- Sophisticated, frugal and punchy engine
- Superbly practical and high-quality interior
- Stiffer springs on Monte Carlo model don't ruin the ride
- Missing key safety tech such as blind spot monitoring
- Slightly expensive servicing
- Should have a 2.0 TSI engine at this price
For some reason, Australians are obsessed with sportiness. We all wear sports clothes, we watch sports and somewhat bizarrely, many of us buy cars that are sports themed. Take, for example, the various German manufacturers’ sub-performance branding such as Audi’s S Line or BMW’s M Sport. Most of the offerings in Australia for both brands have these packs as standard supposedly because us Aussies want our cars to look sportier. Enter the 2021 Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo, a Kamiq wearing activewear.
Positioned as the sporty-looking variant of the Kamiq small SUV range, the Monte Carlo was launched alongside the regular Kamiq 85TSI, which is our favourite offering in a very crowded segment. Like other faux sports trims, it offers Aussies a sporty look with large wheels, a body kit, sports seats and the oh-so-fashionable black trim inserts but without any performance upgrades. Considering how much we supposedly love them, does this sporty looking trim end up being the Kamiq to choose? Let’s find out.
Price and Equipment: 8/10
Priced at $36,990 drive away, the 2021 Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo is the ‘base’ model in the Kamiq range for now thanks to a lack of stock of the lesser 85TSI variants, which were priced from $27,990 drive away. Thank the shortage of stock coming from the Czech Republic due to a world-wide chip shortage and COVID related logistical delays. The 85TSI will be back later this year, Skoda promises us. At this price, the Kamiq Monte Carlo isn’t stellar value against its siblings, but it does look attractive against its main competitors: the Ford Puma ST-Line, Toyota C-HR GR Sport and the Hyundai Kona N Line.
Standard equipment on the Kamiq Monte Carlo includes 18-inch alloy wheels, all-LED lighting (including scrolling front and rear indicators), dual-zone climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a digital driver’s display, an alarm, an eight-speaker sound system, wireless phone charging, multiple USB-C ports, keyless entry and start with an electric tailgate, heated/auto-dimming/auto-folding mirrors, auto lights (including when raining) and wipers, rear air vents and a number of Skoda’s ‘simply clever’ details such as an umbrella in the driver’s door, an ice scraper/tyre tread depth checker/magnifying glass in the fuel cap and a lot of hooks and nets in the boot.
Being the Monte Carlo Kamiq ushers in several sportier styling details such as black badging, mirror caps, grille surrounds and wheel inserts, as well as sports seats in black and red trim, Monte Carlo badging and a panoramic glass roof.
Standard safety kit is reasonable with auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and reverse automatic braking. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are not part of the standard kit list – they really should be for this price.
They are added alongside auto parking, adaptive lane guidance, a larger 9.2-inch touchscreen with inbuilt navigation, a 10-speaker sound system, wireless Apple CarPlay, heated front and rear seats and voice control as part of the $4,300 Travel Pack. We think this should be standard equipment. Metallic paint ranges from $595 to $1,100 for the special ‘Velvet Red’.
Yet you could spend an extra $1,000 and earn yourself way more kit such as full leather upholstery, the larger screen, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, auto parking, wireless CarPlay, heated front and rear seats and so on by choosing the Kamiq Limited Edition. It doesn’t feature the Monte Carlo’s extra styling details, nor its panoramic roof (it’s a $1,200 option), but we think it’s much better value for money.
A loaded Monte Carlo retails for $41,290 drive away, which is not cheap for a small car – compared with the competition, though, it’s not bad value for money. You have to load a Ford Puma ST-Line ($36,300 drive away or $40,864 with all options ticked) with the optional roof rails, electric tailgate, panoramic sunroof and park pack to match the Kamiq Monte Carlo’s standard equipment – and doing so still leaves you without features such as dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, multiple USB ports and so on, that the Kamiq gets as standard.
The $40,200 Hyundai Kona N Line features a larger 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine – and, uniquely, all-wheel drive – though, it misses out on LED headlights, dual-zone climate control and a few other things. The $41,610 Toyota C-HR GR Sport hybrid features a lot of standard safety kit, though not a digital driver’s display – and it costs more money.
Performance and Economy: 8/10
Under the bonnet of the Kamiq Monte Carlo is the same 110kW/250Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine as the Kamiq Limited Edition and the Scala hatchback. Unlike the Scala that offers a six-speed manual, the Kamiq pairs a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic to this engine as standard. The transmission is typical of the type – the low speed hesitancy and keenness to upshift as early as possible can be annoying, but when you’re on a backroad, it’s fast and intuitive.
The engine itself is great with more than ample low end grunt for around town cruising and motorway work as well, though we’d like to see the larger 140kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo from the larger Octavia used in to better compliment the sportiness of the Monte Carlo name. But unlike the Ford Puma ST-Line and Toyota C-HR GR Sport, the engine provides ample grunt for the badge – the Kona N Line is quicker, though.
Unlike its competitors, the Kamiq 1.5L features cylinder deactivation to help fuel economy when cruising, and it does work quite well. Skoda claims combined fuel consumption of just 5.6L/100km and we averaged 6.2L/100km in combined driving – minimum 95RON fuel is required, though. This compares well to the larger 146kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine in the Kona N Line, which is slightly quicker to 100km/h (7.9 seconds versus 8.4 in the Kamiq) but a lot thirstier in our testing.
Ride and Handling: 7/10
Based on the regular Kamiq, which drives rather well, the Monte Carlo adds 15mm lowered and adaptive suspension into the mix, with somewhat positive results. Using the same 18-inch wheel size as lower Kamiq models, the Monte Carlo’s adaptive dampers make it firmer in sport mode when you want it to be, but mostly the same as the regular Kamiq in comfort mode. It’s a good balance.
Get it out on the open road and it’s a fun car to drive with quick – though largely feel free – steering, good body control and plenty of grip from the chassis and quality Goodyear Eagle F1 Assymetric 3 rubber. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel as connected to the road as the Ford Puma does, but it does ride better. The Puma still remains king of the small-SUVs when it comes to outright handling, but we feel that few will ever complain about the way the Kamiq drives. Put simply, the Puma isn’t as well rounded as the Kamiq which still remains our pick between the two.
Yep, unlike an Audi S-Line car with massive wheels and hard suspension, the Kamiq Monte Carlo is firm but forgiving around town – and on highways we think the ride is well judged as well. It drives smoothly over poor surfaces and is relatively hushed inside.
We’re still hoping that Skoda eventually introduces a Kamiq RS with a sportier tune and more road feel, because the car’s chassis is pretty good, and more involvement would make it excellent. The Kamiq Monte Carlo drives well, but because of the Monte Carlo badge, we think it should be a tad keener, bring on an RS, Skoda!
Interior and Practicality: 9/10
Thankfully, the Monte Carlo doesn’t interfere with the Kamiq’s interior recipe because we think it’s best in class for both quality and practicality. The Monte Carlo adds a touch of personality with a lot of red trim inserts and some (faux) carbon fibre trim inserts and it certainly looks sportier than regular Kamiq models – well, for most people anyway. The Kamiq’s combination of soft touch dash and door plastics, plus nicely textured harder materials lower down, isn’t changed in the Monte Carlo transformation and it’s one of the best quality small SUVs, like the Ford Puma. Premium rivals costs multiples of the Kamiq’s price, could still learn a thing or two from the humble Kamiq.
Centre of the Kamiq’s cabin is an 8.0-inch touchscreen that can be upgraded to a larger 9.2-inch unit with the optional Travel Pack. Our test car was fitted with it, and it’s an option we’d tick as the larger screen is crisper and it features both inbuilt navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay, though strangely not digital radio. The unbranded 10-speaker sound system is a worthy upgrade too as it adds more punch over the standard eight-speaker system.
But the rest of the Kamiq Monte Carlo’s cabin is identical to regular Kamiq models. It’s easily the most practical in the small SUV segment with big door bins, a large glovebox, a secret cubby under the steering wheel and small cupholders in the front seat with ‘teeth’ to help opening bottles while driving – though the rear seat features the same large door bins, two map pockets, vents and even two USB-C charging ports. We wish it featured a rear centre armrest as well, like overseas models.
But unlike the Puma, Kona and C-HR, the Kamiq is great to travel in thanks to large windows and a spacious feeling that those rivals just cannot match. Skoda is great at gouging out the maximum in interior space for relatively tight dimensions and even six-footers will be more than comfortable sitting behind themselves with ample leg-, knee- and especially headroom. The Monte Carlo features a panoramic glass roof as standard, which lets a lot of light into the cabin – just beware that the sun blind doesn’t entirely block the sun out, which can be annoying on hot days.
The boot space in the 2021 Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo is identical to other Kamiq models at 400-litres, which is pretty healthy in the segment. Folding the seats down opens 1,395L, which is 225L more than the Puma – if only a dual-level boot floor was fitted to get rid of the ridge between the floor and the seat. A lot of nets and tie down points, as well as hooks also feature – plus, unlike a lot of competitors, an electric tailgate is standard across the range. A space saver spare is standard.
Service and Warranty: 8/10
Like the Toyota, Ford and Hyundai, Skoda provides its new cars with a five-year/unlimited km warranty, though only with a single year of roadside assistance, like the Ford and Hyundai – the Toyota offers none. The C-HR makes up for it with cheap servicing – five years/75,000km costs just $925, $1,516 for the Puma and while it’s $1,585 in the Kona, though that’s only to 50,000km thanks to the Hyundai’s shorter 10,000km service intervals. Service a Kona to 70,000km and it’s $2,565.
Paying for servicing as you go makes the 2021 Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo comfortably more expensive than rivals at $2,319 for five years/75,000km ($463 per service). Skoda offers options though, including a $1,400 five-year service pack that can be purchased with the car for an average of $280 per service – the service pack also includes roadside assistance for the duration of the pack.
The 2021 Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.4/10
Those looking for a sporty-looking small SUV have a lot to like in the 2021 Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo. It’s very practical, it drives mostly well, it’s well equipped and to our eyes, sharp looking – especially with those 18-inch ‘Vega’ alloy wheels – which is surely why so many buyers prefer a sporty badge.
Of course, the 2021 Skoda Kamiq Monte Carlo is no firecracker behind the wheel – c’mon Skoda, Kamiq RS please! – but unlike some competitors, it does offer more than enough grunt for most. A few questions with the value equation aside – blind-spot monitoring and satellite navigation really should be standard at this price – the Monte Carlo is a great addition to the Kamiq range. Most importantly, while the Monte Carlo doesn’t add all that much to the Kamiq experience, it doesn’t take anything away either, and in our eyes, the Kamiq is still an excellent small SUV, worthy of its place, proudly at the top of the small-SUV tree.