► Skoda's smallest crossover tested
► One of a bazillion baby SUVs
► Can it stand out at all?
It is almost easier to list the things the Skoda Kamiq is not. It is not exciting. It is not big. It is not small. It is not an SUV. It is not a crossover. It is not a hatchback. It is not fast. It is not cheap. It is not expensive. It is not bad.
It is not bad. This is the crux of the matter. For a customer looking for something stoic and solid wedged between all the other things on the market - Nissan Juke, Seat Arona, Renault Captur, Volkswagen T-Cross and so on - that come with a trick or a thing, or a stigma, that defines them, then it might be the perfect car.
Utterly inoffensive and passive in nearly every way, it feels like a car apologising for everyone else being too loud, or sharp, or common, or design-y or try-hard. In that sense, I rather like it: it looks like a crossover or SUV, but also like a hatchback too. This seems entirely dependent on where it is parked, and what next to.
For visual excitement, you will need to search long and hard, but I discovered some twiggy looking streaks in the light housings and a rear chrome-effect valance that is a toddlers’ push car version of the new RS6 Avant. That's about it. The Kamiq is entirely unobtrusive and unaffected.
The benefits of being slightly bigger than hatchback car are obvious, and useful for those who want a car slightly bigger than hatchback. That’s about as close to a USP as the Kamiq gets, as that it is close in size to the old Yeti. Now that had a USP: being very weird, but rather lovable.
You get decent value too. The SE 1.0 TSI 115 car we had cost £23,200, but many of the options included in this price were essentially pointless: fancy sat nav when wireless CarPlay is standard, a retractable tow bar (I dread to think what this could tow – an empty wheelbarrow perhaps?) and some ambient white lighting at a cost of £250. For white light! At its original price of £19,935, the Kamiq seems far better value.
It’s a Skoda, so it must be practical…
Not surprisingly, despite the Kamiq looking a bit SUV-ish with its roof bars and silvery bits, the ride height is much closer to a regular hatchback. In fact, you sit fairly low.
The Kamiq offers one of the most spacious cabins of all the compact crossovers, with space in the rear is impressive, even with a pair of adults in the front.
Touches like actual bins in the door bins, grippy cupholders, tray tables in the back and a panoramic roof with a cover that slides to the front (freeing up headroom in the back) means the Kamiq is one of the more family-friendly crossovers. Or hatchbacks.
Unsurprisingly the 400-litre boot is on a par with the T-Cross and Arona, with two heights possible for the boot floor and an optional electric tailgate if you’re feeling lazy.
What’s the rest of the interior like?
Very pleasant; very sensible; very Skoda, and finished like a new budget airline jet. There are no surfaces or materials you could call injudicious or wasteful, and thin seats help free up room. They are a bit on the hard side though and after an hour or so my right buttock was feeling the effects, which also suggest a barely imperceptible, yet significant (buttock-wise at least) off-centre driving position.
A Juke is more interesting and the latest Captur may look techier with its huge screen, but the Kamiq subdued and neat. There’s little to complain about.
There are digital dials, a big 9.2-inch media display is optionally available over 6.5 and 8.0-inch versions, as is wireless Apple CarPlay. Skoda’s new connect app even works with Amazon Echo if you truly want Jeff Bezos knowing what time you like your car’s heating coming on in the morning.
On less posh models, such as ours, there are dials for the air con and getting that right is a pain. It kept fogging up so you end up twiddling dials to little effect, like a Chernobyl reactor operator.
How does it drive?
We tried the 113bhp TSI, and I can only be thankful we didn’t have the 93bhp one (there’s also a 148bhp 1.5 TSI – and a 1.6 diesel).
This little three-cylinder engine sounds like a distant neighbour is running a leaf blower on a hazy summer evening, the hum never getting above mildly intrusive, but it is always there. It is not an engine for any sort of enthusiast though, especially in a car of this size and with a full load of bodies on board.
Our car had a manual gearbox rather than DSG, which if you remember these, require the use of a thing called a clutch. Such is the lack of torque though that on some of my initial hill starts I was revving it like I was on my second driving lesson all those decades ago. And nothing much in terms of forward motion was happening. I got the hang in the end, but the successful operating window is pretty small.
That said, I went to Derbyshire, and despite the hills and me having to be Johnny-on-the-spot with gearchanges on the steeper slopes, it managed a very impressive 48mpg – more than its official figure. And my heart rate never got above resting either, so somnambulant is the experience. The ride and steering are from the same stable. Steady. Very, very steady.
There’s an optional £495 Sport Chassis Control which sits 15mm lower than standard cars. Switch the driving mode to Sport and the electronically adjustable shock absorbers become stiffer, and the steering becomes heavier. Avoid. Seems a bit of waste on a car like this. Such is the inoffensive nature of the Kamiq, and a nice balance between comfort and control in corners, I cannot see why you would tick this particular box.
Like many shrinking violets, the Kamiq is a weirdly passive-aggressive on occasion. For a start the lane keeping system quietly switches itself back on every time it starts up, and then gently yet insistently tugs at the wheel like a parent who has grudgingly let their kids push the supermarket trolley, but keeps redirecting it. I’m also not entirely sure what it is picking up as a white line. Variously I reckon it mis-detected mud, potholes and chip wrappers as road markings and the steering reacted.
It also kept telling me to put my hands on the wheel and resume steering. I was steering, just not very much, what with it being a straight road.
Then there’s the driving advice. Every shift down you make above 1,300 rpm results in a reminder that you should have waiting a few hundred more rpm before making the change, while the programme for shift up indicator must have been nicked from a diesel. If you follow its prompts, you’ve only got about 1lb-ft of torque to spare. Hit a small incline post change and the Kamiq goes into the automotive equivalent of buffering. Nothing really occurs for quite a while – which is very much in accordance with the Kamiq’s state of gentle meandering.
Skoda Kamiq: verdict
The Kamiq is a good car. It’s family-friendly with a spacious and cleverly laid-out interior that feels well-built and loaded with a good amount of equipment and useful touches.
There are also no complaints about the way it drives, as it’s easy, refined enough and handles tidily, while the engine range does the job asked of it. The 113 we drove delivers fuel economy and is quietly effective. It is not exciting, in any way.
No complaints about the pricing either. PCP monthlies work out at roughly the same amount of money as an Arona, and a bit more than a Captur.
In the end I rather liked the Kamiq. This is the default setting for this car, rather liking it, as opposed to loving or hating it, because there is almost nothing to get angry or annoyed about
So introverted, inoffensive and indistinct, I wonder if the Kamiq might be entirely passed by, as customers look for something with a bit more of a story, and a bit more buzz, the car you might end up with if you really can’t make your mind up about the others: a steady option, but never the car you dream of owning.
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