The recently introduced Skoda Kushaq has two petrol engine options. Having tested the more powerful 1.5 TSI, now its the turn of the more frugal 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder TSI variant. We have driven the AT or automatic.
The Skoda Kushaq compact SUV is the make-or-break model for Skoda in India. And it is a car designed with India specifically in mind. It is based on the VW Group’s MQB A0 platform, that spawns the likes of the Audi A1 and Volkswagen T-Cross globally. But what we get is a slightly downgraded (read cost-optimized) version of that. And on the first product that India is getting, that fact is evident. Yet the Skoda Kushaq is a clever car that is well built, has a robust and tough design language, and looks premium. It is also loaded with a lot of goodies and is packaged well enough to stand up to the rivals – the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos at the top-end and the Nissan Kicks and Renault Duster at the lower. Ameya has already driven and reviewed the car in detail – but that was the more powerful Skoda Kushaq 1.5 TSI with the DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox. So today let me tell you more about the variant I expect will sell in much higher volume – the 1.0 TSI.
Also Read: Skoda Kushaq 1.5-litre Automatic Review
So, I am not getting its looks – as the styling is identical on both engine types. Suffice to say my test car in ‘carbon steel’ paint finish looks very nice and upmarket. The Kushaq has a great stance and looks muscular and rugged despite maintaining a sheen of elegance that is typically Skoda. I have the top-spec ‘Style’ trim – and that means the car is loaded with all the gadgets and goodies Skoda is offering on the Kushaq – well almost all. Since this is the automatic or AT – some are missing. I will explain this later.
On to that 1 litre engine first up. The engine is the familiar three-cylinder motor we have seen on the updated Rapid, VW Vento and VW Polo. It delivers a tad more power on the Kushaq though – 5 bhp more i.e. – at 113 bhp. The peak torque’s the same at 175 Nm. The gearbox options are also the same as on those cars (6-Speed automatic or manual). The idea was to build the engines locally to get economies of scale and drive the cost competitiveness back into the model’s pricing. At idle the engine gives away its 3-pot status as you can a dull clatter. But that’s pretty much almost the only time, otherwise I have to say the engineering team has done a great job! Great levels of refinement and engineering.
The Kushaq is nice to drive and will feel modern and robust. Anyone worrying about whether a 1-litre engine can stand up proud in this compact SUV segment – may rest at ease – it does. But between around 1000 and 2000 RPM you can feel a little hesitation, and the engine’s turbo lag is very evident. Some of that gets nicely compensated by the automatic gearbox I have to say. Between second and third gear, you will miss the punch too at times, depending on the speed or the response you are expecting. As a result, you do need to manually downshift using the paddles, or just kind of wait for the car to catch up to the performance you’re looking for. That can be a little disconcerting. But otherwise, the level of refinement and performance that you get from this one litre engine is frankly pretty impressive. Had it not been skewed towards mileage – I think there would have been more punch from it.
Ride and Handling
The big takeaway for me from the Kushaq is the ride and handling, I expected that to a certain extent, and I’m not surprised that it is class-leading. The Kushaq corners well, has no sense of roll, and will scoot in and out of gaps in traffic just as well as it will maintain its composure at triple digit speeds. However, the steering has left me wanting. I expected a Skoda to have a stiffer steering – and I say this knowing some of that’s been done intentionally – keeping the Indian buyer in mind. But to have such a soft steering – takes away from some of its Skoda character. Even at higher speeds it doesn’t weigh up as you go faster – and I think it should – though it is precise.
Yes, and that is where you start to understand how this is not a typical Skoda. It carries many of the brand’s simply clever ideas, its design and certainly its solid feel and build. But in other ways the car shows up as being a ‘for India model’. The plastics – especially the large expanse of the upper dash (the section just below the windscreen) – certainly don’t feel up to the usual Skoda mark. Yet it is not flimsy or unattractive, so there’s that. And despite being shorter in length as compared to most rivals, the roominess in the cabin is a plus – especially in the rear seat; and so are its features. Skoda has not shared mileage figures as yet believe it or not – even though the car is launched already. The 1.0 brings in efficiencies though, so I am hopeful. And there Is a reason why we are getting the 1.0 and the 6-speed auto or manual, and not a DSG option on this car. Yes, you guessed it – it is the price! The 1.0’s prices show a competitive range. But are they super attractive? Or killer prices as we like to say in India? No sir! It is nice though to see a nice wide variant mix on this powertrain.
|Active 1.0 TSI MT||₹ 10.50 lakh|
|Ambition 1.0 TSI MT||₹ 12.80 lakh|
|Ambition 1.0 TSI AT||₹ 14.20 lakh|
|Style 1.0 TSI MT||₹ 14.60 lakh|
|Style 1.0 TSI AT||₹ 15.80 lakh|
|Style 1.5 TSI MT||₹ 16.20 lakh|
|Style 1.5 TSI DSG||₹ 17.60 lakh|
If you buy the top end ‘Style’ variant with the automatic gearbox (the most expensive Kushaq 1.0 variant you can buy) – you don’t get all the features that the manual does! You don’t get the six airbags, you don’t get the tyre pressure monitoring system for instance, that’s odd, because the manual has it. Oh, and in case you are wondering – the same holds true for the manual vs automatic on the 1.5 as well! That’s just odd. Someone who’s buying the top end variant and with automatic would surely want the six airbags too, right? So, I am sure it’s a pricing consideration, that led to this – but as a strategy it’s a rather weird one. So, Skoda still has plenty to think about. Still, the Kushaq is a good start to the India 2.0 project. It shows the right intent and understanding of where the brand needs to be. But I will say this – for the car you are getting, especially since it is a tad smaller, I expected prices to be a tad more attractive. Is it a true successor to the beloved Yeti? In some ways yes – this is not an off-roader like that car was – and well not as premium. But it occupies a space similar to the Yeti proposition – or at least what it should have been here in India – as it was in Europe.