Weird name, perhaps, but the base model’s blend of practical smarts, quality and genuine grin factor bundles itself into a value-laden package you really shouldn’t ignore when shopping in the sub-$30,000 small car and crossover landscape.
Though technically launched as a full range, it’s taken a few months for the more powerful and higher-grade 110TSIs to hit Aussie terra firma, in part because of a pesky gremlin affecting Kamiq and Scala models fitted with this more powerful 1.5-litre powertrain.
Here on test, gremlins nipped, is the freshly-baked Kamiq Monte Carlo, the sporty figurehead that sits alongside the more luxury-focused Limited Edition as the range tree-toppers, at least when it comes to identical drive-away pricing.
The trim three-variant range, in sort of an inverted triangular hierarchy, fits Skoda’s ‘Simply Clever’ mantra nicely.
Thing is, ‘sport’ marketing is risky. The term has been overused almost to the point of redundancy.
The Monte Carlo looks the business on paper, with its more powerful 110TSI four-cylinder powertrain and its own specific suspension tune, though it misses some of the niceties fitted to the Limited Edition.
On first introduction, I’m frankly a little skeptical about its sporting credentials. More output equals more performance, logically, but its “15mm lower Sport Chassis Control” suspension’s still-jacked-up ride height doesn’t inspire notably more dynamic confidence.
The stuffy traditionalist in me expects a genuinely sporty feel and vibe to compliment the black detailing and carbon-fibre-look accoutrements to justify the fairly formidable step-up in outlay over the already frisky and downright driver-friendly base 85TSI version.
The sole front-driven, dual-clutch auto-equipped version of the Monte Carlo lists for $34,190 though comes with a drive-away price of $36,990. Its luxury-tinged twin, the Limited Edition, wears a list price $1300 higher than the Monte Carlo as officially a flagship of sorts although it too is offered at the same $36,990 drive-away.
Off the bat, we’re seven grand up on an auto 85TSI and nine grand richer the base manual Kamiq.
However, our test car fits an optional Travel Pack that adds a bundle of goodies (more below), some of which are standard on the LE, adding $4300 to the list price. Plus, there’s an extra $550 for its Moon White metallic paint.
Total? That’s $39,040 before on-road costs.
The Toyota CH-R GR Sport Hybrid ($37,665 list), Kia Seltos AWD GT-Line ($41,700 list), the brand-spanking new Hyundai Kona N Line (from $36,600 list) and more… there’s a lot of sporty crossover competition for similar coin.
Outside, the Monte Carlo fits adaptive LED headlights, LED tail lights with trendy dynamic indicators at both ends, heated and folding mirrors with driver’s side dimming, privacy glass, rear parking sensors, auto wipers and a powered tailgate.
Specific ‘Vega’ style 18-inch wheels and blacked out highlights and badges are unique to this variant, as is the panoramic glass roof as standard fitment.
The interior features specific, heavily bolstered sport seats with mechanical adjustment and a blend of fabric and carbon-fibre-look trim, as well as a flat-bottom sports steering wheel and sports pedals. As with the base 85TSI, the high-spec Kamiqs fit the 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation as its main showpiece.
Elsewhere, the equipment list includes keyless go, dual-zone climate control, four USB-C outlets, inductive phone charging, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, one-touch window functionality all round and Skoda’s signature umbrella hidden in a cubby in the driver’s door. Cruise control is adaptive and the spare wheel is a space-saver type.
The Monte Carlo shares the same infotainment as the base variants, an 8.0-inch touchscreen that displays a reversing camera and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, but lacks DAB+ functionality.
What about that $4300 Travel Pack as fitted to our test car? It replaces the basic eight-inch infotainment with a sat-nav-equipped 9.2-inch system and brings with it wireless CarPlay, front and rear seat heating, paddle shifters for the steering wheel, an audio upgrade, voice control, auto parking assistance, and adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert to its safety suite.
A fair amount of kit, then, and much of it quite a welcome inclusion.
The Kamiq has scored a five-star ANCAP rating off Euro NCAP testing conducted on the structurally-related Skoda Scala. That said, according to the ANCAP report, additional testing was also conducted on a Kamiq test vehicle to “confirm results” for frontal offset and pedestrian assessment.
The Skoda scored a commendable 96 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant safety, 80 per cent for vulnerable road user and 76 per cent for safety assistance systems.
The Kamiq fits seven airbags (including driver’s knee), all-speed (4km/h to 250km/h, though top speed is actually 210km/h) AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection at some speeds, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance, fatigue detection, tyre-pressure monitoring, multi-collision braking, the aforementioned adaptive cruise and rear manoeuvre braking assistance.
As outlined above, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring come as part of the Travel Pack.
We’ve praised the classy execution of the base Kamiq 85TSI’s cabin in reviews past and the Monte Carlo improves things to a moderate degree, if mostly with the vibe the ornately trimmed and heavily-bolstered sports seats bring to the occasion.
The front buckets have a lot of shapely purpose and excellent lateral support, though the bolsters are a bit of a tight squeeze on the ribs which won’t find favour with some owners of certain body types.
The intuitive design, clever material use and exceptional packaging smarts all ring true on this more expensive version. That said, for all the nice satin carbon-fibre effect and golf ball-like dimpling on the wheel and door inserts to bring a lift to the ambience, there’s some fairly cheap plastic around the area, particularly on the door handles.
The Virtual Cockpit format is excellent, with plenty of different skin options, some of them quite minimalist, others that look a bit like Audi cast-offs if not really to aesthetic detriment. As we’ve praised prior, the display format really shines for quick-glance legibility.
The optional 9.2-inch touchscreen system builds on the excellent 8.0-inch design as standard and really isn’t an essential upgrade unless you’re wedded to proprietary sat-nav.
Resolution is very sharp and it’s reasonably straightforward to navigate though it can get a bit distractingly clunky at times. No DAB+ is, of course, a bit disappointing, but offering dual USB-C ports in both rows of seating is thoughtful as is wireless smartphone mirroring.
The second row is deftly packaged and offers excellent adult-oriented accommodation and creature comforts such as those dual USB-C ports and air vents. Leg-, knee- and elbowroom are all excellent.
The outboard seating, too, is very comfy and supportive for a crossover that clearly favours occupants over luggage space, as the 40:60 split-fold seating doesn’t exactly convert to flat load space when the Kamiq is converted to a two-seater. In a petite machine with this much cabin space, something has to give…
The boot is nice and features a deep floor, expanding from 400 litres to 1395 litres once you fold those rear pews, and the variety of elasticised luggage nets and groceries hooks get a big tick from this reviewer. The powered tailgate is a nice inclusion not offered on competition such as the Kona N Line.
The 110TSI versions of Kamiq are powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol four offering 110kW at 6000rpm and 250Nm from 1500rpm through to 3500rpm.
That’s a 25kW and 50Nm hike over the base 85TSI variants though a bit light on compared with the likes of rivals such as the 146kW Kona N Line and the 140kW T-Roc Sport.
Unlike the three-pot Kamiqs, there’s no conventional manual option as all 110TSIs fit a dry-clutch seven-speed DSG auto driving the front wheels, whereas the aforementioned nemeses come equipped with all-wheel drive.
Performance? Skoda claims the 110TSI package is good for 8.4 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. Decent enough if hardly thrilling stuff, then. Give it enough hot-mix and it’ll run out to 210km/h.
Unsurprisingly, the small turbo engine runs on a 95RON minimum and its maker claims an official combined fuel consumption figure of just 5.8L/100kms.
In our time with the Monte Carlo we managed to the keep the consumption readout around the mid-seven mark, which is about what the lower-output 85TSI returned on its own review assessment when we tested it a few months back.
Initial impressions are that the Monte Carlo is cut very much from the same light and almost airy cloth as the base 85TSI version. It feels lean and compact, as much in the light touch of its controls as it is in a sense of modest inertia on the move.
The powertrain is decent if workman-like in default Normal drive mode, overtly Volkswagen in character in lieu of its technical DNA and generally fairly accomplished and refined if lacking just a bit of verve and X-factor.
The engine picks up quickly in response to throttle input though the dry-clutch transmission can be a touch slow to react, with smooth progress demanding a bit of concentrated right foot discipline. Typical of this level of dual-clutch design, there’s a bit of transmission hunting here and there along for every trip.
I discovered quickly the Monte Carlo is just far happier driven everywhere in Sport mode. Thus set, it’s understandably a little more urgent but the mode just removes all of the lethargy and slack between the driver’s whim and linear forward progress. It’s easier to judge and more cooperative, even if it hangs onto gear ratios a shade too enthusiastically.
Really bury the right foot and it’s brisk, but the four-pot does hit a bit of wall when tasked with hard acceleration. Cutting into traffic gaps from a side street demands full commitment.
It is a fine platform upon which Skoda has crafted quite a decent handling package and what it lacks in weight of the controls and feedback it makes up for handsomely with crisp dynamic response, control and balance. The Monte Carlo doesn’t initially strike you as much of a driver’s car but its qualities really do swell into the experience the more hot-mix you put under its rubber.
Sporty? Yes, if with a lighter touch than other warm crossovers out there.
I honestly can’t discern how much extra talent this lowered, retuned suspension offers over the regular 85TSI tune but it does exhibit a similarly keen ride and handling balance.
It errs on the taut side, just, which suits its pitch to a tee and there’s nothing unruly or brittle about the way it negotiates potholes and speed bumps, which is quite impressively resolved indeed. If there’s a markdown it’s that our test car’s front axle tended to clunk a bit over larger road acne.
Is it really a big step into the friskier side than the regular Kamiq? No, not really. In shades perhaps, that might reveal themselves in back-to-back comparison.
Fine, so it’s no firecracker. But its sense of lightness and generally friendly cooperation compels you to drive it more and more and, all in all, it is genuinely enjoyable to punt. Much like the regular Kamiq is as well.
Skoda offers a decent five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty on Kamiq.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000kms, whichever comes first, and Skoda’s done a decent job of competitively price-capping its two offered servicing packs.
Opting for three years (45,000kms) cost just $800 total while a five-year (75,000kms) package demands $1400.
I’m a real fan of what Skoda has done with Kamiq. It looks great, has wonderful packaging, ticks the tech and smarts boxes in most of the right places and maintains that Skoda charm that has won it many die-hard fans.
And, it’s a really enjoyable machine to drive, either through the small crossover lens or without it.
It’s all of these things that make the buck-banging entry 85TSI such a good apple. I just don’t think the significant walk-up to the Monte Carlo, especially with options as tested, really pays the sort of dividends the elevated price point demands.
At a touch under $40,000 before on-roads, the equipment-stacked, Travel Pack-equipped Monte Carlo isn’t quite the value-packed spicy crossover. If mostly because it deserves a bigger rocket up its tailpipes, or a more confidently spirited vibe, or both. Where it sits is a little too meek in purpose.
It remains a very likeable machine that does little wrong and a plenty of things quite well. But then again so is the 85TSI as a more sharply value-packed and shrewder prospect.
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