Skoda is a brand that deserves more attention than it gets. It consistently puts out good product and has a very loyal customer base, at least here in Australia. So while it’s understood by people in the know, there’s a swathe of SUV buyers that Skoda wants to tap into.
Here, we have the Skoda Kodiaq, the Czech company’s foray into the booming SUV market and based on a week of testing, it’s an SUV that is worthy of closer consideration.
Rarely do innovation and value-for-money go together. Look at the most innovative products there are – the iPhone, Tesla, Oculus. Not exactly cheap. So to find something that has innovative features and could be considered a comparative bargain is almost a miracle, yet that’s what Skoda has pulled off.
Considering the Kodiaq is quite the newcomer in the medium SUV segment (yes, it’s technically classified as a large SUV, but it’s based on Volkswagen’s medium SUV platform) it marks its difference by how much thought has gone into it.
The first time you open up the Kodiaq’s door, a tiny but welcome addition will cause an involuntary reponse: “Why has no-one ever done this before?” Door edge protectors may be a simple mechanism, but they will save a lot of heartache. Attached to the hinge, a small, shaped piece of plastic pops out from behind the door as soon as it swings open. As the door opens wider, the plastic protector jumps out and then settles back against the door edge, doing the same dance in reverse as the door shuts.
Preventing both damage to the Kodiaq’s duco and eliminating car park dents on the car next to you – what more could you want? If you have a narrow garage and your kids love opening their doors further than they should, it’s a godsend.
The other innovation is what Skoda calls the “voice enhancer”. It uses the car’s Bluetooth microphone and amplifies the voices of those up front, projecting them through the car’s rear speakers – those in the back can now hear you a lot clearer. The first time it’s on, you sound like you’re talking into a tin can. After a while you get used to it and it certainly saves the kids shouting “What?”, but if it’s too disconcerting you can alter the sound level or simply turn it off altogether.
And then there are the umbrellas hidden in the doors. Handy for those rainy days and while it’s not exactly an original idea, the jump to another brand which has the same gadget is stratospheric. Let’s just say nothing compares at this price point.
Based on the Tiguan plaform, and being a Volkswagen Group product, you can rest assured that it’s well-built. The quality for a seven seater at this price point is excellent – compare this interior to a Discovery Sport, for example – and its presentation is both contemporary and stylish. The only issue is the etched-look fascia panels which tend to show up fingerprints a bit too much – have some detailing wipes handy.
We love the infotainment screen and its sharp and easy to use interface. Crisp, clean graphics, high-res screen, embedded buttons in the surround and a good stereo means it all works together well.
The seats are well-padded and the because the base is alcantara, it holds you in place in case your driving gets a bit more spirited. The rear seats can be slid fore and aft for more legroom as well. The reason the Kodiaq scrapes into the large SUV category is thanks to seats six and seven residing in the boot floor. For loading up a young family, this car ticks all the boxes. Just don’t try to fit two adults in the third row, though – they may find that a little ‘challenging’, if we’re honest.
Under the bonnet you’ll get a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, a derivative of the same engine that goes into the Golf GTI. In Skoda’s application it makes 132kW and 320Nm, running through a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox and through to all four wheels. This helps it to get to 100kmh in just 8.2 seconds, so not overly quick, but enough for everyday life. We would say, though, that it’s probably a little underdone when fully loaded, so Skoda recently announced a diesel addition to the range – it’s worth considering if you’re going to be carrying a lot of people.
It’s Skoda’s biggest car, but it feels a lot smaller from behind the wheel. Its light steering contributes here, but there’s enough weighting and communication, which when coupled to terrific adaptive suspension means it can literally handle all conditions. Press the drive select mode for Comfort and it becomes nice and soft, with only a little bit of suspension rumbling on broken tarmac. Then, choose Sport and it firms up and becomes quite nimble, able to provide plenty of grip in high speed corners. And if you need those brakes, they’re nice and strong and give good pedal feel.
It comes as standard with all-wheel-drive, which works quite well in wet conditions, and coupled with stability control it gives you confidence that it’s going to eke out as much grip as possible, no matter what the weather may throw at you.
The refinement is what is most impressive. While there’s a fraction of wind and road noise at higher speeds, it’s very quiet, and the engine just seems to hide in the background. It’s quiet and smooth and puts to shame vehicles twice its price.
Priced at $42,990, with a comprehensive safety suite (nine airbags, if you don’t mind), seven seats, fabulous ride, interior quality to match the best of them, plus those innovative features, you can see why we say it has terrific value-for-money. Okay, it looks quirky but ignore that and you have one of the (if not THE) best buys of the segment.
Skoda Kodiaq 132TSI Specifications
2.0 litre petrol turbo four-cylinder
132kw @ 3,900-6,000rpm / 320Nm @ 1,400-3,940rpm
Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission
‘Skoda 4×4’ all-wheel-drive
0-100km/h – 8.2 seconds
Fuel consumption (listed): 7.6 l/100km
Can you take the Skoda Kodiaq off-road?
If the track is moderate, then yes. But don’t try anything too challenging. The 4×4 system needs to send power rearward a bit quicker to get out of boggy sand, but gravel tracks and light-duty rocky trails will be fine. Just remember, its forte is on the road – there it shines.