Skoda Kushaq | End of term report
It’s that time of year again ― where I need to say goodbye to my long term test car. This wasn’t easy because the Kushaq has been brilliant over the last few months. This Kushaq turned up at the office for a story, actually. I was supposed to drive it to Nashik to test it on the iconic windmill rally stages ― tying in with Skoda’s rallying heritage, while trying to understand if this Kushaq was really as fun to drive over a long road trip, as we found it to be during the first drives. And it was! “With every corner, the Skoda Kushaq on this INRC stage is moving further up the list of great drives I have filed away in my head,” I said, back then. And then I clutched onto the keys and didn’t let go.
The Kushaq has worn many hats over the last few months ― from a daily driver and inter-city shuttle to support car on our shoots. I have been fiercely protective about it, which is why no one else in the office has spent much time behind the wheel. Usually, our long term cars rotate between us at some point but never the Kushaq. I made sure that it was back in my garage every evening, even if someone borrowed it for the day. Which means, most of the 7000km that have been run since it reached us have been put on there by me. And that’s plenty of time to really understand a car. There’s so much to like about it ― I had the 1.0 TSI engine on test and it’s a motor I absolutely adore. Punchy, efficient, entertaining and a real joy to drive. It makes a little bit of noise being a 3-cylinder but that aside I’d be a fool to criticise it. I remember the first time I drove it on the expressway, I was blown away by the efficiency it delivered ― over 20kmpl on the highway! But should you choose to wring it out, it will deliver plenty of smiles at the expense of that economy that drops to single digits. It truly is a world-class (award-winning, by the way!) engine that gives this Kushaq a lot of heart.
I’ve lavished plenty of praise for the dynamics so I’m going to keep it brief ― rides well (though swap the 17s for 16s and it improves even more), handles well, and is dynamically sound. The best in its class, even. The steering is a tad bit light but that aside it feels planted, stable and will show you a good time in the bends. Space is good, the seats are comfy and the infotainment works well, though both Sirish and I have faced issues of calls muting and music pausing on wireless Apple CarPlay for no reason. There’s good boot space and ground clearance and it checks every important box in terms of features. I needed to replace the brakes ― both pads and rotors ― at some point because they were juddering, which was covered under warranty. There was an issue with the driver’s window not working occasionally, despite being looked into by Skoda. There’s also the fact that the AC doesn’t cool adequately in the summer, but there’s an update coming for that according to Skoda.
This was a significant car ― not just for Skoda, but for the group. The volume end of the business for Skoda-VW was suffering and the India 2.0 programme was supposed to set things straight. And the Kushaq was the first car to be born of that programme. It had the burden of impressing not just us journalists, but a highly intelligent and perceptive market. It would set the expectations for everything that would follow from the two brands ― the Taigun, Slavia, Virtus. Not an easy task. There certainly were teething issues. In my first month or two with the car, the only question I was asked about was the dreaded fuel pump issue. My long-termer never faced it but it’s impossible to ignore the many owners that did. However, Skoda did address it, and the furore has died out ― both on online forums and in my DMs. Other things such as the quality of certain components ― the cheap-feeling roof liner and air-con vents led to lowering our perceived quality of the SUV, but our criticism of it ensured that the same mistake wasn’t made with other cars in the pipeline.
Lastly, I’d say that the Kushaq, while feeling really solid and planted on the road, doesn’t give you that tank-like build quality that other Skodas did in the past. From the buttons, to the way the door shuts, the way the pedals feel, to the way it drives and the sensations it delivers, it doesn’t feel as tight as something like the Skoda Yeti did. Don’t get me wrong ― it’s miles ahead of everything else in its class. But shift that perspective to older Skodas and it cannot match up. This is not an issue to most but for someone like me who has spent a lot of time in these older Skodas ― the Laura in my case ― this is very apparent when you drive the Kushaq. Now that the Kushaq has left the garage, I’m looking for another Skoda entering the garage. A Slavia with the 1.5 engine should be headed our way anytime soon. Can I have it in that brilliant blue, please?