While movement has been limited for mere mortals, the Diesel Car Skoda Octavia has been on a little holiday. Like a homesick university student, it was rescued from the wilds of Somerset and returned to the Skoda headquarters in Milton Keynes for a healthy dose of tender loving care. It was all perfectly legal, despite the fact that the car had a sniffle of the electrical variety.
While the Octavia was having plugs rammed down its throat to determine the cause of its symptoms, I’m afraid I was playing away with its stablemate, the Karoq. For those unaware of Skoda’s latest K-something-something-something-Q-badged model, it’s effectively a SEAT Ateca with a Skoda badge on the front. But that’s no bad thing, because the Ateca is brilliant. My courtesy car was a 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp and a seven-speed automatic gearbox, as well as four-wheel drive. It’s a great engine, and a vast improvement on the less powerful 2.0-litre unit fitted to ‘our’ Octavia, but I found that the gearbox was a little indecisive, hopping between ratios like a dodgy politician jumps from policy to policy.
Aside from that, though, my time with the Karoq simply reminded me just how good this car is. Visibility is great, it’s comfy, and it handles well for a tall car. And, in SE L trim, it’s impressively well equipped. Better equipped, in fact, than the Octavia SE L First Edition. However, compared with the Octavia’s fresh, modern cabin, the Karoq’s solid-but-predictable interior felt a bit old hat. I’m not saying it’s bad – far from it – but it highlighted how much progress Skoda has made in recent times.
Naturally, my time with the Karoq raised the age-old estate car vs SUV argument. I’ve always been firmly in the estate car camp, and (electrical issues aside) I’m a big fan of our Octavia, but this Karoq makes a compelling case for the SUV. For a kick-off, the Karoq is a proper 4×4, complete with added ground clearance. I don’t do much off-roading, and I’m well aware that Somerset is hardly the Sahara, but when you do have to use a farm track, it provides a little extra peace of mind. The Karoq’s extra height also makes it better for carrying oversized house plants (don’t ask).
That said, the Octavia is marginally more fun to drive, and no less comfortable for that. It’s much more economical, too, and I think it’s more distinctive to look at. If it comes down to price, the jury’s out. Our Octavia costs just under £30,000, while the Karoq I was driving cost just over £34,000. Bear in mind the more powerful engine, automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, as well as the slightly higher specification, and the two are evenly matched in terms of value.
So although it’s a close run thing, I’m still firmly with Team Estate. If you were to put the Karoq’s powertrain in the Octavia, then specify a reversing camera, you might just have the perfect car. The Karoq’s good, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone, but no number of postal votes will nab this victory away from the Octavia.
Date arrived 10th September 2020
Economy (WLTP combined) 55.4-62.8mpg
Economy (On test) 61.8mpg