On the road

Road test: Skoda Kamiq

The Škoda Kamiq Monte Carlo awaits us at the dealership. There’s an elegance about its exterior – unsurprising for the Volkswagen-owned Czech brand that is gaining popularity on Tasmanian roads.

Whether it’s the crisp Hobart air or the anticipation of that new car scent, we’re quick to take our front seats.

This petite-sized SUV, Škoda’s first foray into the class, was recently crowned Best Small SUV in Drive Car of the Year 2021. Firstly, the Kamiq is clever. Smartphone connectivity comes cable free, courtesy of Qi wireless charging; one just slips a smartphone neatly in the centre console to access tunes, directions or phone calls with no need to touch it again while driving. The new generation of infotainment also means that safety couples neatly with entertainment.

We’re road-testing the Kamiq on a micro-adventure from Hobart’s city streets to the top of kunanyi/Mount Wellington. Though compact in size, the Kamiq feels spacious throughout the cabin. There’s also nooks and hooks tucked away, including a hidden umbrella in the driver’s door – something of a Škoda signature. With overcast conditions, it’s a handy addition. There is also a petrol cap that comes complete with an ice scraper to sort out a frosty windscreen and a reversible plastic-come-carpet boot mat in the cargo section. It’s these neat little features that set Škoda apart – especially for a winter escape.

The Kamiq provides a comfy ride through the suburbs as we begin to climb through leafy south Hobart. The approx. 21km ascent to the Pinnacle takes about half an hour – yet within 10 minutes of leaving town, the terrain becomes beautiful and wild. Quick glances caught through the glass panoramic roof of the Kamiq make it extra special. Up above, towering gums and the sheer dolerite Organ Pipes play out like a sky movie.

We’re travelling up a road that dates back to 1937, so it has its share of narrow bends. The Kamiq hugs scenic corners in style and there’s a genuine sense of ‘safe’ that comes with the ride. That’s because there is plenty of tech packed into this small SUV including lane assist, seven air bags, and brakes that stop the Kamiq in an emergency situation in 38 metres from 100km/hour (outperforming others in its class).

It may be a city-focused SUV but transitions gracefully from traffic lights to wilderness.

We pull up at the Springs, partway up the mountain. Lost Freight, a cool coffee outpost fashioned from a shipping container, is always great for a hot chocolate or sweet treat before rolling on to the Pinnacle. It’s also the departure point for some popular walks including the Organ Pipes Circuit and Sphinx Rock.

A few heads turn as we pull out of the Springs carpark. Do they recognise this Škoda as a multi-award winner? We’ll never know, but in a crowded market, it’s a definite achievement to trump traditional favourites with the brand’s first small SUV. We are reminded why as the Kamiq accelerates happily, unchallenged by the steep final hop to the summit. For those who like the figures, this is courtesy of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, matched to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic direct-shift gearbox (DSG) driving the front wheels.

As we reach the 1271-metre summit, Hobart sprawls out below, intersected by the River Derwent. As with every trip to the Pinnacle, there’s a quiet nod of awe to this ever-present godfather, watching over the city. And the Kamiq seems to quietly hold its own in the landscape.

This small SUV has triumphed over its competitors with quality, boldness and Euro-features. Having reached the heights of kunanyi/Mount Wellington with ease, the Kamiq also knows how to roll back into town – swiftly becoming a city-SUV as though we’d never left.

The specs

Pricing: Driveaway $42,840 (as driven)
Safety: ANCAP 5 Stars (2019)
Engine type: 4-cylinder in-line turbocharged petrol
Engine capacity: 1.5L
Max. torque: 250Nm @ 1500–3500rpm
Max. power: 110kW @ 6000rpm
Body style: Small SUV wagon
Transmission: 7-speed DS Gautomatic
Drive type: FWD
Seating: 5
Fuel consumption: 5.6L/100km (Combined); 6.8L/100km (Urban)
0-100km/h: 9.9 seconds