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There’s a new mid-size SUV in town, but can it take the fight to the established competition? Here’s what we think of the new Skoda Kushaq

Story: Anosh Khumbatta

Photography: Apurva Ambep

The Skoda Kushaq is the brand’s first made-for-India product, and a clear indication of the Volkswagen Group’s interest in the mid-sized SUV segment, currently being dominated by the Koreans. Our first glimpse of it was at last year’s Auto Expo where it was unveiled as the Vision IN concept, and then our editor got to drive a camouflaged pre-production prototype a few months ago. Now, with its official launch imminent, we finally get our hands on a production-ready unit of the Skoda Kushaq.

Design and build quality

The Skoda Kushaq sports a muscular design and stance that is unmistakeably European, dominated by straight, horizontal lines that give the SUV an elegant air. Up front, the familiar grille gets a chrome surround and is flanked on either side by a pair of slim LED headlamps, with the fog lamps directly below, rather than all the way down on the bumper. The uncluttered rear is adorned with a horizontal chrome strip and the large ŠKODA lettering that we have grown accustomed to seeing on all the brand’s newer models while, lower down, the underside of the bumper is finished with a faux skid plate for a rugged look. Stylish 17-inch alloys fill up the wheel arches nicely, while roof rails top off the SUV image.

The Skoda Kushaq feels solidly built, as expected with any car from the Volkswagen Group, and ready to take on the ravages of Indian road conditions with a smile on its face. I doubt anyone can find fault with how well this SUV is put together, and the excellent build quality is apparent even as you step into the cabin.

Interior and creature comforts

The cabin of the Skoda Kushaq is dominated by black and grey hues on the upholstery, door pads and dashboard, with chrome garnish on the air-con vents, a piano black strip running across the passenger side of the dash, as well as a faux carbon-fibre finish to add a bit of texture to the area. The leather-wrapped steering gets the two-spoke treatment like on the new Octavia, and is livened up by chrome accents, including the Škoda logo in the centre and the two thumbwheels that feel sturdy and look classy. The dashboard is dominated by a 10.5-inch, full-colour touchscreen that is the command centre for the infotainment system, equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and further down we have the touch panel for the climate control that work rather well. This switch to touch controls has done away with many of the buttons we’re used to seeing, resulting in a streamlined look for the centre console. Other features on our test Skoda Kushaq included ventilated seats up front, multiple USB-C ports, wireless charging tray and a cooled storage space under the central armrest.

The physical twin-pod instrument cluster is more to my personal taste than the gaudy virtual cockpits we see these days and, in addition to the expected speedo and tacho, gets two smaller dials for fuel level and coolant temperature. With bold white lettering on a black background, the clocks are easy to read at a glance in all conditions, while odometer, trip information, fuel efficiency and more can be shown on the multi information display nestled between the two large dials.

Engine and powertrain options

With the VW Group refusing to give us diesel motors, the Skoda Kushaq is only available with either of two petrol engines. The frugal option is the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder TSI that makes 115 hp and 178 Nm of peak torque. This motor is only available with a six-speed manual transmission in the base Active variant, while upgrading to the mid-spec Ambition variant opens up the option to pair it with a six-speed torque-converter automatic.

Those choosing to buy the top-end Style variant can opt for the bigger 1.5-litre four-pot TSI motor that makes a healthy 150 hp and 250 Nm of peak torque, that kicks in as early as 1,600 rpm. This motor is available with either a six-speed manual transmission like in our test car, and can also be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Driving impressions

On the move, the Skoda Kushaq impresses with excellent ride quality, which was a lot more pliant than I expected. The suspension does have a taut feel but it has clearly been tuned for comfort over our roads, without sacrificing quick and accurate handling characteristics. It perfectly straddles the fine line between comfort and handling, neither jarring occupants over sudden bumps, nor wallowing and feeling soggy when asked to make sudden direction changes.

The 1.5-litre TSI motor makes usable power all through the rev range and spins up cleanly to its 6,000 rpm redline. The 100 km/h mark comes up before you know it, and the Skoda Kushaq pulls strongly to well over 160 km/h. The six-speed manual works well, although I would opt for the paddle-shifter-equipped DSG variant if I were looking to buy this car.

It seems like the Hyundai Creta and the Kia Seltos have a quite a fight on their hands with the launch of the Skoda Kushaq, which is proving to be capable contender in the mid-size SUV space. Pick up the July issue of Car India for an even more detailed first drive review of the new Skoda Kushaq.

 

About the author: Anosh Khumbatta

 

 

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