Review: Skoda Karoq vs Seat Ateca

Review: Skoda Karoq vs Seat Ateca
Review: Skoda Karoq vs Seat Ateca

If it’s a winner, use it again: that’s the message Skoda has taken from the Seat Ateca for its new small SUV, the Karoq

In 2017, Seat launched its Ateca and single-handedly transformed the small SUV market. Hardly surprising, therefore, that Seat’s sister marque Skoda should decide to build its own ‘Ateca’, the Karoq.

What are the differences between the two?

Driving

Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 FR DSG

Price: £26,340
Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Power: 148bhp
Torque: 184lb ft
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
0-60mph: 8.4sec
Top speed: 123mph
Eeconomy: 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 125g/km

The Ateca has the familiar Volkswagen 148bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol unit, while the Karoq has the newly-released turbo 1.5 petrol. It’s slightly bigger in capacity, but the power and torque figures are practically the same.

That being the case, it’s interesting to note that the Ateca feels a bit more energetic than the Karoq, which is noticeably less willing-feeling beyond 4000rpm. That impacts on the 0-60mph times: 9.2 seconds for the Karoq, 8.4 seconds for the Ateca.

Both our test cars had the optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Tread on the Karoq’s throttle and the reduced liveliness of its engine means that the gearbox has to change down once or even twice more than the Ateca, which then requires the stodgier engine to rev in its less comfortable higher-revs zone.

The Karoq is softer on the roads though, with less of the Ateca’s edginess over urban blemishes, although that does translate into a touch more bounciness and body lean in the Skoda. That plus lighter, lower-geared steering puts the Seat slightly ahead in the handling stakes but neither car will disappoint in terms of agility, especially for SUVs. You can genuinely enjoy an Ateca’s tautness on any twisty road, and its refinement compared to the Skoda, which has more suspension noise in town and more mechanical noise on motorways.

Interior

Still, both cars are great on long journeys, and both have excellent driving positions and all-round visibility, with driver’s seat height anad lumbar adjustment (not to mention rear-view cameras and rear parking sensors) being standard on both cars. There’s a pleasing sense of robustness about both cabins too, the Karoq’s additional soft-touch materials around its centre console being balanced by the Ateca’s cloth-lined front door trims. Overall, the Karoq edges it on interior ambience. It has the bonus of front parking sensors too.

The Ateca’s eight-inch infotainment touchscreen is easy to use, and we like its physical shortcut buttons, but its screen resolution isn’t as sharp as the Skoda’s and its response time is longer. Sound quality through the Ateca’s standard eight-speaker stereo is good, with a 10-speaker upgrade available at £330. For £595 you can get a pack containing wireless charging, a powered tailgate and keyless entry.

The Karoq offers integrated wi-fi and subscription-based online connectivity (free in year one). Menu shortcuts are useful but hard to hit through the touch-sensitive screen while driving. We wouldn’t spend £1250 on the 9.2-inch screen option, but £50 for rear-seat tablet holders is a nice kid-friendly option.

Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE L DSG

Price: £25,815
Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Power: 148bhp
Torque: 184lb ft
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
0-60mph: 9.2sec
Top speed: 126mph
Economy: 50.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 127g/km

If you’re worried about headroom, probably best to skip the panoramic roof option as it limits vertical space, especially in the Karoq. No issues with leg room, however, although the high central tunnel will make life a bit less comforable for a rear middle-seat passenger.

The Ateca has the common 60/40 split-folding rear seat arrangement, whereas the Karoq SE L has Skoda’s VarioFlex system which splits the rear row 40/20/40 into three individually sliding, reclining or removable chairs. With the seats in place, the Karoq wins on boot space despite having a lower claimed volume. Its extra length allowed it to take nine carry-on suitcases, compared to the Ateca’s eight. The Ateca fights back with tailgate levers to drop the rear seats, and the £120 option of an adjustable boot floor, neither of which are available in the Karoq.

Costs

On costs, although the Ateca is more expensive in terms of its list price, Seat dealers are known to negotiate, so it’s the cheaper outright buying choice here at the moment, with no Karoq discounts yet.

Of course, most will go for PCP finance, and this puts the Skoda on top. With a £2500 deposit, a 3-year term and 10,000 miles a year, the Karoq is £45 a month cheaper than the Ateca. There’s only £36 in it over three years for benefit-in-kind tax.

Both our test cars came in mid-spec trim, which is generous. The Ateca FR has 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and privacy glass. The Karoq SE L has all those and adds adaptive LED headlights, keyless entry and heated front seats.

We expect Euro NCAP to give the Karoq the same 5-star safety score as the Ateca as they share aids like automatic emergency braking. We’d think about ticking the Ateca’s Advanced Comfort and Driving Pack Plus box at £995. It brings blindspot warning and lane assist, plus adaptive cruise control and a heated front screen. Skoda charges £1200 for an equivalent package.

Verdict

Both are five-star cars in our view. The Ateca is extremely worthy, combining many of the Karoq’s plus points with a sportier drive and a more willing engine, but we’re giving this verdict to the Skoda. It rides more comfortably, has lower costs and more standard equipment, and more flexibility in its rear seats.

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