Fast forward a few years and Skoda now offers a full range of much more mainstream vehicles, capped recently by the brand's first seven-seat family SUV, the Kodiaq.
The name might still be a little odd, but the Kodiaq itself is quite conventional. Sedate but handsome enough to look at, and critically providing Skoda with a seven seat SUV with which to lure families who might otherwise have turned to a Mazda, Hyundai, or Toyota.
Typically though, Skoda has a point of difference, and in this instance it's size. Where the CX-9, Santa Fe, or Kluger look and feel large and heavy, the more compact Kodiaq straddles the divide between medium and large SUVs, right-sizing itself for users who need occasional extra versatility.
Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $46,290 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 132kW/320Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol | Seven-speed automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.6 l/100km | Tested: 9.1 l/100km
To keep things simple the Skoda Kodiaq comes in a single standard specification. From there, buyers have a choice of either petrol or diesel engines and a pair of options packages allow you to tailor the vehicle to your needs.
While a full family of Kodiaq models might suit some buyers, few are likely to be upset with the comprehensive standard features list.
Priced from $46,290 plus on-road costs, the big Skoda packs in leather and Alcantara trim, a big touchscreen infotainment unit with CarPlay and Android Auto, autonomous emergency braking, a powered tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels and much more - coming across as anything but basic.
As tested here with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, seven-speed dual-clutch auto and all-wheel drive, the Kodiaq may not look the equal of bigger, more powerful V6 competitors, but our time behind the wheel revealed a vehicle that was every bit as capable when it comes to daily duties.
- Standard Equipment: Leather/Alcantara trim, dual-zone climate control, rear window sunblinds, adaptive cruise control, rear privacy glass, LED headlights, electric tailgate, front under-seat storage, upper and lower gloveboxes, auto headlights and wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, CD player, AM/FM radio, USB and Aux inputs
- Cargo Volume: 270 litres to third row, 630 litres to second row, 2005 litres to first row (at roof)
Clever utilisation of space results in a cabin that feels genuinely spacious. Cabin width might be the only dimension that’s a little lacking, but there’s more than enough head and legroom in each row to fill the Kodaiq without complaints from passengers.
The front seats are certainly as spacious as they need to be, with good support and firm padding. The leather and suede-look trim also adds a touch of premiumness.
Those in the middle row will find plenty of legroom and head room, with the ability to slide and recline the seat to adjust comfort. There’s also manual sun blinds on the rear doors for added comfort on hot days.
Of course three-row SUVs aren’t always known for their third-row comfort, yet despite slightly smaller dimensions than something like a CX-9, the Kodiq provides a seat that’s just big enough for adults. All the more so if the passengers ahead are prepared to scoot forward a little.
The cabin is also filled with practical touches that are often missing from vehicles masquerading as family SUVs. You’ll find dual passenger gloveboxes, under-seat storage trays, umbrellas in the front doors and more as you move though the cabin. Even the odd looking centre console cup tray includes a spot to hold the 12 volt socket plug when you have something plugged in, plus two cups, and the key.
Boot space is average for the segment at 270 litres to the third row, but fold the rearmost seats and that grows to a handy 630 litres. The boot also abounds with thoughtful items, like bag hooks, seat-fold levers, an LED torch, and, perhaps best of all, a dedicated storage space for the rear cargo blind - something very few SUVs manage to provide.
At the heart of the driver interface lies an eight-inch touchscreen with all the connectivity you could need, built-in navigation, plus smartphone connectivity for compatible Apple and Android phones.
The dash itself is laid out with clarity in mind, and everything from the instrument cluster to the switchgear has simple to use logic.
The lack of third-row ventilation is an unfortunate omission, while the inclusion of a flat-bottomed steering wheel in a car with no sporting aspirations seems a little odd when a round wheel would be more user-friendly for wheeling into tight spaces, but those are the only identifiable flaws with an otherwise well configured cabin.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, 132kW @6000rpm, 320Nm @1400-3940rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Macpherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Vented front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering
- Towing Capacity: 2000kg braked, 750kg unbraked, 80kg towball load
Skoda’s sensible side can also be found under the bonnet, where a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine provides a willing 132kW and healthy 320Nm of torque.
Although it doesn’t match the outright grunt of Skoda’s optionally available diesel engine, the 132TSI engine really punches above its weight. While the Kodiaq may not be lightning fast off the lights, it can surprise with its speed and flexibility.
The engine is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, tuned for efficiency primarily, but able to be driven with more vigour in sport mode if you prefer. All wheel drive is also standard giving the Kodiaq extra all-road capability.
Of course the Skoda, like most of its peers, isn’t a proper off-roader and in testing the all-wheel drive system (ignore the ‘4x4’ name, there’s no low range) could be slow to catch up at times, allowing a moment of slip from the front wheels on wet roads or on dewy grass - nothing too dangerous though.
That’s more than made up for by excellent on-road manners.
As an urban drive, the Kodiaq quietly and competently zips from traffic light to traffic light, providing linear acceleration and low levels of noise and vibration. Suspension is slightly firm, but most imperfections are dealt with comfortably.
Hit the highway and the big Skoda feels right at home too, able to cruise quietly but with enough torque on hand to tackle overtaking or a hilly section of road without feeling stretched.
It’s development for suburban streets stands out, thanks to steering that is super-light and Ideal for the school run or daily commute, but a little too disconnected out on the highway, albeit free from slackness or any tendency to wander.
An auto stop-start system is also a standard Kodiaq feature, designed to save fuel when the car comes to a complete stop - and thankfully the system works quickly and smoothly, with no jolt on startup to upset younger occupants napping in the back seat.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Skoda Kodiaq scored the maximum five star rating when tested in 2017 based on data obtained by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: Standard safety features include nine airbags including dual front, front and middle row side, driver’s knee and curtain airbags, autonomous emergency braking, electronic stability control and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist, multi-collision braking, rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, driver fatigue detection, and middle-row ISOFIX child seat mounting points.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals occur at 12 month/15,000km intervals (whichever comes first) with capped price servicing available up to 90,000km or six years with pricing per service starting at $319 for the cheapest visit, up to a hefty $1209 for the 60,000km/four year visit. Your Skoda dealer can explain full costs, terms, and conditions of the program.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Honda’s new medium SUV has grown to include a seven-seat version for the first time and though it may not match the size of the Kodiaq, the CR-V is packed with storage solutions and offers handy occasional-use third row seating.
Mitsubishi was an early arrival in the seven-seat segment-straddling SUV class, but sadly the Outlander hasn’t moved with the times as effectively as some rivals. While it makes a great value proposition, the Outlander is starting to look and feel its age.
Targeted primarily at the American market, the Mazda CX-9 steps up in size, space, and power compared to the Kodiaq. The interior also has a premium feel to it, and comes well equipped but lacks the practical touches of the Skoda.
Hyundai has just rejigged its Santa Fe range for 2018 with added safety on even base model cars. The diesel is the sweet spot of the range though buyers can also pick from naturally aspirated four-cylinder and V6 petrol engines for a very comprehensive range.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Skoda’s first-shot at a family friendly SUV is a convincing one. This is a brand that invests a lot of time and effort into creating vehicles that provide practical solutions to the day-to-day needs of their owners, and the Kodiaq is the ultimate expression of that.
While the interior, its storage, and neat tricks like rubber protectors that pop out to cover the door edges before disappearing from view again as the door is closed, are all cleverly integrated into the interior, the Kodiaq also benefits from a well-honed set of chassis and drivetrain components from parent-company, Volkswagen.
That means that the Kodiaq isn’t just good at one thing, it’s good at nearly all things and with in-between sizing that makes it less intimidating to drive but useful passenger space for families. In the end, the Kodiaq should charm anyone who takes one for a test drive.
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