Skoda Kushaq 1.5 TSI Manual Road Test Review – Comeback King?

Skoda has had an adventurous journey in India so far. The car maker has seen its share of up’s and downs but now it faces the biggest test so far as it is all set to launch its first for India made in India SUV the Kushaq. This is the first car model to be seen here under its India 2.0 project that it announced some time back. The Kushaq becomes the make or break model for the iconic car maker and we drive it trying to find out if it has the right amount of fire in its wings to propel Skoda into higher grounds.

Food for Thought

The Kushaq is the first model under Skoda’s India 2.0 Project. The SUV has been developed in India for India. The Kushaq comes in with 90% of localization from day one. First showcased as the Vision IN concept at the 2020 Auto Expo the Kushaq name was chosen over others which is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Kushak’ which denotes ‘King’ or ‘Emperor’. Skoda will manufacture the Kushaq at its Chakan plant. The SUV is built on the Volkswagen Group MQBA0 IN platform which is shared also with the Volkswagen Taigun that’s due for launch soon.

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Exteriors

The Skoda Kushaq is the car makers first sub 4 meter SUV and stands at 4221mm in length, 1760mm in width and has an overall height of 1612mm. The wheelbase for this SUV is a class leading 2651mm. First look at the Kushaq and you instantly like what you see, clean body lines with sharp detailing on the body panels remind you of the other SUV’s from the Volkswagen Group like the Tiguan, TRoc, Kodiaq, Q2 etc. The car grabs your attention for sure with its bold Skoda family grill with thick chrome surrounds and black vertical inlays. All LED sharp design headlamps look classy and come with ‘L’ shaped DRL’s. Below the headlamps is placed the fog lamps in a rather unconventional but catchy positioning. The sharp bumper gets a wide air dam with a large faux skid plate in silver, it also gets metal inserts around the faux air dams placed on the edges. The bonnet comes with the typical Skoda family character lines in the centre defining it.

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Coming to the sides the fenders get Skoda badging in chrome and glossy black while the lower part of the SUV gets black fiber inserts for enhancing its SUV looks. The glass area is large and comes with blacked out frame, a neat touch here is the chrome strip that runs around defining it. The fixed quarter glass looks very neat at the angle it is placed. The sides come with a sharp character line that runs across the door handles making things here rather interesting. You also get neat looking metal roof rails that make the Kushaq look taller and trendier. The roof also gets an electric sunroof. The Kushaq drives on R17 spec tyres on very sporty looking dual tone atlas alloys.

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Coming to the rear profile looks very pretty with slim L shaped LED tail lamps flushed into the bodyline. The boot lid also gets the SKODA badge in chrome along with a thick chrome band running across the lower section. The rear bumper comes with a large faux skid plate and large slim stop reflectors completing the rear styling is the large spoiler.

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Interiors

The Kushaq comes with a dark theme interior theme. The dashboard is flat and deep. You get this small utility place on the top of the dash where you can keep your keys or small things. You also get glossy black inserts along with textured insert on the dash along with metal inserts around the AC vents. The centre dash gets an all new 10 inch touchscreen AVN system that comes loaded with all connectivity features and also with the inbuilt Skoda app store. This AVN system does not come with an inbuilt e-sim but uses your mobiles data to power its apps.  This AVN system is very crisp and easy to use with super smooth touch response. The climate control is a single zone unit with a unique and different style slide control for its fan speed and temperature setting. Below this is the wireless charge station and two USB C charge posts along with some good storage space. This is an intelligent wireless charger that asks you if you want to charge the mobile or just place it there. The steering can be adjusted manually for height and reach and is a two spoke design likes on the new Octavia, this comes with leather wrapping, metal with glossy inserts and MFD buttons neatly laid on it.

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The instrument cluster consists of two round dials and a MFD display in the middle. The gear shifter is the typical Skoda design as seen on the Rapid. Seats get faux leather upholstery and come in dualtone color along with hand stitching pattern on them. The drivers seat gets manual adjust for height while the comfort level is pretty high with excellent back, under thigh support. The rear seats get three head rests, foldable arm rest and a flat floor for the middle passenger. The seating angle here is upright and has loads of leg, knee and big head room. Rear passengers get two USB C type charging port and rear AC vents. You also get mobile holders in the back pads of the front seats. The overall cabin feel is good only niggle is the plastics on the door panels which could have been better.

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The Kushaq comes with a wide and deep boot area that of 385 liters which can be further extended to 1405 liters folding down the rear seats if needed.

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Engine – Transmission – Drive

Powering the Skoda Kushaq will be two engine options both petrol, a 1.0L 3-cylinder TSI engine with 115PS of power and 178Nm of torque. This engine comes mated to a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed torque convertor automatic transmission. The top of the line Kushaq comes powered with the 1.5L TSI turbo petrol engine that pushes out 150PS of power and belts out 250Nm of peak torque. This engine gets an option of an 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed DSG automatic transmission. This is the same engine that also powers the Volkswagen TRoc, Skoda Karoq CBU import cars. We drove the Kushaq 1.5 Manual for our review.

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How does it drive?

First things first this engine has a very nice soft grunt to it when you rev it. Power loaded till the brim is its key highlight. This engine is an enthusiast’s delight, just floor the throttle and the Kushaq flies ahead in pretty quick time. This engine also gets the ACT (active cylinder technology) which shuts off two cylinders when coasting or cruising as a result saving precious fuel. You can actually see when the ACT system is at work as displayed on the MFD display. This engine loves being driven hard. This is one of the best Turbo Petrol engines we driven. The Kushaq drives very positively with typical Skoda benchmark style and grace.

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The SUV has tons of road grip at all speeds and the steering feels very well balanced. The manual gearbox is precise enough that you can find all six gears easily and precisely. The Kushaq is perfectly capable when it comes to corners. In particular, its steering is precise and has plenty of reassuring weight, providing a good sense of connection to the front tyres at all times.

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The suspension set up is well tuned for Indian road conditions and the SUV behaved very nicely when going over bad roads and pot holes. The ground clearance stands at 155mm which may sound less but the SUV didn’t scrape or touch the underbelly during our test.

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Verdict

The Kushaq is the make or break model for Skoda and after spending some good time behind the wheels we are sure that this will be the make model for the car maker provided they price it competitively. We love the way the car looks, typical European, the way it drives, typical Skoda and the way it does its job, flawlessly. What is needed is some cut throat pricing for the Kushaq to transform into the success story for Skoda in India.

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Words – Ritesh Madhok
Photography & Video – Govind Gadekar

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