Award-winning sub-$30,000 SUV that’s a fine family fit
Skoda can lay claim to being one of the nation’s most underrated brands.
In a cluttered automotive space with more than 60 marques, Skoda deserves more attention and kudos.
The Czech brand is under the Volkswagen umbrella and has an ever-improving product range.
Always brimming with smarts and European driving prowess, the vehicles share much of their underpinnings with Volkswagen products but traditionally at a lower price. The Kodiaq was named News Corp Car of the Year in 2017 which showcased Skoda’s ascension.
Deserving of the current spotlight is the Kamiq compact SUV, which just secured the same title last month.
High-riding SUVs are the flavour of the moment, and for less than $30,000 drive-away the Kamiq is another compelling offering that takes the value proposition to the likes of Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Mazda.
Hidden extras have become Skoda’s shtick. Within the driver’s door is an umbrella, while the boot light can be removed and used as a torch. The boot mat is double-sided so you can use it fabric side up or washable rubber. There are three boot nets to keep items in place along with baggage hooks.
Other features are a power tailgate, an eight-inch touchscreen and smartphone mirroring applications Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as wireless charging for compatible phones.
Wireless Apple CarPlay is available in a tech pack for $3800 (which also includes a 9.2-inch screen, voice control and LED headlights), but Android users still need to tether via a cord.
Metallic and pearl effect paint colours of white, blue, silver, black and grey cost an extra $550, while the premium red velvet is $1110.
There are two service packs, $800 covers three years while a five-year deal is $1400.
Warranty coverage matches the likes of Toyota and Mazda at five years and unlimited kilometres. It’s only bettered by Kia, MG and SsangYong at seven years, while Mitsubishi offers 10 years or 200,000km.
Strong features and impressive cabin structural integrity led to a five-star rating from Australia’s crash testing authority.
Pivotal inclusions are autonomous emergency braking that can step in and assist the driver to avoid or lessen a frontal impact, radar cruise control which maintains set distances from other vehicles along with a lane keeping function which can steer the car within clearly defined lines above 65km/h.
Unfortunately, rear cross traffic alert that is brilliant to avoid bingles when reversing out of car parks and blind spot warning are part of a $4100 Driver Support Pack. That pack also includes heated front and rear seats as well as leather/suede upholstery.
Few others in this genre can match the Kamiq for space and up-market cabin feel.
The flat-bottom sports steering wheel, crystal-clear touchscreen and refined upholstery touches provide elegant touches not traditionally found at this price point.
Adults can be accommodated front and back, with even tall drivers able to get comfortable without compromising rear legroom.
Most operations are straightforward, apart from the fan aircon adjustment which has to be undertaken via the touchscreen menu. A dial or toggle would be better for faster operation.
Tech-savvy passengers will appreciate the dual USB ports available front and back. Although they are Type C, not the typical Type A — those without the latest phones or devices can easily get adaptors.
Boot space of 400 litres is better than many rivals, including a Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-3 or the Mitsubishi ASX. The thoughtful hooks and netting make it easier to secure small items.
Keen drivers would appreciate the Kamiq in manual form that’s $2000 less.
These three-cylinder engines can be brilliant performers with a manual, but very few will be sold with DIY shifters. We’ve become a nation of outsourcers.
Getting off the line can be laboured as there is a delay before the turbo power delivery.
Acceleration prowess is limited until reaching the torque sweet spot above 2000rpm. Around town the best result came from sport mode, which holds gears higher into the rev range, and delivers a more instantaneous response when pushing into traffic or when you want rapid acceleration.
Once up and spinning, the Kamiq is one of the best performers in the genre. Staying flat in the bends and relishing changes in direction, it’s a benchmark setter for all-round dexterity.
Those wanting a more powerful version can opt for the 1.5-litre 110TSI versions but they attract a $7000 premium.
Using premium 95 octane unleaded, the Kamiq averaged 5.8 litres/100km. Only on a highway trip with some stop-start inner city driving did we achieve the official Skoda figure of 5.1L.
Beneath the skin is a Volkswagen and it comes with the peace of mind of a five-year warranty.
I’ve always liked the Europeans, now there’s one within my price range that doesn’t sacrifice space or performance.
KIA SELTOS S SAFETY PACK $28,290
Another quiet, composed and tech-savvy compact SUV, powered by a 110kW/180Nm 2.0-litre 4-cyl that runs on regular unleaded. Has a 433L boot, along with a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
MITSUBISHI ASX LS $29,990
Doesn’t have the driving or internal smarts of the Skoda, but the price and a 10-year/200,000km warranty often does all the selling. Powered by a 110kW/197Nm 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol engine that also runs on standard unleaded. Boot capacity of 393L.
The Kamiq lives up to its name which means “something that fits as perfectly as a second skin in every situation”. Using sport mode helps eliminate sluggish starts in an SUV package which sets the segment benchmark.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $29,990 drive away (impressive value)
WARRANTY/SERVICING Five-year warranty (on par with rivals); service pack $1400 for five (fine)
ENGINE 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo, 85kW/200Nm (solid and zesty)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist (some good extras in optional pack)
THIRST5.1L/100km (5.8 on test)
SPARE Space saver (not preferred)
BOOT400L/1395L (big, useful)