THERE was a time when car makers were lucky to have a single SUV amongst their ranks but these days it seems that one is simply not enough.
That's certainly the case at Skoda where the multi-award-winning Yeti has been sidelined and in its place are two new cars.
We saw the launch of the mighty Kodiaq last year with seven-seat versatility and now the Czech manufacturer has introduced its smaller sibling called the Karoq.
Priced from £20,875 to £31,690, the five-door Karoq is available in three core time levels - SE, SE L and Edition - and driven by a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines with power outputs ranging from 115PS to 150PS.
A special SE Technology grade is also being offered to meet the demands of the fleet market.
There's a choice of manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic DSG gearbox that is available across the range and 4WD is also available on all 2.0-litre TDI diesel models.
With bold, athletic styling and a choice of 13 colours, the Karoq is a head-turner with powerful dimensions - it is longer, wider and lower than the Yeti which gives it a real presence on the road.
Eye-catching design cues include a dual slat radiator grille that flows effortlessly into the headlight clusters, a black bumper finisher that accentuates the width of the car, a sloping roofline, powerful lower door creases, pronounced wheel arches, chunky alloys ranging in size and an angled tailgate.
Move inside and the clutter-free cabin has a split-level design which again shows off the width of the car.
All models feature a smart touchscreen infotainment system with the SE L and Edition models fitted with a feature-packed navigation system as standard. And the Edition car also gets a 9.2-inch touchscreen with gesture control.
But even the entry-level SE models are generously equipped with the likes of 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, radar scanning front assist, an automatic braking pedestrian monitor, plus driver fatigue warning.
SE L trim adds 18-inch wheels, an Amundsen sat nav with eight-inch screen, Smartlink, full LED headlights with adaptive front lights, heated seats, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
Take the step up to range-topping Edition and you will see the introduction of 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, metallic paint, leather upholstery, the upgraded sat nav system with larger screen, an electrically-operated boot, LED ambient lighting along with a host of driver aids such as blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, lane assist and traffic sign recognition.
Skoda believes the most popular Karoq will be powered by a punchy 1.5 TSI 150ps engine so we put a couple of those models to the test in different trim levels and with varied transmissions and to be honest they were worlds apart.
First up was the Karoq SE L with seven-speed DSG gearbox priced at £25,825 (£27,895 with options fitted). This car could reach from 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, maxed out at 126mph and delivered combined fuel economy of 50.4mpg with carbon emissions of 127g/km.
Firstly, it has to be said just how spacious the Karoq is with ample room inside for five adults to travel in comfort. The high-seated driving position offers excellent all-round visibility and all the instrumentation is perfectly positioned for ease of use.
Luggage options are excellent too with a boot capacity ranging from 521 to 1,630 litres on SE models. The introduction of Skoda's Varioflex seating system as standard or an option on higher grades means the trio of rear seats can be tilted, folded flat or removed completely and that results in a storage capacity that ranges from 479 litres to a whopping 1,810 litres.
Elsewhere, Skoda makes clever use of the space within the cabin with fold-down trays with click-out cupholders for back seat occupants, a generously-sized glovebox, litter bins in the door pockets, a covered tray on the dashboard (Edition models) and hooks, nets and bins in the boot to stop items rolling around along with a reversible mat with a wipe-clean surface one side and carpet the other.
When it comes to driving, the Karoq is a very simple car to get used to. There is ample seat and steering wheel adjustment and the automatic gearbox is beautifully smooth and responsive. There are steering wheel mounted paddle shifts if you fancy taking more control.
In towns, the great visibility is a bonus and on motorways, the Karoq cruises effortlessly at quite a click. On winding country lanes it was composed, ultra-grippy and there was little sign of any body sway into bends.
A choice of driving modes called Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual adjust the car's responses and handling characteristics.
The efficient insulation results in a refined and nicely hushed cabin and only at higher speeds does any road surface and wind noise start filtering through.
Next up was the Karoq Edition with six-speed manual transmission priced at £27,110 (£29,865 with extras fitted). This model completed the 0-62mph dash in 8.4 seconds, topped out at 126mph and offered combined economy of 51.4mpg with CO2 of 125g/km.
The reason I said the cars were so different was down to one factor and that's the size of the wheels. While the SE L was sitting on 18-inch alloys and was beautifully refined in its ride and handling, the jump to 19-inch wheels on the Edition version had a pretty dramatic effect. It seemed far more wallowy and when driving along undulating country roads at speed it seemed more fidgety than the lower specced car.
But that aside, this car was also an accomplished performer and the interior has a number of additional creature comforts such as a sunroof, leather seating, wireless phone charging, a larger touchscreen and improved infotainment system.
As well as the 1.5 petrol models driven, a 1.0-litre 115ps petrol version would be ideal for zipping round town, a 1.6 115ps TDI model is good for all-round economy and a powerful 2.0-litre diesel option will be perfect for lengthy motorway mileage.
With all the safety specifications that helped it achieve the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP testing along with competitive pricing, the Skoda Karoq is a worthy replacement to the ever-popular Yeti, but only time will tell if it can make a real dent in a market that has been flooded with quality SUVs in recent years.