Why I would buy it?
- Young, modern, likeable design
- Comfortable seats and ride quality
- A sorted and involving car to drive
Why I would avoid it?
- Not exactly premium on the inside
- Three in the back is a squeeze
- No strong USPs to make it stand out
Engine and Performance
The Skoda Kushaq comes with two engine options. And both are petrol. There is no diesel on offer, and there won’t be any either. The more affordable, lesser powerful, and smaller capacity one1-litre TSI is made in India. It makes 115bhp and is available with a six-speed manual and a six-speed torque convertor automatic.
What we have here though, is the imported powertrain. The four-cylinder, 1.5-litre TSI. And it too is available with a six-speed manual, while the automatic is a seven-speed DSG. It makes 150bhp and 250Nm of torque. So, it’s clearly not short on poke. But additionally, it comes with cylinder deactivation. In other words, when the engine is dealing with low load conditions, it shuts two of its cylinders. In turn, saving fuel. On the road, the Kushaq doesn’t feel like a 150bhp car. A 150bhp car should ideally pin you to your seat, and set your front tyres on fire (not literally) as it tries to find purchase against tarmac under hard acceleration. The Kushaq doesn’t do any of that. Not that it’s slow. It’s still quick, entertaining, and fun to drive. But, it is mellower than we had imagined. Having said that it responds to throttle inputs with alertness; the engine gather revs quickly; and though the decibel levels go up quite significantly as the revs rise, there’s no real crudeness to speak of.
The seven-speed DSG auto ‘box in the meantime works well with the engine. The shifts are quick and easy to control via the paddle shifters. And be it taking on the twisties with heavy right foot enthusiasm or driving like a sloth, the DSG manages both with equal prowess. It allows the engine to flirt with the redline and short shift through the gears with equal sensitivity.
Ride Quality and Handling
The Kushaq matches its 1.5-litre engine’s eagerness with its capable dynamics. First up, the steering - though not exactly very feelsome - is pretty accurate. And it might be light, but it never leaves you feeling unsure or nervous about the car’s response. It’s easy to accurately place the SUV in the corner and make fine corrections as well if things started to go sideways. Literally and figuratively. Even in handling terms, the Kushaq is stable and predictable. It handles quick direction changes well. Now, it’s soft - in the sense it does roll when pushed hard - but again, it’s never pronounced, uncontrollable, or cumbersome.
The ride too is likeable. Nothing exceptional, but it’s par for the course and does the job. It is absorbent, if not plush. It rounds the bumps and square edges are well- ditcheds well, but doesn’t exactly isolate the occupants from the happenings of the road underneath. Mostly though, it never sends a rude shock to the passengers.
Comfort, Convenience, and Features
This top spec Skoda Kushaq Style trim packs in quite a bit; something the Rapid had failed to deliver. And that alone might bode well for the new SUV. It gets keyless entry and start. The driver gets a height adjustable seat. It’s also ventilated, by the way, along with the front passenger’s. You have a single zone, touchscreen operated climate control system. And we love the new two-spoke multi-functional steering wheel.
You also get a sunroof, wireless charging, a cooled glovebox, and loads ofto stowage options. There’s a driver information system as well, which in our opinion looks a tad too dated. And, of course, the Kushaq also comes with a large multimedia touchscreen screen which is more of a hygiene feature today in this price bracket than one that car makers can brag about. It has all the goodies too - from wireless connectivity for Apple Carplay and Android Auto, to navigation, a detailed trip computer, and various audio playback options.
Skoda also offers a fair bit of connectivity solutions in the Style trim that have features like geo fencing and valet mode. However, there’s no remote start. And you can’t get the aircon functioning and set to your desired temperature before you board the car either; something the competition offers. In terms of safety features, there’s ESP and six airbags, and a whole line of acronyms from ABS to EBC to MSR to EDS to TCS and TPMS. Plus, this Style trim also gets automatic headlamp and wipers. As far as the look and feel, and the overall quality levels of the Kushaq’s interiors are concerned, we expected more. The shiny plastic bits are okay. And as we mentioned earlier, the steering in particular is well done. And we also like the way the rollers and the buttons on the steering work.
But, plastic in general doesn’t look very upmarket. Even the way the buttons and the dials work (apart for the steering wheel), these lack the crisp, well-weighted, and well-engineered feel. There’s also some sloppiness in the way the seats are draped, and the way the handbrake moves, instead of having that taut, crisp feel which leaves one with a higher perception of quality.
Space wise, there is enough head and elbow room for four passengers. There’s also enough and more leg and knee room for four occupants. And the seats too are well cushioned and comfortable and fairly supportive. It’s a car that one will be able to cover long distances in comfortably. Boot too is usable. It’s wide and tall if not exactly very deep.
We already know that the Kushaq is based on the MQB AO-IN platform. It is an Indian-ised, heavily- localised, and more cost- effective version of the platform its more expensive, fully-imported elder sibling, the Karoq is based on. So, does that mean it has lost that European edge we have come to like in Skodas over the years? We did the simple door close test to find out.
As it turns out - be it the front or the rear doors, or even the tail gate for that matter, there’s decent heft to the doors. There’s also a crispness to the door closings, which we have come to expect from European cars. Plus, the closing is accompanied with a resounding thump too. Having said that, it’s certainly not in the same league as the Skoda Rapid though. The design, meanwhile, is handsome. It’s not a very big car even in terms of road presence. But it looks compact yetbut strong. It has all the right bling elements in its lighting with a partial LED setup. It has enough edges and lines in the side and rear to give it a younger, tauter, and dynamic aura. And the front bumper in particular, gives the Kushaq and stand- out appearance.
The Skoda Kushaq is supposed to change the Czech company’s fortunes in India. But to do that it must take on the Hyundai Creta - and to an extent the Kia Seltos. Not so much to displace the current kings in the Rs 10 to Rs 16 lakh SUV segment, but to make itself seem like a worthy alternative. Now, the Kushaq - as we found out - isn’t exactly a game changer. It’s well-equipped and comfortable, but again, so is the competition. Plus, when it comes to the feel-good factors and the overall levels of quality, the Creta and the Seltos are clearly a step above.
Having said that, the Skoda Kushaq has its pluses. It is lovely to drive. It has good drivetrain options; albeit only with petrol power. And, it is, in all honesty, the better, more youthful design compared to the Hyundai. But in the end, we, the Indian car buyers, appreciate value. Not cheap pricing, mind. This value stems from features and space and comfort and resale and brand promise, which is all packaged at a price point that pleasantly surprises us by being lower than expectations! If Skoda can do that with the Kushaq, it will give itself a fighting chance to revive its fortunes in India.
Pictures by Kapil Angane