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Skoda's answer to the Renault Captur majors on comfort and cleverly furnished practicality, and now gets fresh styling and interior features

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Slowly but surely, the Skoda Kamiq has become a very important car for its maker. We might not have seen this coming, but market-watchers no doubt would have.

This rather derivative-looking, boil-washed, MQB-alike Volkswagen Group compact SUV (which some of us might not have so easily been able to distinguish on the road from a Skoda Karoq, or even a Volkswagen Tiguan that was simply at a slightly greater distance away) is now out-performed on global sales only by the Octavia among the Czech firm’s showroom models.

And it has now had its big mid-life facelift, which firstly addresses the car’s slightly plain styling, adding some extra distinguishing features. But Skoda’s also beefed up the car’s standard equipment level and in-cabin digital technology; enriched its cabin materials a little; and improved its big-selling mid-level petrol engine.

The result doesn’t add up to the most exciting or enticing small family car in the world; but if you like your family transport compact, spacious, easy-to-drive, decent value-for-money, and to come loaded with convenience features, you could find as much to like here as that increasing proportion of Skoda owners clearly does.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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skoda kamiq review 2024 02 panning rear

Skoda clearly continues to care most about how much pain its cars can take out of everyday motoring life for its customers - and all for a very reasonable price. The Kamiq is full of the cleverly thought through ‘life cheat’-style practicality touches for which its maker is now famed, to which we’ll come - but the facelift brings wider change to it.

There’s a new larger radiator grille, fresh bumpers, new head- and taillights, and new wheel designs on the outside of the car. Go for a range-topping Monte Carlo version and you’ll get special exterior badging, plenty of black body trim, and sport suspension with switchable dampers and a 10mm drop in ride height.There’s also a new ‘evo2’-generation 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine under the bonnet, which develops an extra five horsepower for the big-selling mid-range versions of the car, but also saves a little bit on the WLTP economy lab test.

Under the skin, the Kamiq is, materially at least, a jacked-up Skoda Scala, the Czech firm’s engineers admit: so there’s nothing remotely innovative here. It’s precisely the same width as the hatchback and its wheelbase is almost identical. It’s about 120mm shorter than the Scala, though, yet still quite big for the compact crossover hatchback class – which is nothing if not a familiar positioning for a modern Skoda to occupy.

The car uses the Volkswagen Group’s MQB-A0 supermini platform, which in turn means it can only have front-wheel drive and torsion beam rear suspension – although neither need necessarily hold it back among a set of mostly dynamically ordinary rivals. Turbocharged petrol engines range from a 94bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre up to a 148bhp four-cylinder 1.5-, the old 1.6-litre TDI diesels having been removed from the lineup back in 2020. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is offered on all but the entry-level motor - but there are no hybrid or electric options here.

INTERIOR

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skoda kamiq review 2024 06 dash

How many clever interior features can you fit into one compact crossover vehicle? Well, courtesy of your regular Czech automotive purveyor of such things and the facelifted Skoda Kamiq, there’s now another one.

In addition to the list of neat storage and convenience features this car already offered (a neat little cubby box between the rear footwells with an elasticated cup-holder strap in it; smartphone-sized storage pockets high in the front seat backs; many a storage net and bag hook, and a 12-volt power socket, in the boot; and the usual parking ticket holder in the windscreen, ice-scraper in the fuel filler door, dustbin in the driver’s door pocket, and umbrella in the door cavity), the new version has a wireless device charger with a difference. 

I’ll never tire of Skoda’s ingenious practicality touches, like the Kamiq’s boot storage net that clips in underneath the parcel shelf. It’d keep so many little things from rolling around in the boot and annoying the hell out of the driver.

It’s cooled. Well, air conditioned, to be exact, simply in order that your phone doesn’t get slow-cooked while it’s charging, as they do in so many modern cars shortly before shutting down entirely (making the charging pad largely useless). Seems like such an obvious thing to do; and yet it’s still Skoda that can be depended upon to actually do it first. 

The feature’s been added to the updated Kamiq quite late on in its mid-cycle redevelopment (and to the related Scala hatchback, reviewed overleaf, likewise), so the early-build test cars on the European test drive last week didn’t have it; but, when right-hand-drive versions arrive in the UK in six weeks’ time, it’ll be there, we’re assured. And while it’s fed by the air conditioning, it always blows cool regardless what temperature the wider blower’s set to.

The car remains one of the larger and more practical cars in the ‘B-SUV’ segment, and does a pretty tidy impression of a Golf-sized hatchback on stilts. Rivals offer more outright boot space; but the accommodation level in the second row is broadly full-size-adult-friendly, although that low storage cubby we mentioned before might make life a little uncomfortable for anyone sitting ‘turret’ in the middle - so better to think of this as a practical four-seater compact car rather than one that might just stretch to five occupants.

There was a hint of dowdiness about the pre-faceiift version’s cabin decor, which the updated one addresses via the addition of some tactile cloth dashboard trim. Skoda calls the new ambience ‘living roomy’ - and not unfairly. Trouble is, my nine-year-old lad doesn’t tend to take his football boots off in our actual living room, and then rub his sweaty socks along the soft furnishings. I’m all for a bit of premium feel - but I’m inclined to think that Skodas should primarily be functional, everyday cars; and I worry a bit how those soft cloth trims might wear and age in a family hack. Depends on the family, I guess.

The rest of the Kamiq interior, and the wider contents of the facelift, are good. All models get digital instruments now, which are nice and clear and configurable. All get a touchscreen infotainment system with wireless smartphone mirroring. And Skoda’s still sensible enough to make all of the car’s ADAS driver assistance systems easy to toggle on or off via a trip computer menu that pops straight up at the touch of a button on the steering wheel spoke.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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skoda kamiq review 2024 08 cornering front

There are three petrol engines on offer in the Kamiq. The mid-level, 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol has new cam timing and turbo calibration, and now makes an extra five horsepower - but you wouldn’t really know it. 

It’s overwhelmingly the same old thrummy, slightly buzzy, modestly potent but very willing performer that it was before the ‘evo2’ revision. Strong enough for a car like this, though; perhaps just a little unrefined at times; but pretty efficient, too.

The car’s controls are light, its six-speed manual gearbox decently well defined in its shift quality; and, the engine being torquey and flexible, this isn’t a car that insists on a lot of gear changes, and it revs willingly and quite smoothly when called to.

Previous test experience of the two-pedal twin-clutch version suggests its slick and pleasant, if a little overly eager to shift up if you leave it in ‘D’ (‘S’ mode dials out the tendency, though it penalises economy a little).

The 114bhp engine is probably as low as you should consider going on the car’s powertrain ladder without compromising easy drivability for the sake of saving a few quid on your monthly finance payment, though (the 94bhp 5-spd entry-level model would, I expect, be a bit too meek to tolerate).

RIDE & HANDLING

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skoda kamiq review 2024 09 panning side

We tested the updated Kamiq on 17in wheels and winter tyres on its European launch event in Frankfurt, neither of which were UK-market-trim representative. But, on its standard coil springs and dampers and in persistently wet test conditions, it rode fairly quietly and comfortably, and didn’t wallow or heave when cornering. 

This is the kind of small car that aims for supple ride comfort, filtered lightness of control weight, all-round handling stability and ease of operation in all that it does. And it hits most of those targets, without going beyond any of them for the sake of driver involvement.

Body control is respectable enough that the car seldom feels excessively soft, and it avoids long-wave underdamped vertical body movements of the sort that can make a car feel a bit unsteady at motorway speeds. It hangs on respectably well when changing direction, but doesn’t have much in the way of an agile feel. 

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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Skoda Kamiq prices have only risen by between £1000 and £1500 compared to the pre-facelift car, and remain enticingly sensible; while lab-test fuel efficiency has also improved slightly on the mid-level petrol model.

Skoda no longer aims to make the cheapest car in any particular class, preferring to add value to a mid-pack positioning; and the Kamiq does that quite well. But the lack of a diesel or a hybrid won’t make this car one to flock to if you want to save money on your fuel bills.

Entry-level SE-grade cars now come with wireless smartphone mirroring as standard, as well as 17in alloy wheels, digital instruments, and four in-cabin, 45-watt USB-C charging ports (they only supplied 15 watts previously); so even these are well-equipped. But the aforementioned cooled wireless device charger is a £350 option on all trim levels.

SE L models add a larger touchscreen multimedia system (which loses its physical volume knob), as well as configurable digital instruments, 18in wheels and privacy glass. And on range-topping Monte Carlo models, in addition to the sporty touches already mentioned, you get full ‘LED Matrix’ adaptive headlights and a reversing camera.

VERDICT

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The Skoda Kamiq is mostly the same impressively practical and functional, comfortable and well-thought-out small family car it was previously, but now has that bit more to catch the eye both inside and out.

Five years ago, we criticised it in the wake of the untimely demise of the Skoda Yeti, whose distinctiveness and charm made the Kamiq seem conservative and dull. But Mlada Boleslav’s instincts have been proven right by the commercial success of this car, as buyers have responded to a design of just-so proportions, practicality and versatility, packed with ingenious features, that’s simple and pleasant both to drive and live with, and smartly priced.

A little more visual kerbside presence - and a wireless smartphone charger that actually works, among many other things - should ensure it continues on a successful, functional, easy-going path.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Skoda Kamiq First drives