Skoda customers are already starting to buy into the Karoq even though this compact SUV is still a month away from arrival.
SUPPLY constraints notwithstanding, Skoda might have up to half the cars in its first shipment of a vital new medium sports utility allocated to hit the local traffic stream even before the car goes officially on sale.
A supposed replacement for the quirky Yeti set to take on the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and the five-seater edition of the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Karoq is very much a mini-me rendition of the Kodiaq that holds the current New Zealand Car of the Year title and is being made available in three versions.
The line comprises a 110kW/250kW 1.5-litre TSi turbopetrol in $38,990 Ambition Plus and $42,900 Style trims plus a turbodiesel which formats in Style form only and costs $48,490. The latter has a 2.0-litre engine outputting identical power to the petrol, but another 90Nm torque.
This is starter pricing, as the models can be glammed with a host of options, starting with the varioflex folding seat system that will surely be popular with those wishing for optimal interior versatility. With this the 60/40 split-fold rear seats could be tumbled forward and completely removed from the car.
Varioflex adds $1750 in all editions but can be configured in the diesel Style as part of a plus pack. A panoramic sunroof ($2500) is also another range-wide fitment, while the base editions requires extra spend to win the electric tailgate and hands-free auto opening feature given the Style editions. Adaptive cruise control is an extra for Ambition Plus.
Skoda New Zealand has not suggested whether customers who chose to individualise their cars might be penalised by long-winded delivery timings.
However local brand boss Greg Leet has acknowledged New Zealand is going to feel impact of limited production counts caused by the factory already running at optimum even before most right-hand-drive markets prepped for launch.
“We land just under 80 cars in April which will give us a good start … (but) like early days with Kodiaq, supply is extremely tight,” he said today.
“Because of supply we look to be selling around 350 this year.”
Given the booming state of the SUV sector, which medium and compact models showing strongest growth, he suggested the volume could have been “easily double that if we could get the cars.”
“We currently sit with around 400 people who have registered their interest already and are keen to see and test drive once available.
It was difficult to say how many will have been pre-sold before arrival.
“We know everything that will land will go straight out the door. If I were to guess I would say around 40 (will be) pre-sold before the car lands and then the car will quickly sell out for many months to come.”
He said his operation had striven to start with a high base specification including “a number of features you would typically find in more expensive models.”
However, while Skoda’s remit within the VW Group plan is to present something of a price-saver presence, he warns that this does not mean it has to operate as a bargain basement buy.
“I don’t believe Skoda has to be cheapest offering in the market, those days are well and truly gone.
“We need to offer true value that translates to customer safety, excitement, practicality.”
Karoq made its public debut at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show in September.
It is built on the same MQB modular platform as the Tiguan but is slightly shorter overall and will be offered in five-seater configuration only. It offers 521 litres of boot space with the rear seats up, and 1810 litres with the seats laid flat.
The Yeti that this car supplants was the smallest SUV Skoda builds but that mantle will not apply to the Karoq after this year.
Skoda’s plan is to build a subcompact SUV and a signal of what it intends was revealed at the recent Geneva motor show, with a concept called the Vision X. The production version will be in production within a year, the brand has indicated.
Skoda described the Vision X as a modern crossover that will appeal to customers with active, urban lifestyles. It said the "powerful, precise" look of the exterior styling advanced the brand’s SUV design language beyond that of the Kodiak and Karoq.
The Vision X's interior updates Skoda’s current dashboard design to include a prominent free-standing screen. Skoda described it as “fundamentally” changing how the interiors of its vehicles will look.
The concept car has a hybrid drivetrain that pairs a 1.5-litre engine powered by compressed natural gas with an electric motor driving the rear axle. A smaller petrol tank would give the car extra range, Skoda said.
The brand is rolling out electrified cars as part of its Strategy 2025 plan. Models will include five all-electric cars as well as plug-in hybrid alternatives by 2025.