New Skoda Kamiq demonstrates that bland may have hidden talents
We were the first to preview Skoda’s new urban runabout earlier this year, writes Iain Robertson, and now we bring you more details of this underwhelming newcomer to the Skoda fold but we also issue words of caution, if your expectations are for something slightly different.
Skoda has been on a radicalisation course. Not possessing enough freedom in the broader VW Group, it has sought refuge in its ‘Simply Clever’ premise. However, it is quite important for Skoda, a brand within the greater entity that has experienced no downturns since its incorporation three decades ago, to broaden its model portfolio. Despite drawing significant profits to the Group, its bedpartner, Seat, appears to get a better in-house deal. Yet, the only unusual aspect of Skoda’s latest crossover resides in its name, which continues a Skoda policy of recent times to feature a ‘K’ and a ‘q’; Kodiaq…Karoq…now, Kamiq. However, a model-naming policy that also includes Superb and Yeti in its armoury, can be as much hindrance as attraction.
To be fair to it, Kamiq manages to look quite different to its VW T-Cross and Seat Arona family identikits, by introducing a glassier cabin and a less opaque rear three-quarters view…but it possesses a ‘mumsy’ appearance that helps it to blend wallflower-like into the background. Apart from its slightly hiked-up ride height, Kamiq looks as anodyne as its Scala stablemate. To be frank, I find this situation mildly unsettling, as Skoda models, despite their reliance on VW’s enormous parts bins, have managed to create a recognisable stance, from radiator grille to boot-lid, until the arrival of Scala.
There is no denial of the outstanding build and tactile quality that Skoda presents but you have to be looking for a Scala, to find it; it is not stand-out and the Kamiq follows that pattern. I have seen Scalas parked on the roadside but, as the front-end is now starting to look Peugeot-esque and the rear is typical Euro-box, it is abundantly clear to me that not enough is being carried out to differentiate Skoda from its close brethren, let alone the wider competition. While unrecognisability may be a fresh trait for the brand, virtual invisibility will do it few favours. Personally, I believe that VW Group is not allowing enough latitude to its Czech colleague, because I am fully aware of the intuition and inventiveness that exists within its Mlada Boleslav portals and very little of it is being displayed.
This also extends to the mechanical package and, while I harbour no issues with control familiarity (I applaud it!), it might be more gamey, were you able to shut your eyes and still be able to discern the differences between the brands…but you cannot. In fact, if you want to know how it feels to drive Kamiq, rest assured that the clues lie in both T-Cross and Arona, which means superior balance, fine turn-in, minimal body roll, firm but resilient handling and powerful grip levels. Kamiq joins a family renowned for making a dynamic market impact. It is on safe ground and it knows it.
Powering Kamiq is the customary 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 1.5-litre four-cylinder (92-147bhp) familiar turbo-petrols and 1.6-litre TDi engine line-up. However, they are joined by an enticing all-new 87bhp 1.0-litre G-Tec motor that runs on compressed natural gas. Although it is in the UK launch plans, LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) has a wider distribution in our country, when compared to Europe, whereas CNG tends to be the preserve of some larger freight operators, with very few publicly accessible pumps. As a moderate route to reducing CO2 levels, both LPG and CNG offer some promise but they are also components of the fossil fuel scene, which is not really where Skoda ought to be pitching these days. Although there is no word on electrification at this stage, Skoda has made some commitment to hybridisation and full EV status for the not too distant future.
As is now typical of Skoda, the Kamiq features several ‘Simply Clever’ items, such as the ice-scraper/tread depth gauge contained within the fuel flap, in-built door edge protection (not dissimilar to the system Ford employs on its Focus model), a ‘no spill’ washer bottle filler cap and a Skoda umbrella within the driver’s door. Spend some extra cash and you can specify ambient lighting options, more decorative trimmings, electrically adjustable front seats, contrast stitching and fancier alloy wheels, up to 18.0-inch diameter, all of which is very VW and intended to make you dip into your purse on a ‘gotta-have’ basis.
While the standard car stands 39mm taller than a Scala, the Kamiq can be specified with a Sport chassis setting that provides a 10mm lower ride height and has switchable characteristics (Sport, or Normal) via the Driving Mode selector, as part of what VW uses commonly around its marques, enabling them to meet all-round demands for its multi-surface and adventure-orientated models.
However, Kamiq is strictly front-wheel drive, even though it arrives in full-on fighting guise, boasting more passenger and luggage space than any of its rivals, within its 4.2m long, 1.79m wide footprint. In fact, typical of Skoda, its boot capacity can be expanded from a most practical 400-litres to almost 1,400-litres, once the 60:40 split rear seats are folded. Interior space is also well considered, with pockets and bins dotted around the cabin. There is even a useful net attached to the underside of the rear parcel-shelf, in which to stow oddball items that might otherwise roll around the boot annoyingly. Factor in the folding front passenger seat for extra-long loads and Kamiq’s practicality is underscored. Access to the boot can be through an electrified hatchback, with a ‘tip-to-close’ function.
Conclusion: As with Scala, Kamiq is one of the best equipped Skodas ever. I am in zero doubt that it will sell like hotcakes. Skoda buyers want cars like Kamiq and the conversion rate from other brands is sure to be high. Price information will be available soon, probably starting at around £16,400, with first customer deliveries towards the end of the year.