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Skoda Karoq Velo cyclists' car review

29 Jan 2020
Verdict:

Some good ideas and it's a car that could be excellent with a few tweaks, but do we really need more cars on the road?

For 
A wise move for a company to appeal to cyclists as a market • Added extras such as tools, washing machine and jet wash are interesting novelties
Against 
Very much a prototype with plenty of tweaks needed • Another car on the road isn't really a good thing

For two reasons, this review is a departure from those we normally post. Firstly, the product in question cannot be purchased (more on that later) and secondly, and more obviously - it's a car. Not just any car, however, as the Velo part of the Skoda Karoq Velo's name suggests.

Mostly produced as a vehicle for Skoda's campaign to show its two- as well as four-wheeled credentials, there are currently no plans to turn this concept car into a production model.

This review looks only at the cycling-themed tweaks that have been made to the car with no mention of how it drives, corners, accelerates to speeds over the legal limit, or any other such features or performance elements.

 

What makes a Karoq into a Karoq Velo?

Far from being a full concept car, this is a standard Skoda Karoq with some post-production amendments. All the changes are in the back of the car, with the front seats and dash unaffected by the move from 'standard' to 'velo'.

Such headline grabbing additions as a follow-me drone with magnetic landing matt, a mini-washing machine for kit – neither of which I used – and a jet washer that I probably should have used after riding around some wet lanes for three hours with Hereford Wheelers.

Other extras included a small cooler fridge complete with bidons (which spent the review period away from the car, as explained below). The most useful part of the car's array of helpful features for cyclists was the tool drawer. It came in particularly handy when scrabbling around for a 6mm allen key to remove the bike's front wheel.

The tool chest also included a couple of mini-pumps, but a track pump or electric pump with Schrader valve (for MTB or the car) and Presta for road bikes would have been a good inclusion when equipping the car with cycling paraphernalia.

 

Thru-axle incompatability

Loading the car for a weekend away I instantly spotted a problem: the interior bike rack was quick-release only and I was set on using a Specialized Venge Pro. With heavy rain and high winds already kicking off, which only got worse on the journey, the roof-mounted bike racks were out of the question.

The interior rack, if used as intended with a quick-release bike set upright in place of the left rear passenger seat, also required the seatpost to be dropped or removed and the bars to be rotated forward in the stem. I was not willing to make such adjustments to the bike having got the fit dialled.

To compromise, the aforementioned mini-cooler came out from its position on the middle seat, which I then laid flat, and inserted the bike on an angle to allow for the saddle to stay up, the front wheel out and the bars turned to one side to avoid the need to fiddle with the stem bolts.

The rear wheel could then still be strapped into the Thule rack to keep the bike in place. There was nowhere obvious to put the loose front wheel, though one idea might be clips on the car's ceiling above the tool chest.

Some of these problems could be avoided by using a Scala Velo, Octavia Estate Velo or Kodiaq Velo with their larger interior area as the base vehicle.

 

A solution looking for a problem?

Many cars - along with other transport means like trains - can easily cope with carrying bikes along with passengers and luggage, including many of Skoda's own models.

As such, there could be a contention that this car is just a solution looking for a problem. But that would probably be unfair. As mentioned, it's a one-off to show what might be possible rather than a brand committing to this as a flagship new product.

It's a bit of fun and a case of a car brand considering those who prefer to get around on two wheels, not just another tech bro inventor thinking they can save the world with yet more cars and inter-city underground tunnels.

 

A model for the future?

Anyone taken with the idea of a washing machine and bidon cooler in the back of their car might be wondering 'where can I buy one of these cars?' Unfortunately for them, the answer is 'you can't'.

'Skoda is intrinsically linked to the sport of cycling, it’s been part of our heritage since 1895,' explains a Skoda spokesperson. 'The Karoq Velo was always intended as a one-off design study that captured the feedback from over 1,500 British cyclists and its purpose was to showcase what could be possible.'

This review is proof that the one-off has got people talking about it, so from an advertising and marketing point of view it's bringing value to the brand.

There is also a question, however, of whether there were plans to produce this as a model but the response wasn't as expected or that the tweaks needed to make it a cyclists' companion proved unworkable.

Regardless, a car brand thinking about cyclists in any way at all should be welcomed. The race to produce ever-bigger SUVs for urban use, which disregards the fact that such vehicles are far more likely to kill anyone they're driven into, is a frightening trend that doesn't look set to end soon so at least this isn't another huge faux-4x4 monster that'll likely only be used on the school run (although the Karoq is larger than the Yeti it replaces).

 

Conclusion

The Skoda Karoq Velo is a bit of fun and a look at what might be possible rather than any attempt to produce a groundbreaking new car model. Some of the ideas are good but the execution, sometimes hindered by the car itself, would need to be better realised if this car were ever to move into mass production.

This review was first published in November 2019

Price: 
Not available to purchase

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