Skoda’s Kamiq Monte Carlo is not named after a biscuit.
But it could have been.
Just as the cream and jam filling of an Arnott’s Monte Carlo make it a tearoom darling, additional equipment for Skoda’s breakthrough baby SUV results in a particularly rich proposition.
The Skoda Kamiq was the surprise winner of our 2020 Car of the Year award, triumphing with a rare combination of value, practicality and driving polish.
Priced from $29,990 drive-away in regular trim with an automatic gearbox, the Monte ups the ante with a $36,990 drive-away sticker.
Some of its equipment is the same as the base model, including an 8-inch infotainment system with wireless charging and smartphone mirroring, but not sat nav. The safety gear is unchanged – seven airbags, front and rear auto braking and active cruise are standard, but blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are optional.
And it has the same “simply clever” touches as the cheaper car — an umbrella in the driver’s door, four USB points, spacious cubby holes and more.
The $7000 Monte Carlo treatment includes a panoramic moonroof, adaptive LED headlights, and subtle cosmetic touches such as chrome badges, two-tone 18-inch alloys and black exterior highlights.
Driving credibility comes from a more powerful engine, along with well-bolstered sports seats, and lower suspension with multi-mode shock absorbers.
The biggest change is under the bonnet, where the regular model’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is replaced by a 1.5-litre unit with 110kW and 250Nm.
That represents a substantial 25kW and 50Nm more than the regular model, enough to drop its dash to 100km/h from 10 to 8.4 seconds. Servicing between the two is the same at $1400 for five years, but the more powerful motor needs an extra 0.6L of premium fuel for every 100 kilometres travelled.
It’s a worthwhile upgrade, as the four-cylinder motor is smoother, quieter and punchier than the standard engine. Sure, the base Kamiq’s triple is a charming unit, but it can feel less than energetic with a carload of passengers on board, and the bigger engine’s superior torque makes for easier work around town. The Monte Carlo’s 15 millimetre-lower suspension is slightly less convincing, as you lose some of the easy fluidity that makes the standard Kamiq a joy in everyday driving. Enthusiasts will appreciate the extra poise, but passengers might not like a bumpier ride.
Carbon-look trim and the glass roof add a premium vibe to the Monte Carlo, which impresses inside and out.
Few folks will object to seats seemingly lifted from a hot hatch, or the sports pedals and gearshift paddles fitted to our test car.
The latter are included in a $4300 travel pack bundling together a broad range of desirable features including an 9.2-inch touchscreen with sat nav and wireless Apple CarPlay, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alerts, heated seats, a better stereo and gearshift paddles for the steering wheel.
Skoda says it represents $7550 worth of value, which sounds good until you’re about to hand over $40,000 for something based on the little Volkswagen Polo hatchback.
That’s big bikkies for a little car.
For all the premium filling, you could argue the Monte Carlo isn’t the sweetest Kamiq.
A stronger engine and premium presentation make the Monte Carlo more attractive to customers but a $7000 price rise compromises the regular Kamiq’s good value.
SKODA KAMIQ MONTE CARLO VITALS
Price: From $36,990 drive-away
Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 110kW/250Nm
Warranty/servicing: 5-year/unlimited km, $1400 for 5 years
Safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, front and rear auto emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, active cruise control
Cargo: 400 litres
Spare: Space saver