ON THE ROAD- IAN LYNAS’ SICILIAN DATE WITH NEW SKODA SUV

By Ian Lynas.

Sicily is my favourite island in the Med, one which has a rich history in motor sport, the Targa Florio was an open road endurance race held in the mountains near Palermo.

Founded in 1906, it was the oldest sports car racing event, part of the World Sportscar Championship between 1955 and 1973 and while the first races consisted of a whole tour of the island, the track length in the race’s last decades was limited to 45 miles of the Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie, which was lapped 11 times.

Alas the event was discontinued in 1977 due to safety concerns, now a round of the Italian Rally Championship continues the motor sport tradition on this island.

Flying into Palermo, my thoughts turned to those halcyon days, my mission this time to attend the launch of the new Skoda Karoq, yet another SUV as the fever for this type of vehicle rages.

Seems no time since I attended the launch of the new Kodiag, an SUV from Skoda which shares much in terms of size etc with the VW Tiguan.

Next year a third SUV will join the Skoda line-up, as yet to be named, it will be the smaller of the three. Rumours abound that the Yeti name may be employed. However a local dealer assures me that a new name will be used.

It is felt that the name Yeti appeals more to the more mature driver and clearly the small SUV will target a much younger audience.

Returning to Sicily and the new Karog and in company with others I see it as the replacement for the Yeti which proved to be a success story for Skoda. Styling is pleasing to the eye and is not to far removed from the Kodiaq which already is attracting a fair share of attention.

. Earlier this year I got an early taste of the new Skoda in Stockholm; I must add not behind the wheel, simply to view and to speak with key people.

With a good choice of trim levels and power units, both petrol and diesel, two of each with power ranging from 115-150PS.

Build quality is what we now have come to expect from this manufacturer and if you have ever driven on some of the roughest roads in Europe that Sicily presents, there was not a single rattle and the well proportioned Skoda dealt with all at ease. I encountered potholes which were more like mini bomb craters.

The test routes also included motorways and there was the opportunity to go off road, this turned out to be a course representative of what a driver might ever experience; best described as soft off roading.

The entry level model comes with 17 inch alloys, privacy glass, LED rear lights, dual zone climate control, front assist, pedestrian monitor and driver fatigue sensor.

Move up a trim level and wheel size goes up an inch, plus sat nav with a large inch screen of the touch screen variety. Such goodies as Smartlink +, keyless entry and start/ stop are also part of the package.

Keeping everyone safe at night full LED headlights with an adaptive front system.

For those challenging parking places, a rear view camera and front and rear parking sensors are part of the package.

Eye-catching chunky 19 inch alloys identify the range topper which comes with an array of standard equipment, adding a touch of luxury, a standard which is normally found on more expensive vehicles.

I was surprised to discover the inclusion of a sunroof and it was much appreciated in the sunshine of Sicily. Leather upholstery a sign of luxury, a Columbus sat nav with a huge 9.2 inch screen, LED ambient lighting and one further nice touch, an electrically operated boot.

All variants come with a high level of safety and security equipment, as we expect in a modern vehicle.

With the Karoq, the renowned DSG transmission is a worthwhile option; otherwise it is a standard six speed manual transmission.

My time in Sicily permitted me to try two models, one with a two litre diesel engine and one with the truly amazing one litre petrol engine. The latter you would expect to be best suited to a small hatchback; however it works richly with the new Skoda.

The most powerful variant the two litre TDI 150PS is available with four wheel drive.

Right across the range fuel figures range from the low 50 to 60 plus mpg. Also the CO2 figures are good ranging from 117-138 g/km.

There is generous boot space, the mid and top range models feature the Varioflex seating system and should the need arise to transport large items, there are 1,810 litres available.

The Karoq is a welcome addition to what seems to be an ever expanding number of compact SUVs.