With the Kushaq, the Czech carmaker aims to carve a niche for itself in the Rs 10-20 lakh SUV space, and not challenge the Koreans.
It’s tough, almost impossible, to beat the Koreans in the Rs 10-20 lakh SUV space. In the five months of January-May 2021, Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos together sold about 1 lakh units (despite the lockdown). Skoda knows this, and that’s why instead of attempting to directly take on these SUVs, it simply wants to create a niche for itself in this space.
It has readied the Kushaq, and we drive it in and around Delhi.
What is the Kushaq?
It’s the first vehicle developed under Volkswagen Group’s India 2.0 project; announced in 2018, VW is investing 1 billion euros between 2019 and 2021 to enhance presence in India, which will be led by group firm Skoda Auto.
The name Kushaq is derived from the Sanskrit word for king, i.e. ‘kushak’, but Skoda replaced the ‘k’ at the end with the ‘q’, possibly because the company is lining up global car names that end with a ‘q’, such as Kodiaq, Karoq and Kamiq.
Is it as big as the Creta?
No, it’s marginally shorter in length (7.5 cm shorter), but while both the Creta and the Seltos have a bigger presence on the road, the Kushaq, from certain angles, looks like a raised crossover SUV.
Inside the cabin, it doesn’t feel cramped. Its wheelbase is slightly bigger than that of the Creta, and even for tall adults there is plenty of space.
While top-end variants get features such as ventilated seats, front seats have to be manually adjusted and all variants of the Kushaq get front disc brakes and rear drum (Skoda officials told me that rear drum brakes don’t compromise on safety, or on stopping distance). Unlike the Creta, the Kushaq doesn’t have a panoramic sunroof, but a sunroof for front passengers (but do you really need any kind of sunroof in India?)
Which engines power it?
There is no diesel engine option, but two petrol engines: 1.0-litre (115 PS) and 1.5-litre (150 PS). While both engines get a 6-speed manual gearbox, the 1.0-litre units has a 6-speed automatic option and the 1.5-litre has the 7-speed DSG option. The Kushaq has a 50-litre fuel tank.
How does it drive?
I drove the 1.0-litre unit; it’s powerful even for an SUV this big, but doesn’t overwhelm the driver. The good thing is fuel-efficiency; driving in and around Delhi during a weekday this engine in my test car returned 15.1 km/litre. (I have still not driven the 1.5-litre unit.)
An area where the Kushaq appears to better both the Creta and the Seltos is ride and handling. In it, minimal tyre or engine noise enters the cabin, and even on sharp turns it doesn’t appear to lose its line. Seats have such a design that you may not feel uncomfortable even on long drives. And be it a broken stretch of road or loose gravel, the ride doesn’t turn rough.
Overall, the Kushaq appears like a very well put together SUV.
How much does it cost?
It’s priced Rs 10.5 lakh to Rs 17.6 lakh, ex-showroom, marginally more than the competition, even though some features (variant to variant) may be there in the competition but not in the Kushaq. While Skoda’s promotion line for the Kushaq is ‘Made of what really matters’, I honestly doubt if Indian buyers think on similar lines.
The Kushaq will definitely sell in decent numbers riding on the SUV wave (I expect about 3,000 units per month), but many of its customers might be those who are on the 3-month-long waiting list of the Creta. Because I honestly doubt how many genuine Skoda lovers are still left in India.
The Kushaq has its work cut out, to make Indians restart appreciating fine cars the Czechs make.
Only petrol, no diesel
Engine Cylinders Power Gearbox Price
1.0 TSI 3 115 PS 6-MT and 6-AT Rs 10.5 lakh to Rs 15.8 lakh
1.5 TSI EVO 4 150 PS 6-MT and 7-DSG Rs 16.2 lakh to Rs 17.6 lakh
(Prices are ex-showroom)