Surprise, surprise. Skoda has a new car. It’s a crossover. Suffice to say, ‘Skoda’ and ‘crossover’ aren’t exactly two words which are going to turn heads.

Although, I shouldn’t be too quick to write this one off.  According to Skoda, the Kamiq is designed to be the ‘perfect fit’ within the Skoda range between the hatch and SUV line-up. 

Skoda mightn’t be too far off the money with that claim either, with the Kamiq grabbing the attention of the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild for the 2020 New Zealand Car of the Year title.

Earlier in the year, Rob tested out the top-spec Kamiq Monte Carlo, which he enjoyed. Let’s determine whether the mid-spec Ambition+ can deliver on the same expectations.

The Range

Slotting in the range under the Karoq, the Skoda Kamiq is offered in three different trim levels, being the entry-level Ambition for $30,990, the mid-range Ambition+ for $36,990, and the top-spec Monte Carlo for $42,990. Rob’s review of the Monte Carlo can be found here

For your $36,990, you’ll get 17” alloys, 8” central touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, 8-speaker audio front, side, curtain and driver knee airbags, KESSY keyless start and entry, cruise control, lane assist and auto emergency braking, LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, red ambient interior lighting, power heated mirrors, and rear parking sensors. There’s also a smattering of options available for the Ambition+, but all of these options are standard on the top-range Monte Carlo.

The Kamiq range offers two different petrol engine configurations. The Ambition gets a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder turbo engine, making 85kW of power and 200Nm of torque. Move up to the Ambition+ and Monte Carlo, you’ll receive a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine making 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. Both engines are paired to a 7-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.   

The Kamiq range has an extensive colour palette, with twelve colours available. Two of these colours, Velvet Red and Crystal black, are an extra $1000. Our test vehicle was finished in Candy White.

First Impressions

From a distance, a cynic would say this is a bloated Skoda Scala. Although technically true, Skoda has done an excellent job making the proportions look right. There are no funny angles or any bloat, which many crossovers are often susceptible to. 

Although sharing the same platform as the Skoda Scala, the Kamiq is marginally shorter in length than its hatchback sibling. The Kamiq is down 121mm end-to-end, but stands taller than the Scala by 82mm.  For reference, the Scala is about the size of a VW Golf.

Differentiating the Kamiq from the rest of the Skoda range is the split-front LED head-light design. The front and rear LED lights are standard on the Kamiq range. You’ll also notice some special touches when close up, in particular, the exterior lights feature an interesting webbed design.

Beyond lights, the rest of the body is a clean design with uninterrupted lines and that basically sums it up. It all appears a tad vanilla, or is that just the colour I’m seeing?

Being the mid-range model, you get Skoda’s 17’’ Braga alloys and chrome exterior details. The Monte Carlo that Rob tested earlier receives sportier 18’’ Vega alloys, with blacked-out exterior details. 

The result is that the styling of the Ambition+ does seem a bit more suburban compared with the sportier Monte Carlo, but otherwise, there’s no fundamental changes between the two. If conservativeness concerns you, just buy the red one. 

Even if the Kamiq is visually a tad uninteresting, its clean lines and crisp lighting gives off a premium aura. You’d easily fool your neighbours into thinking you’d paid more than $36,990.

The Interior

The Kamiq has a simple, yet elegant design on the inside. The dashboard is layered with textured plastics and soft-touch materials. All the switchgear feels nice and tactile. The doors use more soft-touch material and incorporate a floating door-handle design. There are some hard plastics, but they’re not directly in your field of vision. Overall, the design is neat and the finish feels premium.

Although when compared with its sibling, the Monte Carlo, the interior of the Kamiq Ambition+ is considerably more restrained.

The Monte Carlo’s racy sports seats are gone, replaced with a modest offering from Skoda.  Appearance wise, it’s a downgrade, even though Skoda has jazzed them up with some diamond patterns and contrast stitching.

Importantly, Skoda has not compromised on comfort which is easily one of the stronger selling points of the Kamiq. 

The front driver and passenger’s seats are supportive, meaning you could easily get comfortable, and stay that way on longer journeys. Rear passengers will marvel at the amount of headroom and legroom available. There’s even a couple of USB-C charging ports for them back there too. 

The cabin felt exceptionally roomy for a small crossover. There’s an airiness about the cabin, even without the large panoramic sunroof which is standard on the Monte Carlo. The cabin is also quiet when driving. More on this later. 

Up front, the centre infotainment has been downsized to an 8’’ screen. Functionally, the infotainment is excellent to use, with crisp graphics and an interface which is highly responsive to the touch. Many competitors use 8’’ screens, so the apparent ‘downgrade’ was not a huge concern. Skoda has also integrated a sizable storage area for smartphones, plus added a few USB-C plugs just beneath the climate controls.

Keeping with the clean and elegant design of the interior, Skoda has sought to minimise the number of buttons, integrating many of controls into the infotainment. Such measures I am usually okay with, provided core functions still have physical controls. This is where we arrive at our first annoyance of the Kamiq’s interior.

Skoda remembered all the hard controls for the stereo volume and the climate controls, but fan speed was left off that list. Instead, you need to use the infotainment screen to adjust it.

This is also merely the tip of the iceberg for Skoda’s annoying controls. I recoiled when I reached for the indicator stalk for the first time. The blimin’ thing is rectangular! It’s certainly awkward the first few times you touch it. If that’s not a worthy complaint, please forgive me. Millennials are easily offended.

Anyway, the reason it’s an odd shape is because Skoda integrates the cruise controls onto the indicator stalk. They use a series of fiddly switches and bumpers on the stalk, which are annoying to use. I never fully got used to them during the week I had the car.

There’s a button at the underside of the stalk, which is shortcut to the safety assistance menu on the instrument display, despite there also being a button on the steering wheel which serves the exact same purpose. 

This leads us to perhaps one of the greater shortcomings of the mid-range Kamiq. The top-spec Monte Carlo receives Volkswagen Group’s excellent virtual cockpit for the instrument display, whereas our Ambition+ misses out, receiving analogue dials and a small digital display instead.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this alternative, but it adds to the growing list of equipment the Ambition+ misses out on.  

In the back, there’s a 400-litre boot, which expands to sizable 1395 litres with the seats folded down. Skoda has also added a number of little niceties, including bag hooks, side-bins, a dual sided boot liner, plus a boot light that doubles as a torch.

Skoda loves to throw a number of these little features into their vehicles, which they’ll certainly tell you all about in the marketing bumph. A handful of these features are genuinely useful, though you’d be a smart consumer to consider whether there’s any regular utility in them. 

For example, the parking ticket holder on the windshield. It’s all ticketless where I park.

The umbrella in the driver’s door – just like a Rolls Royce, cool! Great if you’re not a Wellingtonian. 

The plastic luggage dividers in the boot – aren’t they on AliExpress?

Under the bonnet, the washer fluid lid that transforms into a funnel – your service mechanic will like that! 

There’s also the Skoda Connect app, which offers a number of convenience features, like the ability to check your driving data from your smartphone.

I appreciate all these little features Skoda incorporates into their vehicles. It’s all part of their brand character, plus it shows they’re paying attention to detail. Whether or not these features are useful is totally subjective – I never used them during my test.

In my eyes, some of the Kamiq’s better details Skoda doesn’t make much noise about. First of which are the climate vents on each side of the cabin. They protrude slightly outwards, sitting flush with the door card when closed. At night time, there’s red strip LED lighting that gently illuminates the cabin, also a number of white LEDs illuminating the door handles. These are small details, but they add that premium touch.  

Overall, there’s very little to complain about inside the Kamiq. For the price point, the Kamiq offers a comfortable and well-built interior, with all those fun little Skoda perks thrown in. Though, Skoda could have been a bit cleverer with some of the control layouts.

The Drive

At this point, I figured out why Skoda loves to market their “clever features”. These gimmicks get you in the door for a test-drive. Once you put yourself behind the wheel, Skoda may as well run the victory lap. Suffice to say, once you’re driving the Kamiq, you will be impressed.

The 1.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder produces 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, which is about on-par with competitors in this segment. However, the performance figures are only part of the narrative. 

The main strength of Kamiq’s powerplant is the manner by which it delivers this power and torque. There’s lovely linearity to the power curve, meaning there’s ample mid-range power available. The Kamiq pulls strongly and consistently through all of its gears.

For a small family crossover, it feels pretty darn brisk. 

The Kamiq also delivers its performance quietly, meaning you can push the right pedal down further, without disturbing the little ones in the back. You also never get the impression the Kamiq is exerting itself unless pushed high-up into the rev range, where the engine does begin to gasp.

The 7-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox is buttery-smooth between shifts. DSG’s of old were a total faff when in bumper-to-bumper traffic, yet Skoda seems to have this issue mostly resolved.

I say mostly because you can still confuse the thing. A quick take-off from a standstill may cause it to pause and contemplate itself, before it remembers that it is indeed a gearbox. Quirks aside, it’s superior to most CVT transmissions used by virtually all of the competition in the segment.

Packaged altogether, the Kamiq’s powertrain refinement is exceptional for the price point. 

The rest of the driving experience is more-or-less consistent with the standard hatchback experience, which is a complement in the crossover world. The ride quality is decent, while the brakes and handling were par for the course. Point the Kamiq through some quicker corners and the small crossover will behave itself, introducing only a small amount of body roll. The steering wasn’t too light either.    

Being the Ambition+, you do miss-out on selectable drive modes featured as standard on the Monte Carlo.  You can option them for an extra $250, but seldom do you ever actually need this feature on a crossover.

During our time with the Ambition+, I achieved an average of 6.7l/100km, 0.9L higher than Skoda’s quoted figure of 5.8l/100kms. On some shorter, individual trips, I was easily able to push this figure down into the low 6’s.

There were no major downsides with the Kamiq’s driving experience. The few downsides related, again unfortunately, to the technology and packaging. 

As mentioned in Rob’s review, the Kamiq inherits VAG’s over-eager stop-start function. It’s particularly keen that sometimes it will pre-emptively cut the engine before you’ve reached a complete halt. 

Perhaps the greatest drawback of the mid-range Ambition+ is all the extra kit you’ll forgo relative to the Monte Carlo. The Ambition+ misses out on adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert and the adaptive dampers. 

Of course, you can tick the boxes to add these features to your Ambition+, but the economic sense of doing so is questionable. For example, you can have adaptive cruise, provided you’re prepared to fork out an extra $900. This is disappointing for Skoda, as we’re starting to see most of this tech trickle down into cheaper vehicles. Even the humble Suzuki Swift we tested had adaptive cruise, and that was only $28,500.

Ignoring some technological quirks and packaging problems of the Ambition+, the Kamiq is a strong performer with its driving experience. There are plenty of small crossovers that drive well, yet the Kamiq feels like it has an edge over the competition.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower (kW)/Torque (Nm)Economy, L/100km (claimed)SeatsBoot Space, LitresTowing Capacity, KgPrice Highest to Lowest
Nissan Juke ST-L (FWD)1-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder84/1805.854221250$38,750
Subaru XV Sport (AWD)2.0-litre horizontally opposed 4-cylinder115/1967.053101400$37,490
Hyundai Kona Elite2.0-litre 4-cylinder110/1807.253611300$36,990
Skoda Kamiq Ambition+1.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder110/2505.854001250$36,990
Toyota C-HR Limited1.2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder85/1856.55318600$36,990
Mazda CX-3 GSX2.0-litre 4-cylinder110/1956.752641200$36,695
Mitsubishi ASX VRX (FWD)2.4-litre 4-cylinder125/2267.953931300$35,990
Kia Seltos LX2.0-litre 4-cylinder Petrol Engine110/1806.854681100$35,990
VW T-Cross TSI Life1-litre 3-cylinder Petrol Engine85/2005.454551100$34,750
Peugeot 2008 Active1.2-litre turbocharged 3-cylinder 115/2406.154341200$33,990
Suzuki Vitara Turbo1.4-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder103/2206.253751200$33,990
Honda HR-V Active1.8-litre 4-cylinder105/1726.95437800$33,990

Pros

  • Powertrain refinement
  • Smooth gearbox
  • Quietness
  • Performance
  • Crisp LED lighting
  • Good Infotainment
  • Spacious interior
  • Clever Skoda features and attention to detail

Cons

  • Over-eager stop/start
  • Annoying soft controls
  • Annoying cruise control switchgear
  • Incomplete safety tech list
  • Considerably more down-spec compared with a Monte Carlo

Vehicle Type5-door compact SUV
Starting Price$36,990
Price as Tested$36,990
Engine1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged, petrol engine
Power, Torque (kW/Nm)110/250
Transmission7-speed DSG auto
Spare WheelFull-sized spare
Kerb Weight, Kg1197
Length x Width x Height (mm)4241 x 1988 x 1553
Cargo Capacity, litres400/1395
Fuel tank Capacity, litres50
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – 5.8
Real World Test – 6.7
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked630/1250
Turning circle, metres10

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 years/150,000km mechanical warranty
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
8
Interior
7
Performance
8
Safety
7
Styling
7
Value
7
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A millennial who prefers driving cars to having avocado on toast.

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