Skoda Kushaq Monte Carlo DCT long term review, first report – Introduction

First report: The most attractive and well-equipped Kushaq joins our fleet. We tell you what makes it feels special and why.

Skoda’s Kushaq is an SUV that works on many levels. For one, it walks the talk when it comes to delivering Skoda’s value luxury proposition. This is not something that’s easy to accomplish. Remember, even to qualify it has to deliver more ‘lux’ and a better overall build, and that’s without the price going way over rivals from Japan and Korea. That this Monte Carlo edition manages to tick the above boxes and feel more premium itself is job well done. But what exactly is the Monte Carlo edition, and what do you get over a regular Kushaq?

First up, let’s look at where the Monte Carlo sits amongst the pantheon of Skoda special editions. Now Skoda has many sub-brands. There’s RS, of course, or VRS, which gets more power and performance, and a sportier interior. Laurin and Klement editions are more plush and luxurious and Skoda’s Greenline models (not in India yet) are cleaner and greener. Then there’s this one, the Monte Carlo.

Now, the name Monte Carlo conjures up all manner of images, with Formula 1 dominating. But it isn’t the Formula 1 race that Skoda is celebrating or paying homage to. What Skoda wants you to remember is the flying arrow’s substantial World Rally Championship or WRC heritage, specifically its enviable record at the ‘Monte’.

Monte’s cabin does feel more upmarket, despite some ‘loud’ red highlights.

What makes the Monte Carlo Rally stand out isn’t just the glamour and glitz of the harbour start, but the sheer madness and adventure of the competitive stages. They wind up the tight and twisting mountain roads and go without warning from tarmac and gravel into slippy, slidy snow.

So, what do you get on the Kushaq Monte Carlo? Well, for starters, almost no chrome on the outside. Everything chrome is now black, and this makes the signal red Kushaq draw in the stares. With the grille, chin and nose finished in black, and sporty 17-inch alloy wheels (whose design is ‘taken’ from the previous-gen Octavia RS 245), the Kushaq looks badass. It gets red brake calipers and prominent ‘Monte Carlo’ badging on the fenders. Have to say it draws a lot of attention and admiring glances, well worth the additional Rs 70,000 odd you pay.

Black plastic trim is ordinary, poorly built and takes away from Skoda’s quality vibe.

The upgrade to the cabin is a bit loud, especially the nail polish red dash and centre console. Still, details like the red contrast stitching and ‘Monte Carlo’ embossing on the headrests work well, and it comes packed with extras and features that really do make it feel premium and special.

The feature I ‘feel’ the presence of first is the subwoofer. The extra thump is just so good, and it rounds off the sound spectrum very nicely. The bass isn’t over the top or overpowering, and the overall sound quality and timbre are spot on. Skoda’s audio system may not be branded, but it certainly is superior in many ways to the branded systems on rivals.

Extra trump of subwoofer sounds great, adds an extra dimension to sound.

It’s so appealing that I find myself lining up a special playlist rather than just randomly playing music off my library. The Monte Carlo also gets aluminium pedals, automatic wipers and headlamps, LED lights, wireless connectivity, ventilated front seats, red ambient lighting, six airbags and a tyre pressure monitoring system, among others.

There’s plenty of punch under the bonnet too. Nothing over and above what you get on the normal Kushaq sadly, but this Monte Carlo (you can get it with a 1.0 TSI also) gets the 150hp, 1.5-litre TSi and a twin-clutch gearbox. So, it feels sporty, light on its feet and has plenty of performance you can exploit when the opportunity presents itself. I find myself really looking forward to early morning drives and quick dashes across town late at night.

This toolbag is neat and practical. Tools don’t jangle around and the Velcro locks it into place.

That’s when the Kushaq is at its effortless and entertaining best. What makes it particularly fun is that the Skoda drives beautifully. The steering is light, but feels connected, the Kushaq has loads of grip and poise, and every time I put my right foot down, performance is both strong and very elastic. I love the feel of the metal pedals, and what’s particularly nice is that you can access the 150hp just about anytime as the twin-clutch gearbox is super quick on upshift.

The Kushaq is also relaxing to drive in traffic. It’s just the right size and agile enough to dart into and out of gaps: it feels at home in our ‘in your face’ traffic. And, since the engine pulls nicely from low speed –with only a mere hint of turbo lag – the Kushaq is always ready to get up and go.

Low speed ride is a bit stiff and is often quite busy at low and medium speeds.

You do get a slight hesitation and dithering at low speeds from the gearbox, and the ride is a bit stiff when you are slow, but these niggles apart, Skoda’s Monte Carlo does feel both very accomplished and upmarket enough to warrant special attention. Value luxury that’s a bit more premium, and that just feels great.

Also see:

Volkswagen Taigun 1.5 TSI GT long term review, 11,000km report

Skoda Slavia 1.5 TSI long term review, second report

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