One of the best, the Škoda Kamiq Monte Carlo

In Car Reviews, Skoda by Kieran Bicknell

Fun, stylish and tech-y: The Kamiq Monte Carlo is the cream of Škodas’ baby SUV crop.

Having had the mid-sized Karoq and the seven-seat Kodiaq back-to-back in the weeks prior to taking delivery of the Kamiq Monte-Carlo, I was looking forward to getting some seat time in Škoda’s critically-acclaimed small SUV.

Let’s start with how it looks; As much as I appreciated the big, utilitarian looks of the Kodiaq, the Kamiq is far more aesthetically easy on the eye, with well-sized proportions and it looks absolutely fantastic even when standing still.

For a small SUV there has clearly been far more care taken over the design than usual. The designers have kept it instantly recognisable with Škoda’s trademark front grill and split headlight design, whilst pushing it more ‘upmarket’ with bevelled edges, smart 18” ‘Vega’ alloy wheels and subtle ‘Monte Carlo’ badging on this special edition. You also get the ‘utility’ part of the SUV acronym in the form of roof rails fitted as standard, making the Kamiq ideal for ‘lifestyle’ adventures since half of the work involved in fitting a bike rack or roof box has been taken care of by the factory.

Perhaps the most immediately obvious sign of Skoda’s investment into the design of the Kamiq is the inclusion of LED dynamic indicators at both the front and rear which greet you with a rapid double scroll when unlocking the Kamiq – unusual to see on a ‘mainstream’ marque such as Skoda, but a very welcome addition nonetheless. The Kamiq is also the first model in the Skoda line up to feature such technology at the time of its release, though I expect it will roll out to most if not all future releases.

The black contrast detailing also helps the Monte Carlo immediately stand out compared to the rest of the Kamiq family, and the tried-and-tested ‘sports’ combination of red and black is used to great effect on both the exterior and interior styling, giving the Kamiq M-C real presence on the road.

Inside the Kamiq the Monte Carlo trim continues its red and black theme. Well-bolstered ‘sports’ seats in a combination of black leather and red accents steal the show and provide plenty of support without being too restrictive. The virtual cockpit, large touchscreen and piano black detailing stand the Kamiq above the rest of the Skoda SUV range in terms of interior design.

Skoda have upped their game across the board here, with the quality of the Kamiq Monte-Carlo interior far exceeding expectations. Liberal use of soft-touch plastics, piano black detailing and an overall air of care and consideration puts the Kamiq leagues ahead of where you’d expect for a sub-25k SUV. I feel the only glaring omissions from the tech-packed Kamiq are automatic wipers and heated/cooled seats – both strange omissions given Skoda choice to include a panoramic glass roof.

Speaking of the virtual cockpit, this has to be one of my favourite features of the Kamiq Monte Carlo. Featuring a plethora of different designs to cycle through, you can mix-and-match the information on the virtual cockpit depending osn your preference, as well as cycling through a number of race-inspired, standard and ‘night’ displays. All of the information is crisp and clear, whilst the navigation can also be mirrored onto the virtual cockpit if you use the in-built ‘Amundsen’ navigation system.

As you’d expect from a tech-y and style-conscious car such as the Kamiq Monte-Carlo, the infotainment system is responsive, clear and easy to use. The 9.2” touch-screen system uses Skoda’s standard menu layout and display, along with offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity should you wish to hook up your smartphone. One of the crowning features of the top-spec Kamiq is the inclusion of wireless Carplay, allowing you to connect your phone and mirror its apps via bluetooth as opposed to a USB interface. It is important to note that the Kamiq uses USB-C interfaces for the charging and infotainment systems, so you may require an adapter to plug in older devices.

For a small SUV, I was particularly impressed with the space on offer inside the Kamiq Monte Carlo; In typical Skoda ‘simply clever’ style the storage bins, cubby holes and overall cabin ergonomics were very well thought out indeed, with plenty of places to store items safely whilst on the road.

Boot space was also very good at 400 litres as standard, rising to 1,395 with the rear seats folded down – more than enough for typical family duties without compromising space for the rear seat passengers. Speaking of which, there is also an impressive amount of legroom in the rear of the Kamiq, with more than enough knee room for adults to sit comfortably in the back on long journeys.

On the road the Kamiq Monte Carlo handles much like a lifted hatchback, exactly as you’d expect from a small SUV such as this. Sadly the sporty styling doesn’t translate particularly well to the on-road characteristics of the Kamiq Monte Carlo, which is the same issue that I had with the Fabia Monte-Carlo edition model earlier this year.

Despite the Kamiq M-C being a bit of ‘all show, no go’ once you look past the sports styling and assess It as a small SUV, it is actually rather impressive. The driving style is impressively dynamic, with a good weighty steering feel in comparison with that of the Karoq and Kodiaq. Navigating tight lanes is no bother at all thanks to the small ‘feel’ of the Kamiq once behind the wheel, whilst parking sensors make light work of fitting the Kamiq into tight spaces.

The only real issue that I had with the Kamiq in terms of its driving style is the lack of paddle shifters on the Monte-Carlo trim spec. Given the ‘sporting’ nature of the Kamiq’s design and the surprisingly quick-shifting manual transmission, I’d have liked to have seen a set of paddle shifters to really round off the sports-inspired styling and driving characteristics.

Speaking of the transmission, in standard mode it shifts quickly and seamlessly between gears, with changes only really being noticeable when using the ‘kick down’ function, though I did notice a tendency to skip down too many gears at once. Change over to ‘sport’ mode by pulling down on the shifter, and the Kamiq will hold gears for longer and shift more aggressively, though still well within the level of comfort you’d expect in a family car.

In terms of engines, the car tested paired the 1.5 litre, 148hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with the 7-speed DSG transmission, and it seems like a perfect balance of economy and performance for a family car, though I can’t help but feel the engine should’ve had a little more poke for something that is sold as a ‘sport inspired’ vehicle.

That having been said, the Kamiq never struggled for power, with the automatic transmission happily shifting up and down merrily as required with minimal ‘lag’ when changing gradients or decelerating. I was also greatly impressed by the economy of the Kamiq too, managing a journey from Wiltshire to Devon and back with still over 1/4 of a tank of fuel left, suggesting the Skoda WLTP figure of 43.5 mpg may actually be a little conservative, though the majority of the miles done were on motorways.

So to conclude, should you go and buy one? The general consensus says yes: The Kamiq Monte- Carlo has clearly received a lot of care and attention from Skoda who are rightfully proud of their rallying heritage. Featuring tech-y gadgets, a surprisingly dynamic driving style and the trademark Skoda family-friendly practicality, it’s hard not to recommend the Kamiq Monte Carlo.

Car reviewed: Škoda Kamiq Monte Carlo, on the road price £26,600, car as tested £28,655 0-62mph 8.4secs Top speed 131mph Engine 1498cc 4 cylinder unleaded EU6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 43.5 – 38.2 mpg CO2 emissions 116g/km Max Power 150PS@5000rpm Torque 250Nm@1500rpm Transmission 7-speed auto DSG

Kieran Bicknell

Motoring writer

Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.