(Pocket-lint) - Yet another crossover/SUV joins the fray. But that's no surprise, is it? After all this is the most successful/growing market area and, following in the footsteps of its VW and Seat cousins, Skoda wants a piece of the pie.
Which is exactly where the Kamiq fits in: a front-wheel-drive city SUV with small proportions; one which shares the same 'MQB' architecture as the admirable VW T-Roc and Seat Arona. Only Skoda has taken those somewhat 'safe'-looking crossovers and added a little more squinty-eyed snarl to the design.
Having driven the Kamiq - which is the smallest of the company's three SUV models, the Karoq and Kodiaq above it in size terms - for many hours around cities, motorways and mountain roads in France, this little SUV proves its versatility by the bucket loads too.
It's powerful in 1-litre petrol form (no green credentials here, the only other model is a 1.6 diesel), offers a decent specification and tech setup, and while it might not be that memorable to drive around in, well, that's almost its entire point: to be a comfortable, easy small-scale family getabout.
It's all about those front headlights. This is the first Skoda SUV to offer daytime running LED headlights, while the rear set offer scrolling indicators, which move outwards, light by light, in the order of indication. It's these little factors that give the Kamiq a modern edge.
In particular it's those front headlamps - which are almost Jeep-esque, if you'll forgive us for saying - that set the stance and style of this particular model. Not that it could be called sporty looking.
From the rear there's a hint of Volvo. From the side everything looks a bit 'softer' and more approachable. In combination, the Kamiq is a modern take on the crossover. A but more risque than the VW T-Roc or Seat Arona, yet not out-there Nissan Juke style.
The exterior is largely the same irrelevant of trim level purchased, which begins with the S, bumps up to SE and tops out at SE L. It's the wheels that make a difference, however, starting with alloys at 16-inches and growing to 18-inches at the top-end. Nothing overly big to ensure the ride remains calm and comfortable.
Interior & Tech
It's inside where you'll really notice those S, SE and SE L differences. Our review model, as pictured, is the top-end of the bunch, which means it has a 9.2-inch infotainment screen raised out of the dash (that'll be 6.5- or 8-inches in the lower trim levels), along with a driver's Virtual Cockpit display included (something to pay extra for in lower trim) which makes for a great digital view beyond the eyeline.
Unlike some luxury brands - yes, BMW, Mini, Toyota and Lexus, we're looking at you - the Kamiq is compatible with Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay - which some of those aforementioned are too, for a fee - also included) so you can hook-up your phone and get the latest and greatest Google apps, maps and such like.
Not that you'll need to. We found the sat-nav - well, when it worked, as the first half of our journey was hampered by a botched OTA update, meaning CarPlay was our go-to navigation - (eventually) worked really well, especially in the Virtual Cockpit view. With that driver's display active it's great to have, say, your tunes/radio/Bluetooth connection on the main screen, split-screen with some additional information such as mileage. It's a neat setup that's not too distracting when driving.
The buttons are tactile touch areas around the edge of the screen, which are a bit of a lean to reach but perfectly responsive. As tech setups go we're satisfied that Skoda has all the major points checked off the list here. And using this system doesn't feel taxing or bothersome to any degree. Get in, get on with what you want, and off you go.
Sure, the odd physical dial here or there might have been useful, but in facing the future in its implementation, Skoda is embracing the way controls are going. At first that might mean poking around a bit more to change the volume, but you'll quickly get used to it (or realise you can change it on the steering wheel controls, but of course).
No, you won't find the interior to be especially luxurious in terms of finish - it's all hard plastics, really - but that's part and parcel at this price level. It's perfectly comfortable to sit in, there's ample room, while you'll easily get two extra adult passengers in the rear too.
Here's where the Kamiq surprised us somewhat. Not because it's heaps of fun to drive - let's face it, this is a small crossover SUV after all - but because that 1-litre engine has plenty of pep to pull this little car along at pace. The turbo helps get to speed rapidly, but if you fear there'll be a lack of power to overtake then that's entirely unfounded.
We drove the automatic DSG gearbox, which is refined in its quick shifts and feels effortless. There's a manual also available, too, but these days automatics are so adept that we'd have that as the choice.
If the 1-litre petrol doesn't appeal then there's a 1.6-litre diesel (TDI) model, which will eke out more miles per gallon. It's unlikely to be that popular for the couples/small families at which the Kamiq is aimed, however, given the higher emissions.
Whether in the city, on the open road or twisting around mountain bends, the Kamiq's engine remains quiet. It doesn't rev hard unnecessarily, keeping the audio levels to a low, delivering a calm yet solid output. It's hard to quibble with how it performs indeed, although the wind noise is a little higher than we'd like (but easily drowned out by the SE L's eight speaker stereo, which can thwap out the tunes).
There's a lot of safety tech available too, including Lane Assist and City Emergency Braking to keep you on the straight and narrow and avoid any accidental tussles with other vehicles or pedestrians. In the SE L there's also cruise control, which is great for foot-off-the-pedal easy driving, especially in traffic jams.
If you're looking for a city SUV or crossover then you're spoilt for choice at the moment. Interestingly, many of the available ones - the VW T-Roc and Seat Arona being two examples - are more-or-less the same as this Skoda Kamiq.
So why should you buy the Kamiq over its competition? Well, we think that design is that bit more modern and edgy. Although let's not get ahead of ourselves, it's hardly revolutionary - it's just quirkier than the conservative T-Roc or bubbly Arona.
Having driven the Kamiq for many hours it ticks all the boxes. It's comfortable. It's got plenty of tech in the higher trim levels, which works a treat. The small engine is quiet yet peppy. There's a bunch of safety tech, too.
No, the interior finish is hardly plush and the drive isn't exactly memorable. But, in a sense, that's job done: by being easy and accessible the Kamiq will appeal to a wide range of buyers looking for that fuss-free city crossover, one with a little pinch of style over its numerous competitors.
As a "My First SUV", the T-Roc represents a sensible option for those wanting to graduate from their hatchback and into something more practical, but without scaring themselves into a mid-life crisis.