Skoda designates their new Kamiq as a “city SUV”, but a day driving it through the Vosges mountains in France proved it also well capable of handling sporty and challenging roads.
It is an area favoured by motorcyclists – perhaps too much so, given the multiplicity of signs warning them about ‘Trop d’accidents!’
On the drive, I met many on two wheels making the most of the tight, climbing bends.
I made the most of them, too, on routes which took in both mountains and valleys, with a seemingly endless series of flower-decked villages, each more beautiful than the last.
The Kamiq is based on the same platform as the recently launched Scala hatchback, but Skoda say they have changed both chassis and suspension.
The SUV is taller, has more headroom, and the designers have given it the first iteration of a fresh front style for the brand. Main lights front and rear are LED.
The designers claim the longest wheelbase and the highest ground clearance in the segment.
The interior is similar to the Scala. The direct main instruments, with options to show smaller or larger repeat displays of the navigation, is effective.
Two size options for the centre infotainment screens are available, depending on the grade and personalisation choice. Though the format makes the Kamiq look bigger, there is apparently more legroom in the Scala, which also has a bigger boot.
The SUV’s luggage capacity is 400L. It can be expanded by almost 1,000L by folding the seats. An option will offer a folding front passenger seat, allowing carriage of longer loads.
There will be 1.0 and 1.5 turbo petrol engines when the Kamiq arrives here in November. A 1.6 diesel will also be on sale. The power range between all is 95hp-150hp, while transmissions are 5/6spd manuals and 7spd dual clutch autos.
No prices will be available until close to launch.
But in addition to the outside opposition, Kamiq will have to be competitive against in-house cousins Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Roc.
One target group of Skoda Ireland is the older couple, whose family have flown the nest. The thought is they would like the height and ease of access, and enough space to cater for a still-active lifestyle. I drove both petrol and diesel, each with 115hp on tap. Both also had the dual clutch gearbox. And each was quite a different car in the mountains.
By far, I preferred the 1.0 TSI, which in the S setting felt very responsive when getting away from hairpins.
Equally, using it in manual mode made the most of the free-revving engine. By comparison, the diesel felt heavy and lumpish in the terrain. But driving the manual diesel later on a long fast motorway run showed where that particular motor excels.
The mountain drive proved the handling and braking, too. Especially as I needed to be aware of the bikers, the many cyclists punishing themselves uphill for the reward of a scary fast downhill, as well as the many summer hikers, striding from trail to trail with stout walking poles.
One of their number had a new twist on his hike. He used roller skates for his downhills, his sticks for propulsion and balance like a skier.
Now that’s what I call really scary.