One of the more unusual looking models in the small crossover class

One of the more unusual looking models in the small crossover class

View 3 related images

Even with the downturn in China, 2019 was a strong year for Skoda, the company delivering 1.24m vehicles. The Octavia is a long way ahead of all other models but the brand's SUVs are performing very well too, with the Kamiq off to a good start in all European markets.

There are in fact three models called Kamiq, if you count the Kamiq GT. The first one is for China, as is the GT. Both use an old platform (NCS) whereas Europe's new B segment SUV - built in the Czech Republic - is yet another vehicle for the Volkswagen Group's latest small car architecture, MQB AO.

Three Kamiqs, but only one for Europe

China's 4,390mm long model, which looks a lot like the only slightly shorter Karoq, is manufactured by the SAIC Volkswagen joint venture. It became available in June 2018 and was followed by the longer (4,409mm) Kamiq GT last November. Both of these models are purely for the Chinese market.

Europe's Kamiq is just 4,241mm long and has much in common with the VW T-Cross, Audi Q2 and SEAT Arona although to look at all four of them, you wouldn't know it.

Skoda's newest, smallest SUV also treads its own path compared to the Karoq and Kodiaq especially at the front end. Narrow DRL above the cornering/fog lights and headlights give the model its own signature, while the grille looks similar to what adorns the Kamiq's bigger brothers. At the back, S K O D A is there in large letters, this being the second model in Europe to have that badging rather than the brand's logo. The overall effect is a distinctive appearance: especially important in what has become a class bursting with choice.

Intense competition

The Renault Captur remains king of the B-SUV segment, with in excess of 220,000 sales in 2019. The new shape model, along with the freshly minted Peugeot 2008 plus of course the VW T-Cross will do intense battle in 2020.

Opel and Vauxhall now have only the Crossland X as their contender, at least until a new Mokka X arrives towards year-end, the old one having been axed some months back. That has been a gift to rival brands, with Nissan's new Juke also joining the fray recently, along with the Kamiq.

Other challengers are the just-launched Ford Puma, and later this year, a smaller successor for the Citroen C4 Cactus, plus a GA-B architecture Toyota to supplement the C-HR. Even vehicles which aren't that old and which sold in six figures in 2019 - think Hyundai Kona, SEAT Arona, Citroen C3 Aircross - risk being squeezed, as will, inevitably, Ford's still much in demand EcoSport which dates to 2012.

Two-wheel drive only - does that matter?

Most buyers in the B-SUV segment don't seem to mind if their vehicle comes without all-wheel drive which is why the Kamiq is FWD-only. That also means less weight and therefore good economy and low CO2. The SE model grade variant I tried came with the Volkswagen Group's 1.0 TSI. This 999cc three-cylinder engine produces 85kW (116PS) and 200Nm, is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox and has a CO2 average of 116g/km. Zero to 62mph takes 9.9 seconds, top speed is 120mph and economy of 40+mpg is easily possible.

Being a Skoda, the Kamiq is on the large size for its segment, to the benefit of interior space, something which is also greatly helped by a lengthy 2,651mm wheelbase. All occupants sit fairly upright which is fine, and not even especially tall passengers will feel squeezed - headroom in the back is slightly more than a metre plus there's 73mm of space for knees. Not all versions come with the so-called VarioFlex seats but those which do benefit from a 400-litre boot. Buyers can also select the option of a folding front passenger seat for added flexibility. All in all, up to 1,395 litres is available.

All Kamiqs come with a 225mm diameter dash-top touchscreen and two illuminated USB C ports below the knee-height HVAC controls, while digital instrumentation is an option. As with most other vehicles which use MQB AO, there is a handbrake rather than an electronic one.

Skoda's typically handy features in this model include front doors which will take a 1.5 l bottle - the back ones will hold 500-mil ones - as well as card and coin holders within the glovebox, and storage compartments under the front seats. The cupholders are on the small side though, and unless you order an optional armrest, there are none in the back.

Class leading ground clearance

Skoda says this model has the most ground clearance in its segment, which is kind of strange for a vehicle that lacks all-wheel drive. In common with others which send power to the front axle only, the Kamiq has an electronically locking differential. This is just about good enough to cope with necessarily rapid getaways onto a fast-moving main road although I found myself wondering how it would be with the 1.6 TDI's 250Nm. Probably fine, with the DSG at least.

The height of the Kamiq means you get a fair bit of body roll and yet other than that, this is mostly an enjoyable little vehicle with ride comfort a strongpoint. Those who Skoda are chasing with this model will be far keener on that aspect of the dynamics than direct-feeling steering. For the record though, the engineers have got that very well set up too. It's unlikely that we'll ever see a Kamiq vRS but the basic chassis wouldn't need too much work should Skoda ever see an opportunity for such a variant.

Powertrains

In addition to the 85kW 1.0 TSI, there is a 70kW and 150Nm version in some markets (not the UK). This less expensive alternative has a five-speed manual gearbox and cannot be ordered with the seven-speed DSG which is an option for the more powerful 1.0-litre unit. Those who want even more power and torque in petrol form can instead go for a 110kW (150PS) and 250Nm 1.5 TSI.

The diesel alternative is limited to a sole 1.6-litre TDI. This has outputs of 85kW (116PS) and 250Nm and there is the choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG.

Even the least expensive variants come equipped with a suite of safety tech. That includes Lane Assist plus Front Assist including City Emergency Brake. Both features are worthwhile, although sometimes a build-up of damp road grit can temporarily cause these systems to flash up malfunctioning warnings. A quick wipe of the sensors and all's well again I found. Adaptive cruise control is also available as an option for cars with the DSG gearbox.

Conclusion

The brand's appeal and this new model's inherent abilities and value mean Kamiq sales should gain much strength throughout 2020. The only thing missing is any form of electrification. Volkswagen has the technology ready for MQB AO models, as a fully electric Audi Q2 is already available in China, and will be watching the sales performance of the Peugeot e-2008 in Europe with much interest. 

The Skoda Kamiq costs from GBP17,700 and comes in S, SE and SE L trim levels, with Monte Carlo as well as Scoutline to follow soon.

Expert analysis

just-auto PLDB - vehicle cycle plan database (annual subscription)

just-auto PLDB - vehicle cycle plan database (annual subscription)

PLDB from just-auto.com is a cost effective, vehicle cycle plan database, showing the production life of all major current and future vehicle models produced (or to be produced) globally by all brands...read more

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more