Skoda held a drive for selected media a few months back. They invited them to test drive a camouflaged pre-production version its Kushaq SUV. There were two sides to the drama. Some people weren’t happy with the car’s details, while others went on social media to yell at Skoda and allege favouritism. All this was amusing to me, as it was clear that the Kushaq was important enough for invitees to drive and for those who were left to feel angry enough to toss their toys out of their prams. The Kushaq was an important car, even for Skoda.
The Skoda Kushaq, which means ’emperor’, is the first vehicle made for India. It has a lot riding on its success and is currently the hottest segment in India, with other mid-size SUVs such as the all-conquering Creta and Seltos, Duster Duster, Kicks, and S-Cross competing for buyers’ attention. It will take a lot of effort to succeed and dominate here, so I set out in search of the Kushaq’s potential.
The Kushaq is visually a winner. The Kushaq’s design follows the Vision N concept SUV’s lines very well. It also sticks to primarily straight design elements which is refreshing in an area with many rounded edges and soft edges. The large grille features LED lights on both sides in a double-headlight arrangement. The faux air intakes at the front bumper add cool character and style.
At 4225mm overall, the Kushaq car is the shortest in this segment. This is evident in its profile which has very low front and back overhangs. It has a 2651mm wheelbase, making it one of the longest. The wheels appear to have been moved as far forward as possible. It boasts a 155mm ground clearance and 17-inch alloy tires, giving it a loping stance. The rear features a set LED tail lights that wrap around the vehicle with a strip of chrome between them. This gives it a feeling of width. Skoda has chosen a design that is almost impossible to fault. It’s followed a safe, yet contemporary, route and the Kushaq’s look will last a long time.
Interior design that is quiet and sophisticated
The Kushaq range-topping model has a solid-looking, but quietly sophisticated interior. Every detail has been carefully thought out and placed with care. Quality of materials is at the ‘good end’ of the spectrum, not ‘excellent’. Some bits look more like they belong in a Rapid than an SUV. Although the plastics are good quality, soft-touch materials would have been nice.
Front seats are comfortable and ventilated. Once you find a comfortable driving position, you will be able to see the entire road, even with the A-pillar. The steering wheel feels sporty and is very comfortable in the hands. The 10-inch touchscreen infotainment screen is clear and easy to read. However, the slider-type climate control system can be a little annoying and requires you to look at the road. The back seats are spacious and comfortable with sufficient head and leg space. These seats are best for two adults. However, a third person can fit in relative comfort thanks to the flat transmission tunnel.
The 385-litre Kushaq boot has the most storage in its class. However, you can still fit a few bags in it. If you need more space, the rear seats can be split/folded 60:40. There are plenty of storage areas and cubby holes throughout the cabin.
Skoda has made sure that the Kushaq is not overshadowed in terms of equipment. All variants include ABS (antilock braking system), ESC (electronic stability control), and the top-end model includes six airbags and rollover mitigation, EBD (traction control), traction control, e-diff and hill start. The top-end model also has an e-diff and auto headlights.
This car does not have a virtual cockpit. Instead, it has a large multi-info black/white display between the analog dials. The new Octavia has a 2-spoke steering wheel with buttons for entertainment and cruise control. Wireless phone charging, USB ports and ambient lighting are all included.
Power and Mileage
There are two options for the Kushaq: a 1-litre turbo-petrol 3-cylinder engine (with 114 horsepower and 18.15kgm) and a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol 4-cylinder turbo-petrol (no diesels). Although I’ve heard it’s fun, I haven’t tried the smaller engine. However, the bigger one has a lot more power. You can choose between a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7 speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), automatic gearbox. It produces 148 bhp. The 1.5-litre engine is likely to be the fastest in its class, if you start from a standing position. The DCT transmits power to the front wheels and the Kushaq sprints quickly off the line, pulling smoothly through all rev ranges. Although the DCT is fast, it is not quick enough to downshift. However, this is not a problem.
The refinement levels are excellent, but real world fuel economy will only be revealed once you actually use the Kushaq. I would guess a range of 11-14 km per litre, as it has a cylinder activation system (that shuts down two cylinders while you’re traveling over 30 kmph) as well as a stop/start system.
Quality of the ride
The suspension is the strength of the Kushaq. It offers the best ride quality in its class. In terms of handling, it is agile enough to feel smaller and more sporty. Although there is some suspension noise, it doesn’t make any difference. It smoothens the roads so well that you won’t notice.
The Kushaq is a great choice for enthusiastic drivers. It can be driven hard and at the limit with complete confidence. You can push the limits and it has excellent grip in straight lines and around corners.
This being a fact, Skoda did not equip the Kushaq (the Creta does), with rear disc brakes. A vehicle with such a high level of handling needs to have the best possible braking support. The front discs offer good bite.
Who is the Kushaq good for? It’s the perfect mid-sized SUV for those who value driving pleasure, engineering stability, and ride quality above everything else. The features are comparable to most SUVs in the same class. It will be comfortable for most people and at a price range of Rs 10-17 lakh it will be affordable. The main drawback of this SUV is the lack of a diesel engine. If that is what you are looking for, then look elsewhere.
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