SUVs Continue To Expand

There is absolutely no downfall in the popularity of SUVs with several new models coming to the market …

Sports Utility Vehicles are continuing to be the number one choice of many car purchasers given their increased ride height and a subjective feeling of greater safety and security. Originally catering to the needs of larger families, such vehicles were generally at the upper end of manufacturers model ranges but such is their popularity that nowadays there is a SUV in almost every sector. They now account for some 25% of the new-car market with this share projected to rise to a staggering 50% by 2025 which is only six years away!

In the space of two years, SEAT have gone from no SUVs to three in their model line up. Volkswagen now have five SUVs, namely the T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace, Touareg and the all-new T-Cross that will feature in this article. Including the new electric e-tron, Audi offer no fewer than seven SUVs, and Škoda have just announced their third model in this category.

It was definitely a shrewd move by manufacturers to cater for all levels of the market given the increasing trend for this style of vehicle. With a majority of personal buyers falling into the compact end of the market, this article will compare the latest small SUVs from the VW Group stable, namely the SEAT Arona, Volkswagen T-Cross and Škoda Kamiq, the latter going on sale later this year. Despite all three models sharing the same MQB-A0 modular platform, they are all different and offer distinct styling cues. Each is easily identifiable within its own family but the bodies are all different, unlike for example, the SEAT Ateca and Škoda Karoq.

The SEAT Arona has been available for over twelve months now. This was the manufacturer’s second SUV and is based on the latest Ibiza. It is available with two three-cylinder 1.0 litre turbocharged petrol engines in 95PS and 115PS guises, dependant upon level of trim, plus the excellent four-cylinder 1.5 litre 150PS unit. Also available are two 1.6 litre diesel engines with 95PS and 115PS ratings. Following the recent scandal on diesel engine emissions, some car makers are minimising the diesel options available as customers are returning to petrol versions, and the VW Group petrol units are extremely refined. Choosing a diesel model will result in a notably noisier cabin plus more vibration through the pedals.

Inside, every Arona is equipped with a touchscreen infotainment system, a facility that is now becoming commonplace across most manufacturers. Entry level models have a 6’5″ screen whilst higher spec cars offer an 8″ display, together with a DAB radio, satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto telephone mirroring. Despite its small car dimensions, the Arona is surprisingly capacious with adequate rear leg room for passengers. It boasts 400 litres of boot space with the rear 60:40 split seat backs in place and all models come with a height-adjustable boot floor to eradicate a step when the seats are folded down. The car is 4138mm long, 1780mm wide and 1552mm high. Prices start from €18500 in Spain and £16560 in the UK, no doubt reflected in specification differences.

With the T-Roc already firmly established as a small SUV, one could question the need for the introduction of the new Volkswagen T-Cross. Just as the SEAT Arona is based upon the small Ibiza, so the T-Cross is based on the VW Polo, being slightly longer but considerably taller. Sharing the same MQB-A0 architecture, its dimensions are 4110mm long, 1756mm wide and 1559mm high, and offers a minimum luggage capacity of 385 litres. This can increase to 455 litres depending upon the position of the sliding rear seats. At launch, the model will only offer a choice of the aforementioned three-cylinder 1.0 litre turbocharged petrol engines as seen in the Arona.

Despite the model’s boxy looks, there is a feeling of space inside the cabin which offers adequate elbow and knee room both fore and aft. Whilst the interior virtually mimics that of the Polo, the quality of finish is not as high with hard plastics taking the place of softer, moulded trims. The car will offer advanced technology options and what it may lack in the design stakes will be more than compensated for by its maturity and all round desirability. Facilities available include digital display, emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane assist and blind spot monitoring, most of which are only available on larger, higher specification models. Prices will start from €19000 in Spain and £17000 in the UK.

The latest SUV to be announced by the VW Group is the Škoda Kamiq, a direct competitor to the other models discussed in this article. The Kamiq takes styling cues from its larger siblings but embraces the new Škoda design language with a more pronounced and upright grille, first seen on the new Scala. Upmarket versions will boast stylish LED running lights sitting above the headlights.

Unlike the initial limited choice in the T-Cross, the Kamiq will offer the same range of engines as in the Arona. Despite sharing the same platform, this SUV has more interior space than either of its direct competitors. Its dimensions are 4241mm long, 1793mm wide and 1531mm high, with a boot capacity of 400 litres with the rear seats in place. This makes the car both longer and wider than the other two, but not quite as high so there should be a healthy market for all three marques.

The interior layout is effectively the same as that of the new Scala. The same options will be available including a 10.25″ digital cockpit and an upgraded infotainment touchscreen. Like the Scala, the Kamiq will have permanent Internet connection and safety-wise, both automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance are standard. Prices in the UK are expected to start at around £17000 (€19750) when the car becomes available later in the year although, to date, no firm prices have been announced for the Spanish market.

If you’re in the market for a small SUV, then all these variants are worthy of consideration. The ultimate choice is probably down to styling as mechanically, they’re virtually identical. The Arona has the most design flair whilst the T-Cross appears the most practical with its more robust appearance. If a happy medium between ultimate style and practicality is the answer, then the new Kamiq may well be the solution and worth the wait until it goes on sale. The SUV world is definitely expanding!




When Concept Meets Reality

Many manufacturers tease potential new products with concept vehicles but should these come to fruition, they rarely show much resemblance to the concept design.

Recently, Škoda has launched a new family hatchback as a replacement for the ageing and much-maligned Rapid range. This new car is called the Scala and, surprisingly, closely resembles their Vision RS concept with only minor design changes. Needless to say, these changes are very much on the conservative side and somewhat dampen the wow factor of the original concept, but few manufacturers to date actually stay close to their creative visions.

The Scala name apparently means ladder or stairs in Latin and it’s fair to say that Škoda are certainly moving upwards with the launch of this vehicle. It will compete directly with the new Mark 8 Volkswagen Golf and the upcoming SEAT Leon replacement. Overall, with each new model release, cars are improving through advancing technologies and light weight components. Accordingly, they become more desirable and fit for purpose, but also increasingly more expensive. For many, this means trading down to a lower segment vehicle when the time comes to change the car. In line with previous models, it is expected the Scala will undercut the Golf by some €2350 (£2000) whilst offering a slightly larger car embracing premium features.

The Scala utilises a stretched version of VW Group’s MQB-A0 platform, the standard version of which underpins the SEAT Ibiza, VW Polo, and the new VW T-Cross. all of which are well regarded for their handling in their respective classes. It will herald subtle revision in Škoda’s design language by featuring a more prominent and upright grille plus standard LED lights. Inside, the infotainment touchscreen is placed at eye level sitting atop the dashboard and will be available up to 9.2″ depending upon the model specification. Also on offer will be a 10.3″ configurable digital display in lieu of conventional analogue instruments, giving the car an upmarket feel. A DAB radio will be fitted as standard across the range. As is the trend with all Škoda models, luggage capacity will exceed that of its main competitors including its sister models from within the VW Group. With the rear seat backs in place, boot capacity is 467 litres, rising to over 1400 litres when folded. It is rumoured that passenger space should almost match that of the Octavia meaning that the Scala will effectively offer a similar package with slightly less luggage space. This must undoubtedly question the long term need for the Octavia in its current guise, but seeing as it is the company’s best-selling model by far, it is unlikely to be discontinued from the model line up. More likely, the Octavia will move further upmarket and possibly emerge as a stylish coupé when the current car is replaced.

Mechanically, the Scala will offer familiar VW Group engines ranging from 1.0 litre turbo petrol 95PS and 115PS to the 1.5 litre 150PS unit, which has cylinder deactivation technology to help save fuel at cruising speed. At launch, there will also be the 1.6 litre 115PS diesel engine. Buyers will be able to spec the car with options including blindspot monitoring, a rear-view camera, and an electric tailgate. In a first for Škoda, the Scala will be permanently connected to the Internet via an eSIM that can call the emergency services and send diagnostic information from the car to franchised dealers. ‘Simply Clever’ features include an umbrella in the driver’s door, tray tables on the back of seats, the now familiar ice scraper in the fuel filler cap and handy USB ports for passengers.

Will it fit in your garage? The Scala, which is only available as a five-door hatchback, is 4362mm long, 1793mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2649mm allowing for greater legroom.