasant rumbling sensation in the cabin.
Visibility is solid enough, but you will definitely feel lower to the ground than in the CR-V. And while large side mirrors are helpful, the rear-vision mirror could be bigger, and a fairly large and obstructive B-pillar can compromise your line of sight when doing head checks.
Ride comfort is good and can be customised to your preferences via adaptive dampers as part of the Travel Pack. The suspension feels springy in comfort mode and does a great job of counteracting most bumps, but it can be firmed up in sport mode, with more weight added to the steering, too.
Conversely, the CR-V’s overall on-road presence is devoid of excitement but highly consistent.
The steering is moderately weighted but less direct than the Karoq’s, and the continuously variable transmission certainly emits a far less satisfying drone than the Karoq’s sexier snarl as it rises and falls through the rev range.
At lower speeds, the CR-V feels a lot smoother – and slower – in its delivery of power, but it also has a bit of turbo lag when taking off from a standing start.
Still, you won’t be left wanting for power, and the cabin does an excellent job of soaking up noise and road harshness, although the suspension certainly feels floatier than the Karoq’s (it depends what your preference is).
While the Skoda’s driving position is low, the Honda’s is elevated and tilted forward, which removes the racy feel but provides ample all-round visibility.
Both Skoda and Honda offer a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Skoda offers prepaid servicing on the Karoq for either three years/45,000km at $800, or five years/75,000km for $1400, breaking down to roughly $260 to $280 per visit.
Honda’s scheduled servicing for the CR-V is actually slightly more expensive. It will cost you $312 per annual visit for up to 10 years of coverage, plus add-on costs for things like brake fluid, cabin filters and differential fluid on a separate schedule, totalling $1949 for five years or 50,000km.
This one goes to the Honda CR-V VTi LX for being a better all-rounder and a better fit for the purpose of juggling a family’s spatial requirements with an urban lifestyle.
You may notice the ratings for both the CR-V and the Karoq deviate from those we've published in the past. While both are strong performers on their own, in this comparison we were looking for what they delivered in the context of family practicality, value for money, around-town capabilities and cabin space.
As such, we found the CR-V offers a more comprehensive package of equipment for its spend. And although the Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline’s delivery of cabin finishes and infotainment is arguably sexier, the CR-V is more comfortable, spacious and functional in its execution.
Both cars are well powered, capable on varied terrains and with well-cushioned rides – but the Skoda handles better at higher speeds and the CR-V’s drivetrain is smoother in traffic (i.e. more suited for the school run).
Overall, the CR-V does a better job of being a jack-of-all-trades, despite lacking the Karoq's indisputable X-factor in its design and on-road feel.
Still, if you’ve got a fun road trip on the calendar, it’s the Karoq’s keys you’ll be reaching for. And that surely counts for something.
Susannah wasn’t handed an easy task with this one, as both cars put up a great fight in this saturated segment. Undeniably, the CR-V boasts winning attributes with its standard features and functionality.
What’s more, the interior space is a real stand-out, which makes it an appealing option for a family car. For me personally, there was no emotional connection with the CR-V – I found the interior styling underwhelming and the drive satisfactory.
Enter Skoda. From the get-go, I was truly impressed by this car. When you put these two side-by-side, the bright red of the Skoda stands out... Even if you do have to pay extra for it.
It’s not just the colour but the overall appearance and chic styling that also won me over. While I’m ticking boxes, get behind the wheel of the Karoq and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
As Susannah mentioned, although there isn’t instant power off the line in bumper-to-bumper traffic, once you’re out on the open road you’ll really enjoy the drive. Its dual-clutch transmission makes the ride nimble and even more so when sport mode is activated. The drivetrain noise is less intrusive when you compare it to that of the CVT in the Honda.
The cost for options is pricey, but if you are buying a European car, this is something you may already be expecting. The Skoda is still equipped with ample space up the back and in the boot, so it is still a great alternative for families and the perfect car for road trips.
Susannah's points are all valid in her verdict, and as I said, this would have been a difficult one to judge. The Honda is a great performer in this segment, and for good reason. The Skoda for me, though – even with its shortfalls – just has that X-factor.
So while the head says Honda, the heart chooses the Karoq as my all-rounder in this case.