Updated On: 16 July 2021 Jatin Jhamb
I saw the Vision IN concept at the 2020 Auto Expo last year and I was stunned - The European design flair and the high aesthetic appeal had me impressed. Fast forward to June 28, 2021, Skoda finally brought in the Kushaq to rival the famous Kia Seltos and Hyundai Creta. But is it really a strong competitor to the well-established C-SUVs? Well, I'll share everything that you need to know about the new entrant in my Skoda Kushaq test drive review here-
At first glance, the Skoda Kushaq really steals the show with its distinctly European with clean surfaces and sharp creases all around. The front profile features the signature Skoda grille as well as all-LED headlights that look sleek. Just beneath them are the fog lights and overall, the front-end of the Kushaq looks quite premium. The lower profile continues with a faux brushed aluminium skid plate to retain the SUV character. Overall, the front profile looks quite youthful.
The new model looks quite handsome in the side profile, what with the taut surfaces and the bold character line that runs from the front fender to the wrap-around taillights. To further bring out the true SUV character, there's enough plastic cladding to infuse some ruggedness to the design, while the trendy 17-inch alloy wheels look pretty attractive. Mind you, Skoda has sprinkled enough chrome around this car in accordance with the Indian tastes.
Moving to the rear, well, that doesn't look exciting as the front because it carries a familiar design approach. If you have seen the Skoda Kamiq or Karoq then the Kushaq follows a similar L-shaped taillight pattern. Don't get me wrong here for the tail-end is handsome enough and impresses with its overall look but it's just that it isn't as radical as the nose.
Once you are inside, you will be quick to appreciate the fact that Skoda has designed the cabin keeping in mind the Indian clientele. The black and grey dual-tone colour theme stands out from the typical beige and black colour scheme available on the rivals. Also, the reassuring 'thud' on closing the door is typical of the Germans. This, alone, speaks volumes of the tank-like build VW Group cars are known for.
The 2-spoke steering wheel brings in a sporty character and the instrument cluster isn't an all-digital unit but the classy fonts and the backlit needles are surely to my liking. This is actually a semi-digital console as you get a plethora of information on the multi-information display. There are chrome-plated controllers on the steering wheel for the infotainment unit as well as the MID. Skoda has certainly worked hard to create the interior to the liking of Indian consumers but you can still sense the European DNA, which is actually something we can't complain of.
The overall design of cabin quickly grabs your attention but the interior is certainly built to a price. You will notice quite a few cost-cutting measures pretty quickly, especially if you have a background of using VW group vehicles. The plastic quality is definitely not top-notch as it's not as good as what you get on the Kia Seltos. Also, Skoda does not provide a wide panoramic sunroof like the Hyundai Creta but that's not much of a worry as glass roofs are quite pointless in a hot country like ours.
And then, there's the large 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment unit. This one offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a nice touch as most vehicles in this price segment offers that. The touch is not the most responsive and even the overall graphics aren't anything to write home about. Similarly, the modern C-type USB charging ports are a good touch but problem here is that my Apple device doesn't support C-type charging.
Similarly, I checked the wireless charging dock and to my surprise, it was quite a task to get it to work. I left my home with just 10% juice left in my phone and after 2 hours when I reached my destination after struggling with long traffic jams, my phone had discharged completely!
Coming to the HVAC functions, instead of manual controls for the temperature and fan speeds, Kushaq gets touch-sensitive buttons. For some, this could be something fancy but I feel that using the HVAC controls often turns out be a distraction for the driver as he has to struggle with the touch panel. This is something that Honda has already experimented with on the previous-generation City and has decided to not offer the same on the latest model based on the customer feedback. Thankfully, though, the AC is quite effective even with the temperatures at the wrong side of the 40 degrees celsius mark.
I spent my time mostly in the driver's seat and I have to say that this one hugs you right. Thanks to the adjustable rake and reach of the steering wheel, you can easily find a good driving position. The seats come with the right bolstering so you are comfortable on the long drives. For shorter people, Kushaq offers a height-adjustable function for the driver's seat. While the front seats are not electrically adjustable, Skoda has taken a leaf out of Hyundai's book and offered cooling function on the front seats.
Now, jumping to the rear seats, I feel the legroom is decent. Yes, the segment-best 2,651 mm of wheelbase really helps you here. Even the under-thigh support is good for a person measuring 5'9 ft and below. I also had enough headroom but it might not be the case for people more than 6 ft tall.
Unfortunately, however, 2 adults at the rear is the most you can have without any occupant needing to sacrifice comfort. Squeeze in a third one at the rear and the occupants will probably start hating each other by the time they reach their destination. So, yeah, the Kushaq is strictly a four-seater SUV. By the way, you do get AC vents the C-type charging ports.
Everyone has been talking that Kushaq only gets 380 litres of bootspace. Well, that is correct but I have tried loading it with one large suitcase, one medium, one small piece of luggage and there's still enough space to even have a duffle bag inside. True, the Hyundai Creta as well as the Kia Seltos offer a bigger boot the Kushaq's isn't too small either.
Finally, let's come to the details you've been longing to read and well, I've been waiting to write about. I got my hands on the 1.0L AT variant and I have to say, I had pretty high expectations from the SUV. The 1.0L turbo-petrol comes from the Rapid but has been reworked upon to generate 115 PS of maximum power with 178 Nm of peak torque. The motor comes mated to a 6-speed torque-converter automatic unit.
The low-end torque isn't anything to excite a performance junkie but the convenience that the 6-speed auto offers help you easily trod along in slow traffic conditions. However, press the throttle hard and the turbo lag is evident. There's even a slight reluctance from the gearbox, which means I need to plan my overtaking manoeuvres at high speeds. Also, the three-pot motor can get quite vocal when revs are high.
If you want to have some more fun with the 1.0L AT then there's always the option of using paddle shifters. Positioned right behind the steering wheel, they let you manually control the transmission, or at least much of it. On and there's also a Sports mode. I'm yet to drive the 1.5 DSG but I've got a strong feeling that it would be a far more pleasant experience.
The Skoda Kushaq packs in a stiff suspension that is good for making highway rides comfortable and surprisingly, it feels good even over bad patches of the road. On corners, the body roll is clearly evident but it's reasonably well contained. That said, I had higher expectations from a car based on the much publicised MQB-A0-IN platform. Overall, the dynamics are well sorted but certainly don't come anywhere near what even the long-defunct Skoda Yeti offered. The body roll could have been controlled better and the steering could have got some more heft. In fact, even the brakes, while potent to haul down this car from high speeds, have a slight judder creeping into the paddle.
The steering is just too light, which is fine in traffic but on sharp turns, it gets slightly underwhelming. Make no mistake, for the steering is direct enough and lets you easily pilot the car fast into corners, but some more weight would have surely made things a lot better. The Kushaq does feel at home on the expressways, where you can comfortably cruise at high speeds and make the most of the strong mid-range the motor offers. The pliant ride and the high-speed stability that this car offers will further make things more pleasant.
Skoda has done a lot of things to make the Kushaq right and settle in with the Koreans. The design approach, the engine options, platform and the cabin are all quite likeable. On the downside, however, there are things that could have been better. For instance, the engine options could have included a diesel motor, while the cabin could have been a tad more spacious. While we're nitpicking here, even the steering could have done with some more heft while the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol doesn't feel anywhere as strong on the Kushaq as it does on the Rapid or the VW Polo.
Overall, if you're someone who prioritises performance over everything else, the Kushaq will probably suit you to a T - If not the 1.0L at least 1.5L will. However, if you're looking for the ideal family SUV in this price segment, the Kushaq misses the mark, albeit, by a small margin.
So how do you like our Skoda Kushaq review? Do tell us in the comment sections below. Also, make sure you are a member of our 91Wheels Whatsapp group where we bring you all the latest updates related to the Indian Automotive Industry.
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