IAIN ROBERTSON 

Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

While he realises the heading above looks odd, Iain Robertson was really keen to get into the spirit of Skoda’s latest compact crossover Kamiq, by indulging in its roq-solid nomenclature, as he delves into it loq, stoq and both barrels!

Face it. Skoda is a brand possessing a sense of fun, as well as purpose. It has been forced to endure it, certainly up to the end of the 1990s, when vicious British humour continued to name-call it like no other brand. Yet, with 125 years of outstanding history, which has rated it as one of the true pioneers of the motor industry, it could be stated that Skoda has been laughing all the way to the bank, regardless.

Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

Sourcing viable model names is as much of a problem to Skoda, as it is every other car brand, and while Seat (like Skoda, a member of the enormous VW Group) can rely on a raft of Spanish locations that translate neatly into new models, there exists enough of a problem placing a diphthong above the brand’s ‘S’ in Skoda, without following Seat’s plan but with Czech place names instead. As a result, the firm has been inventing model names that end in ‘q’, like Kodiaq, Karoq and the latest Kamiq.

As to its place in the lineage, Kodiaq is the full-size SUV, followed by the mid-size Karoq, with its crossover tendencies, and then the all-new compact Kamiq, for the urban roustabout. It is a potential rival to the best-selling Suzuki Vitara, of which I have an example, of which I am very fond. However, Skoda and I have history; 20 years of it, during which period and across several hatchback models, from Fabia to Octavia but including Citigo, I can honestly state that I never experienced as much as an ignition misfire. I have total respect for the brand.

Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

It is perpetually intriguing to me that, despite several badge-engineered models across the wider VW Group, Skoda peaks invariably in that blend of independent customer satisfaction and reliability studies, leaving all of its brand-related competitors floundering by comparison. Considering that they are mostly mechanically identical, it is amazing that Skoda tops them all, which introduces an equally fascinating prospect, why squander your funds on an Audi, VW, or Seat, when the Skoda delivers a superior package…albeit with its prices now on par with all but the Audi variations on the themes? Sensible money is spent with Skoda and the latest Kamiq is eminently sensible into the bargain.

Fortunately, sensible and practical, in Skoda’s book, can still equate to fun with delight. It starts with the headlights, which are not dissimilar to an ‘upside-down’ practice exercised by both Citroen and Hyundai, by which the daytime running lamp strips are positioned above and separated from the headlamps. Naturally, there is a strong family look shared by each of the Skoda SUVs but, apart from the ‘signature’ wheel-arch outlines and below-bumper metal-finishers, they are all painless and ‘boring’ in design terms. You can guarantee that Skoda’s market research, let alone its Wolfsburg parents’ instructions, have resulted in a judicious reduction in design offensiveness, because there is none, a factor that is intended to drive mass market sales.

Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

In technology terms, the Kamiq is similarly painless. Based on the Group’s sub-compact platform dictates the non-availability of a 4×4 option. However, an engine choice ranging from the 94/114bhp 1.0-litre ‘triple’ to 147bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder in turbo-petrol flavours, supplemented by a 114bhp 1.6-litre TDi, driving through a choice of 5/6-speed manual, or 7-speed DSG (not available on the entry-level) transmissions, ensures a decent spread of potency to frugality. In all respects, there is a model to match most tastes and the running costs are all very acceptable.

Punting about on seasonally quiet German tarmac, Kamiq gives a very good account of itself, whether riding on the 10mm lower sport suspension, or the unadulterated stock alternative. Thanks to crisp steering responses and the neutrality of the ‘chassis’, the car corners eagerly, if lacking a small amount of straight-ahead feedback to the driver’s fingertips, with well-controlled body roll and a surprisingly compliant ride quality for a car so abbreviated in wheelbase, which is 120mm shorter than the Scala hatchback, its more down-to-earth stablemate. It will tolerate being pushed hard through bends and, while the punchiest petrol unit delivers a more amusing round of performance adventures, the entry-level model is not lacking in spirit.

Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

Inside, Kamiq is neat and neutral, much like its on-road behaviour. Naturally, it is beautifully assembled, with neither trim stitch, nor mouldings out of place. Of course, it is a parts-bin cocktail, featuring the optional digitised instrument panel and a centre stack topped by an easy to use touchscreen. Plenty of storage slots and pockets abound in the interior and the driving position is typical ‘VW good’. Both driver’s seat and steering column adjust through a enormous range, which ensure that it is safe, comfortable and supportive. The front seats are particularly well-bolstered, although not to the detriment of rear seat occupants and both access to the cabin and egress from it is easy. Much the same applies to the boot, with its bumper-level floor and flop-forwards seat backs that more than doubles the already generous load volume.

Both S and SE trim levels are also very generous and every model benefits from LED lighting fore and aft, with dynamic front and rear indicators as an option. The usual lane change, front and rear assist packages, predictive pedestrian protection and braking assist programs are standard equipment. On the connectivity front, the main touchscreen can range from 6.5 to 9.2 inches, with a good range of in-car entertainment options and a permanent ‘on’ eSIM for linking to mobiles and the like.

Skoda Kamiq

Skoda Kamiq

Finally, it would not be a Skoda without a raft of ‘Simply Clever’ features that can include (at extra cost) the door-edge protection system and an electrically retractable tow bar. Dependent on model, it will have a rechargeable flashlight in the boot, a useful filler funnel for the screenwash bottle, the ice-scraper/tyre tread depth tool (in the fuel flap) and the umbrella slot in the driver’s door.

Conclusion:     The perfectly ordinary but excellent Kamiq is Skoda’s final SUV contender (until the ‘e’ variants arrive), with prices starting from a fairly hefty £17,700, an aspect softened by a strong ownership proposition.