• Skoda Kushaq: First Drive Review

Does Skoda's highly-localised 'made-for-India' SUV resonate better with the Indian customer than its rivals?

The mid-size SUV segment in India is a hotly contested one. It is also one currently dominated by the Koreans (read Hyundai and Kia). Skoda is entering uncharted territory here but has a fair bit of experience when it comes to SUVs. The Kodiaq and the Karoq were well-received among the polished lot. Skoda even sold out the initial batch of the Karoq imported into India. The Kushaq treads the same path as its SUV siblings and it is not just limited to the name starting with K and ending with Q. In fact, Skoda has gone all-out here and brought out an SUV that’s solely developed for India and other emerging markets. That said, will the Kushaq connect with the Indian customer the way the Kodiaq and the Karoq did?



Styling is a major draw for all Skodas and the Kushaq does not disappoint either. Its styling is influenced by the larger Kodiaq. Despite the busy looking front-end, the Kushaq looks handsome. The stacked front lights remind me of the now-discontinued Skoda Yeti. On the mid and top-spec variants, you get contemporary-looking Crystalline headlamps with large cornering lamps below. Even the tail lamps mimic the more expensive Octavia.

To give it a rugged feel, Skoda boffins have added black body cladding all around and incorporated silver-finished faux skid plates into the front and rear bumpers. The roof-rails are a neat touch as well. Large wheels were a highlight of the Kushaq concept shown at the Auto Expo and I am glad that the top-spec variant gets tasty looking 17-inch alloy wheels. The Kushaq will be available in five new colours including two exclusive orange and red shades. Even in this grey shade, the Kushaq grabs eyeballs and according to me, it is one of the best looking cars in its segment. 

Check out details about the Kushaq variants here.

Step inside and there is a sense of familiarity. The cabin feels premium although the quality has been compromised for some panels to keep the costs in check. The low-set dashboard features a clean look and gets a hexagonal 3D finish that not only looks good but feels good to touch. Another highlight is the two-spoke steering wheel that, to hold, feels similar to other Skoda three-spoke steering wheels but helps the dashboard feel uncluttered. The climate control cluster is touch sensitive and also lends a premiumness to the cabin. It gets a sunroof and wireless charging which is a norm in the segment. 



The 10-inch infotainment system features a clean layout. It gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and even a dedicated Skoda Play Store for apps like Gaana, Booking.com and Audiobooks. However, it misses out on integrated internet and uses your phone’s data. Thankfully the Sygic navigation app built in collaboration with MapMyIndia works even without an internet connection. It even gets a Valet mode and the My Skoda app with geo-fencing features. The infotainment system consists of six speakers and a subwoofer in the boot. 

The Skoda Kushaq scores high on safety features. Besides the usual suite of six airbags, hill-hold control, ASC, EBD in addition to multi-collision braking.



The Kushaq sits on a modified MQB-A0-IN platform that comes with a wheelbase of 2651mm — the longest in its segment. It’s not rocket science; a longer wheelbase translates to more interior space and increased rear legroom. It also gets a lot of cubby holes and clever storage options. That said, the seats feel flat. I would have liked more under-thigh and lumbar support though. The front row gets ventilated seats though which is a great value add. While you won't be complaining about cabin space, the 381-litre boot space is less than its rivals. The Kushaq also manages to define its SUV tag by offering a high ground clearance of 188mm and can clear large speed breakers with ease. 


Engine and transmission:

Like other new-gen Skodas, the Kushaq gets petrol-only engine options. While we would have loved to sample the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine that most buyers will opt for, our test car came with the larger, more powerful 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol. It is a proven motor, also seen on the Volkswagen T-Roc and pushes out a healthy 150PS and 250Nm. The motor comes paired with a seven-speed DSG gearbox or a six-speed manual. We drove only the manual and would be testing out the DCT in the near future. 

The punchy motor impresses with its flexibility and minimal turbo lag. The motor is quite tractable. Refinement is of top order in low to mid revs. It is only at higher revs that the motor sounds boomy. For those who worry about fuel efficiency, the engine also features cylinder deactivation. The second and third cylinder is switched off while coasting. It also features auto start-stop which should improve efficiency. The gearbox offers short, light throws though the shifts could be more precise. In city driving, the first three ratios allow you to use most of the torque even in slow-moving traffic while the taller sixth gear allows the engine to run relaxed at triple-digit speeds which should help fuel efficiency. The clutch has a sharp bite which could be bothersome while moving from a standstill on an incline. In terms of performance and refinement, the 1.5-litre motor is a gem. 


Ride and handling:

Besides space, another highlight of the new MQB-A0-IN platform is its fine balance between ride and handling. Ride quality is supple albeit a tad noisy. It glides over concrete surfaces and you can simply drive fast over broken roads without putting your occupants in discomfort. Like other Skoda cars, the Kushaq is dynamically competent. It is stable at triple-digit speeds and you can switch lanes without unsettling the SUV. It possesses car-like dynamics in corners with minimal body roll. The Goodyear Triplemax 2 tyres are specifically developed for India and impressed us with their grip especially in the wet. Overall, the Skoda Kushaq is a pakka driver's SUV without compromising much on ride quality. 



The general consensus with localisation is the drop in quality but that is not the case with Skoda. While in a few places, the build quality is not as impressive as we have come to expect of Skoda cars, the fit and finish levels is better than the competition. The Kushaq ticks the right boxes when it comes to space, features, performance and dynamics. The lack of diesel engine options though will limit its range of buyers somewhat. Given its premiumness, we expect the Skoda Kushaq to be priced between Rs 9.5 lakh to Rs 16 lakh. The 'young emperor' is definitely worth a look! 

Cars First drives

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