THE DOOR SLAMS SHUT WITH a satisfying thud. A question I had about the Skoda Kushaq before I even laid eyes on it was whether it would still ‘feel’ like a Skoda / VW Group car considering so much of it (92 per cent to be precise) had been localised. And while the thud I just heard wasn’t enough to answer that question in its entirety, this is a good start. In the driver’s seat, I fumble around the dashboard for the Stop / Start button only to remember that Skodas have them on the steering column. One of the hazards of the job. We’re constantly jumping between so many cars, each with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies, that it takes a couple of seconds to adjust. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve absentmindedly sent the wipers or indicators of a car into a tizzy because I’ve stepped into it after driving a Merc. But I digress. The Skoda Kushaq is an important car — the 1 billion Euros that the Group is investing (along with the countless man hours) aside, this is the start of the Volkswagen Group’s big play for the next decade in India. It deserves our full attention.
Do I really need to talk about styling? Skoda has been drip-feeding us the Kushaq’s form over the last year and we’ve delved into the nitty-gritties every chance we got, so I’ll keep it brief today. The design is unmistakably Skoda, drawing heavily on the Kodiaq and Karoq for inspiration, but I swear there are hints of the Yeti in there as well. LED headlamps and taillamps keep it on par for the course, while this top-end Style variant we are driving gets 17-inch alloys. And it looks bloody good rolling down the road. It packages a design that we have come to associate with expensive SUVs into a compact, approachable footprint. It doesn’t have the same visual bulk as its primary rival, the Hyundai Creta which is 75mm longer, 30mm wider and 33mm taller. It doesn’t feel as imposing when you walk up to it or drive up next to it, but it makes up for that with the sophistication in its design. Sharp, edgy and very, very cool — the Kushaq is an objectively handsome car.
Then you get inside. The door may have left a good first impression but it was time to poke around and see what’s what. Steering wheel — looks identical to the Octavia’s and the quality of the buttons on it feel identically high quality too. It is also adjustable for rake and reach, unlike its rivals that only adjust for rake, and this makes it super easy to find a comfortable driving position! Analogue dials — clear, crisp but the black and white MID is basic and looks dated while telling you everything you need. No Virtual Cockpit at launch at least and while that doesn’t bother me, it seems to rile up plenty of people. The leather seats — great bolstering on the sides, hug you well and they are ventilated.
There’s more! The 10-inch infotainment screen — it runs an all-new interface which is easy to learn, and gets wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. That’s a big plus. If you’ve got a phone with induction charging, you’ll never need a cable in your car again though there are four USB-C ports. It also has a native app store that allows you to download apps including Gaana and a navigation app, though once you’re hooked up to CarPlay there’s little need for them. And as is with any new car these days, you get connected car features that allow you to track the car in real-time, understand driving behaviour, trip information and SOS services.
There’s also a valet mode to ensure that nobody messes with your car when you hand them the keys to park. The air-con controls — no physical buttons but a touch slider. It looks harder to use than it actually is with small contours on the surface guiding your fingers so you don’t have to take your eyes off the ’wheel. I just wish there was an audible click or some sort of haptic feedback so you know when you’ve actually done what you want to do. And in terms of storage, you have large door pockets and enough sensibly designed storage in the centre console. It also gets a sunroof, though I must add that it isn’t a panoramic sunroof.
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