IT’S ONLY THE START OF THE year and we must be careful not to get ahead of ourselves, but this right here could quite possibly be The Most Important Car of 2021. It is the first fruit of the massive 1 billion Euro investment into resetting VW Group’s Indian operations which includes not just development of a range of India-specific cars on an India-specific platform, a massive focus on localisation and a new R&D centre to enable it all but more importantly Skoda being handed the reigns to the erstwhile Volkswagen plant outside of Pune as well as the driver’s seat of Group operations to effect a radical change in culture, attitude and outlook — with the end goal of cornering a combined five per cent market share by 2025. It’s the reason why the first MQB-A0-IN car we’re sampling is a Skoda; it’s the reason why the first car isn’t a car but a Creta-sized SUV; and it’s the reason why the name, while seemingly aligned with Skoda’s global naming strategy, is also Indian. Kushaq is derived from the Sanskrit word for king and, in keeping with the Indian theme, it will have a massive 92 per cent localisation at launch going up to 95 per cent at the year end.
An important car, then. But has it become too Indian? Too focused on slashing costs, on stripping off all weight, on flash and bling at the expense of The Thrill of Driving; on kitna deti hai?
Don’t ask us about styling
The only visual telltale that we’re driving the Kushaq are the teeth of the Skoda-family grille, otherwise don’t bother looking at the pictures with a magnifying glass because not only is everything camouflaged but there’s a layer of foam under the orange wrap to hide the lines. We were shown pictures of the final production version, the wraps of which come off in March, and while I’m embargoed from revealing much I can say that the Vision IN concept shown at last year’s Auto Expo is a pretty good indicator as to what we are going to get. What this prototype does reveal is a good stance, nice proportions, 17-inch wheels nicely filling out the wheel arches and LED lights front and back. There’s also a sunroof but it isn’t panoramic and the only thing other thing I can tell you about the interiors is that it gets a two-spoke steering wheel, in keeping with Skoda’s new family look. Everything else inside the Kushaq wasn’t just masked but thoroughly boxed up, revealing absolutely nothing. I cannot even tell you about the visibility because of all the camo-tape on even the glass area, though the A-pillars seem to be the thickest of any mid-size SUV.
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