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Road Trippin’ With The Skoda Karoq


Can the Karoq serve as an ideal family weekend getaway vehicle? We load the car up with four dudes (and their kit) to go and test out some electric motorcycles in Goa

It’s 5.30 AM. My coffee is brewed and ready to go. My colleagues, Manaal, Eshan and Nikhil, were on their way to pick me up. A road trip to Goa was in the works. The mission: to test some new electric motorcycles from Kabira Mobility. Our steed -- the Skoda Karoq, the Czech company’s mid-size SUV. I get a call from Eshan, alerting their imminent arrival. At first glance, it seemed sleek and wide, quite like a jacked-up estate.

I was told to pack lightly, the camera crew occupying the majority of the boot space with their shooting equipment. Still, my duffel bag containing a couple of tees and undergarments, my riding gear and my laptop bag was easily accommodated. Manaal’s and my helmets were stowed on top of the parcel tray. Eshan was a bit reluctant to let go of the controls and the caffeine hadn’t properly kicked in yet, so I was more than happy to sit back and relax for the first leg of the journey.

Way Better Than Flying Premium Economy
Following Dwight Schrute’s car safety mantra, I hopped into the seat behind Eshan, the additional leg room available due to his small build was an added benefit. Eshan calmly made his way out of the city, making mince of the pothole-ridden roads and large speed breakers in our path. I could barely feel any imperfection, the Karoq’s comfy seats already working their magic.

And just as we hit the highway, Manaal, who had braved the darkness and ridden down from Panvel for the journey, fell in deep slumber. The easy tunes on the stereo, the snuggly seats and just the right AC temperature set the mood right for even me to catch up on any missed out sleep.

When I woke up next, the sun was beaming down and we were pulling off the highway. Eshan had kept a steady pace in the couple of hours I was knocked out to get to the McDonald’s at Kolhapur. Quick stop for coffee and breakfast muffins, and I took over at the driver’s wheel.

Thunderstruck!
Those who have ridden/driven down to Goa via the NH48 know about the congestion around Kolhapur city. Truck traffic and motorcyclists didn’t make our lives easy. But as we cleared away from the city, I let the Karoq’s 1.5-litre TSI sing and boy, did it put a smile on my face. It gathers speed like a jungle cat hunting down its prey, reaching the highway speed limit in seconds. What followed is the Karoq hurtling down the beautifully paved highway section of Karnataka with AC/DC blaring from its rich 8-speaker setup.

Nikhil, the explorer of our group, suggested we take the route through Belgaum and not turn off post Nipani towards Sawantwadi and Amboli. Chorla ghat had supposedly been destroyed but there was an alternative route. Spurred on by the motivation to drive the Karoq on the pristine roads for longer, I obliged and listened to his call.

It zoomed past everything in sight. Even when you encountered a rather large undulation, the plush suspension remained controlled, never giving that wallowy feel or unsettling its balance. It is a joy to drive on Karnataka’s brilliantly engineered highways. Not only are the roads fantastic, they also have adequate signage to let the driver know when there’s a new town settlement ahead.

I couldn’t keep going enthusiastically though, as I was up until that point. I wanted to reach Goa and have a plate full of rawa fried prawns as soon as possible but I also wanted to make sure that we reached there with enough gas in reserve, so as to last the shoot that’s happening the following day. Cruise control activated, speeds in check and the Karoq settled into a smooth rhythm.

One area where the Karoq definitely needs to improve is its air-conditioning. Despite having a two-zone climate control system, the rear passengers never really did feel all too comfortable. Both Manaal and Nikhil were grumbling about feeling the heat. Even when we dialled in more fan speed, the panoramic sun-roof didn’t allow the cabin to cool down rapidly as well. Perhaps more rear AC vents should do the trick. And while we are at it, perhaps some cooling seats too, eh Skoda? Perhaps at least for the driver?

Small Road, Wide Car
Bustling through the small town roads of Belgaum was not much of a challenge for the Karoq.
Despite being a pretty wide car, this Czech SUV was swiftly getting past slow traffic. It is here that its agility shone through, the light yet responsive steering wheel providing enough feel to make swift overtakes. And in case some extra oomph was needed, a simple tap on the left paddle-shifter and the seven-speed DSG was quick to react.

We headed straight past the turn off for Chorla ghat and on to the road to Anmod. With the coordinates to the hotel already dialled into the large display via Android Auto, the course ahead was pretty easy to find. We did encounter some more good and freshly built highway sections, until we turned off at a place called Honakal and into a narrow state highway. There was barely any space for one car to occupy the same space of road at any given time.

Hence, for the next hour and half, I was extra attentive on the road, looking for possible areas to slow down and perhaps put the left side of the car onto the road’s shoulder in case there was something large coming from the opposite direction. We encountered some pretty bad stretches of roads from Honakal to Anmod, gingerly dodging some large craters. Through it all, the Karoq never really squeaked or showed any displeasure. The occupants were also pretty happy, not swaying helplessly as I was making my way through a minefield.

I was beginning to wonder whether we had made the right call by listening to Nikhil. The stint from Belgaum to Anmod was anything but spectacular. Thankfully, for him primarily, the roads from Anmod onwards were back to being pleasant. There was an odd bump or two but they were easy to overlook because what lay ahead is where the Karoq really created a lasting impression.

Sport Mode, Activated
Anmod was the proper start to the ghat section on this trip. It was a joy chasing down corners on this sparsely populated road. Not only was it delicately poised but also pretty stable. I heard no complaints from inside the cabin, only the nearly-synchronised humming of the rock song that was being played on the stereo.

Slot the transmission into Sport and it holds gears for longer, so that you enjoy the most of the engine’s 150PS/250Nm output. The paddle-shifters are there if you want to take control. But on this winding road, I was more than happy to let the electronics keep me in the right cog, which it did beautifully, and focus on enjoying the ride.

Welcome To Paradise
The whiff of the Arabian Sea, the increase in visibility of people in shorts riding Honda Dios and loads of posters and signs that say “Fuel Is Cheaper Here,” all welcomed us into Goa. Thank the heavens for the last bit as the Karoq consumed 36 litres of petrol on the journey. The 13kmpl fuel efficiency figure that we got was actually pretty generous considering the variety of roads, speeds and traffic conditions it had to go through.

Upon arriving at the hotel, neither did I feel any fatigue nor did my passengers. We would have liked better air-conditioning for the rear seat passengers and front cooling seats. But aside from these small niggles, the Kaorq did turn out to be a great companion for weekend drives. It has the comfort to seat four grown adults spaciously for long distances. Had it not been for the shooting and riding equipment that we were carrying, the healthy boot space would have been able to carry enough luggage for all four of us for a week-long trip. And given that there’s no Acche Din in sight with regards to fuel prices, the Karoq returned good fuel efficiency too, almost to the tune of 13kmpl.

It might not be currently available at Skoda dealerships but whenever the next lot of Karoqs do land up on our shores, it should definitely be on your radar if you want a mid-sized SUV. And considering it arrives as a CBU, the Rs 25 lakh (ex-showroom) price tag is well justified.

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