WITH a high-profile TV advertising campaign starring songstress Paloma Faith few people will have missed the arrival of the Skoda Karoq.
Yet another entrant into the ever-expanding compact SUV market, the fastest growing sector for UK new car sales, this motor will replace the popular Yeti in the Czech brand's line-up.
Unlike the distinctive Yeti, however, the Karoq has a more conservative appearance and looks very much like a downsized Kodiaq - Skoda's other recently-launched SUV, and its first ever to offer seven seats.
That's not a bad thing, though, the Karoq is still a good looking car, in an understated way, and the less quirky character will broaden its appeal beyond the reach of the dedicated but somewhat niche following of its predecessor.
And the Karoq is certainly a car that deserves a wider audience, having plenty to offer both family and business buyers thanks to a range of simple but well thought out engine choices and trim levels.
Three core equipment grades are available from launch - SE, SE L and Edition - with an additional SE Technology model aimed specifically at the fleet market.
Customers can choose from four engines - 1.0 and 1.5 litre petrol units with outputs of 115PS and 150PS respectively and 1.6 and 2.0 litre diesels with the same outputs. All four can be mated to a snappy six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed double clutch automatic and the 2.0 litre diesel is equipped with four-wheel drive as standard.
The 1.5 litre petrol, a new VW Group powerpack recently introduced in the Golf, is expected to be the biggest seller and strikes a good balance between sprightly performance and fuel economy, with a claimed 51.4 miles per gallon on average when paired with the manual gearbox in SE L trim.
Delivering a maximum 250Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm it offers plenty of low-end pull, proves versatile and responsive around town and, with a 0-62mph sprint time of 8.4 seconds, will get you promptly up to motorway speeds, where it is a refined and relaxed cruiser.
Accurate and well-weighted steering makes manoeuvring straightforward and the ride is smooth and settled for the most part, although the 18-inch wheels on SE L trim cars do clatter over larger potholes - of which we still have too many to contend with on UK roads.
Things never become uncomfortable, though; the Karoq grips well, doesn't lean excessively through corners and is a surprisingly nimble and agile SUV.
The spacious cabin has a premium feel and offers ample room for four adults to really stretch out and, despite an intrusive transmission tunnel, three should be comfortable in the back on shorter journeys.
There's also plenty of oddment storage space and the boot, with a minimum capacity of 479 litres, is big enough to cope with most family needs and includes an array of nets, hooks and trays to stop your shopping being thrown around.
SE L models and above also get Skoda's clever varioflex rear seats, which take compact SUV practicality to a whole new level.
All three seats are separate and can be individually adjusted - or completely removed to create a maximum load volume of 1,810 litres. With the centre seat removed, the outer ones can also shift sideways to boost space and shoulder room for two rear passengers.
Being a Skoda, tha Karoq also boasts a number of thoughtful touches to make life easier, such as a detachable LED torch in the boot, an umbrella stowed under the front passenger seat and an ice scraper hidden in the fuel flap.
Equipment levels are generous across the range with SE L cars getting dual-zone climate control, an intuitive eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, navigation, foldable tables with cup holders on the front seat backs, rearview camera, heated front seats and Alcantara upholstery.