Czech brand’s hatch bids to maintain its flag-bearing status with a light refresh
Skoda likes to bill the Octavia – its biggest-selling model in the UK and a range mainstay for the past two decades – as its backbone. Having received wholesale surgery in 2013, this time round the model receives a more modest chiropractic tweak of the styling, interior and equipment levels.
The new Skoda Kodiaq was classified by many magazines the best car for big families.
We tried the heartland Kodiaq, the middling power 148bhp diesel manual 4×4 version, complete with a healthy dollop of tech and toys, and concluded it’s a stress-relieving utilitarian winner. And no, I’m not about to rip up that rhetoric.
The school run has a new arrival… and it’s big news
Sometime along life’s road, there comes a fork when things change. When you take as much satisfaction from a smooth transition from six- to seven-seat mode as you do from the race from six to seven on the tacho. When rear packaging matters more than rearwheel drive. When adaptable cabin storage assumes greater import than adaptive damping. Sigh.
At which point we could recommend you an MPV. The new Renault Grand Scenic is most agreeable. But more and more people stick their fingers in their ears when they hear that sort of advice. Cars overtly designed for big families are going fast in one direction only. Out of fashion. No, the big family cars people actually want are the ones that look like 4x4s for the free-roaming outdoorsy buyer – virility symbols. As opposed to MPVs which are evidence of proven virility.
So you want a seven-seat crossover or a 4×4. Despite the fact they are generally not very well packaged. If the third row is suitable for humans, there will be no boot, or a tiny fuel tank. They’re mostly liable to use more fuel and accelerate less ably than you’re used to because they’re heavy. And they’re expensive.
Don’t dissolve into a fug of depression. Because we now bring you the antidote to that counsel of despair. Our Best Car for Big Families, the Skoda Kodiaq.
The Kodiaq’s cabin is as spacious and cannily practical as an MPV. The version we’re testing has 4×4 and a tow bar, so it can pull a boat up a slipway or a horse out of a field, yet it does better than 50mpg in the official test. And stood beside any crossover that might be called a rival, it’s good value to an almost hilarious degree. The one I drove was a poshed-up “Edition” version, with a diesel 4×4 drivetrain – albeit not DSG – and I thought there was a misprint with the price. Shouldn’t it have read $52,000 not $40,000? I checked and it shouldn’t.
It looks like a big 4×4, but that’s a deception. A lowish roof stretches it visually, but in truth it’s only a scant 4cm longer than an Octavia estate. Therein lies the cleverness of the packaging, as well as of the design. I parked it next to an Audi Q7, and it’s like a perfectly scaled-down version. So it isn’t intimidatingly bulky for urban schoolrun work or multi-storeys. Its compactness also brings lightness. It starts at under 1,500kg for a front-drive 1.4 petrol, but adds another 200kg if specced with all of 4×4 and DSG and a 2.0-litre diesel. Plus you could be carrying an extra half-tonne of human meat, so factor that in when deciding how many horsepower you should be ordering.
Under the skin, it’s all about the VW Group’s MQB parts, in this case running the wheelbase of a VW Passat, and all versions have the proper multi-link rear axle. (You might remember low-end MQB cars have a torsion beam, but there’s none of that here.) Engines and transmissions come from the same selection box. This tells you a lot about the way it drives.
Seven-seat family SUV arrives with the mission of spearheading Skoda’s growth
The Kodiaq represents two landmarks for Skoda: it’s the company’s first proper SUV and its first seven-seat passenger car. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also something of an acid test of the brand’s strength and could well be a bellwether for the company’s long-term strategy to move gradually upmarket. If Skoda proves it can sell family 4x4s for the kind of money that isn’t too far removed from what’s needed for an equivalent BMW, Audi or Land Rover, it’ll be much easier to move the rakish coupe and crossover concepts we’ve seen recently from drawing board to production.
The Kodiaq is the fourth new MQB platform-based Volkswagen Group SUV to hit the market this year, after the Volkswagen Tiguan, Seat Ateca and Audi Q2. It offers the potential to combine modern SUV desirability with seven-seat utility and all-wheel drive capability – and for less than £27,000.
The entry-level Kodiaq actually costs less than £22,000, while the range-topping 187bhp 2.0 TDI DSG model in tech-laden Edition trim is nearly £35,000. Interestingly, that means both the Vauxhall Mokka X and Land Rover Discovery Sport can be considered rivals. The bottom-rung petrol (123bhp 1.4 TSI) and diesel (113bhp 2.0TDI) engines power Kodiaqs in entry-level S trim, which have front-wheel drive only. Above that, Skoda offers 148bhp petrol (1.4 TSI) and diesel (2.0 TDI) options in front and four-wheel drive formats, with either a manual or DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Range-topping engine options are good for 178bhp in the case of the 2.0 TSI petrol, or 187bhp in the case of the 2.0 TDI diesel, both coming with four-wheel drive and a DSG ’box only.
Our first taste of the Kodiaq comes in an Edition-trim, 148bhp 2.0 TDI 4×4 manual, which was fitted with seven seats as standard; lower down the range they’re a £1000 option.
First impressions are certainly good. Skoda claims inspiration from the Czech Republic’s crystal-cut glass tradition for the Kodiaq’s styling, saying there’s nothing overtly borrowed from VW’s quite notably similar Tiguan. The styling is slightly derivative, though, but that maybe forgivable from a brand dipping its toe into the large SUV market for the first time – particularly when it amounts to a quietly handsome car.
The interior of our top-spec car could perhaps have made a slightly better attempt at luxury. The leather sports seats are comfy enough and the controls laid out clearly and sensibly, with materials showing a consistent, good quality and finish. But in places, where Skoda tries to go the extra mile on richness, with the patterned fascia trims of our test car, for example, it stumbles. In others – with the swish-looking 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, for instance – it enjoys more success.
The Kodiaq won’t quite seat seven large adults in comfort, but it gets closer than most. There’s abundant head and leg room in row two, where the seats split 60/40 to slide fore and aft and 40/20/40 to fold down. They also tilt forwards and slide to grant access to row three. The third row is big enough for smaller adults or growing children to sit in reasonable comfort, but the lack of Isofix points back there is disappointing.
The 148bhp diesel moves the car along briskly enough. Its torque feels ample in a lightly loaded car and the ratios of the six-speed gearbox are well chosen, although the shift is a bit stubborn. Refinement is very good at cruising speeds. It becomes a bit gruff and breathless when you work the crankshaft beyond 4000rpm, but it’s no worse than many VW Group hatchbacks and better than plenty of more agricultural 4x4s.
The ride and handling compromise is the big surprise. If you’re expecting the big, comfortable gait that the Superb and Octavia do so well, the taut and occasionally fidgeting Kodiaq might take some getting used to. It’s clear Skoda wants its SUV to be thought of as every bit as agile and car-like as any rival. So the ride is medium-firm, getting just reactive enough over uneven B-roads to set up some head toss. Handling is upright and fairly agile, but the Kodiaq could be easier to guide through a corner on account of a slightly pendulous, over-assisted feel to the steering.
That imperfect ride and handling would be unlikely to persuade me that this wasn’t an excellent added-value answer to a large family’s motoring needs, even as an interested driver. The boot is huge, all seven seats are usable, the infotainment and convenience features are excellent, the engines are strong and the car is well priced and well equipped in mid-level trim.
As a statement of ambitious intent, the Kodiaq doesn’t quite have the impact it might have. But as fuel for Skoda’s inexorable growth, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Blend of seven-seat utility and desirability-wrapped value for money is almost sure to take Skoda places
SKODA KODIAQ 2.0 TD1150 EDITION 4X4
Price: £ 32,695 Engine: 4cyls, 1968cc, diesel Power: 148bhp at 3500rpm Torque:251lb ft at 1750-3000rpm Gearbox:6-spd manual Kerb weight: 1676kg 0-62mph: 10.0sec Top speed: 124mph Economy:52.3mpg (combined) CO2/tax band: 142g/km, 28% Rivals:Land Rover Discovery TD4 180 Sport SE, Nissan X-Trail dCi 177 N-Vision
A new version of the Skoda Superb has arrived in the UK, and it’s hard not to notice. SportLine trim adds extra kit, and means the usually restrained Superb becomes a sporty-looking family car.
Although SportLine spec is available on most engines in the range (only the 1.6 TDI diesel and lower-powered 1.4 TSI petrol are excluded), the model we tested is the closest thing we’ll see to a Superb vRS diesel, with 188bhp and a healthy 400Nm of torque. Of course, those looking for even more performance can spec the excellent Superb 280, with its 276bhp turbocharged petrol engine. That car can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, but this diesel manages the same feat in 7.7 seconds.
“The SportLine upgrades haven’t been overdone; the car looks cool without being too extroverted”
Whichever engine you choose, the SportLine stands out with its tinted windows, a gloss black grille, 19-inch alloys and subtle bodykit. But the styling upgrades haven’t been overdone; it looks cool without being too extroverted, while the lack of a true vRS badge has its own appeal as well.
It gets better from behind the wheel, as the SportLine’s Alcantara seats look and feel great, while the carbon-effect dash inserts and white ambient lighting mean it seems less utilitarian inside than lower-spec Superbs. All cars get a driving mode selector, too, which means you can choose from Eco, Normal and Sport settings. These adjust the steering, throttle and gearbox, allowing you to tailor the driving experience to your desire.
While the Superb SportLine doesn’t have the final degree of handling sharpness you‘d expect of a vRS model, the car’s chassis is already excellent. It’s fun to drive when you want to go quickly, with loads of grip through this car’s 4×4 system, and relatively little roll. The steering could be quicker, but it offers a decent compromise between weight and feel. Take it easy and the car settles into a cruise nicely, with a compliant ride and not too much noise coming into the cabin.
There’s plenty of performance from the 188bhp diesel, and even though the engine sounds gruff and doesn’t have much character, it’s fun to use the torque on offer. From a standstill, the 4×4 system’s traction means it feels genuinely fast, too.
For economy and everyday usability, the diesel is an excellent choice. The performance doesn’t come at a high financial cost, since the car still promises 55.4mpg and emits 135g/km of CO2.
There is a lower-powered version of this engine with 148bhp that claims 60.1 mpg and 12 2g/km, although it’s not available as a 4×4 in SportLine trim. Still, it’s probably a more sensible buy if you don’t need the extra traction.
The DSG automatic gearbox is as good as ever in the Superb SportLine, and is the only option if you want the more powerful diesel. The 148bhp version comes with a six-speed manual as standard, but the DSG suits the car well, offering smooth shifts in auto mode and fast ones when changing manually using the steering wheel paddles. It’s another aspect of the Superb’s great mix of abilities.
Space in the back for passengers is truly excellent, while the Estate offers a 660-litre boot. Even in the hatch back there’s 625 litres of space available, and it’s cheaper to buy, too.
Of course, the other part of the Superb’s appeal is its practicality, which is only magnified in this Estate version. With 660 litres of space, or 1,950 litres with the seats down, this is one of the roomiest cars around. It beats every class rival for volume, and many much larger cars, too. Plus, the space is simple to access and the seats fold down easily; family load-luggers don’t get much better than this.
There’s p lenty of space for passengers as well, with loads of leg and headroom in the back. Tinted windows mean it’s a little dark back there, but the comfortable sports seats up front and neatly designed dash ensure it feels upmarket. The touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use, too.
All SportLine care come with sat-nav and xenon lights, while our car was fitted with optional heated seats, different alloy wheels and a few other choice extras.
Standard kit on the SportLine includes pretty much everything you’d want; 19-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, xenon lights, parking sensors, Wi-Fi, keyless go and the drive select system. This powerful diesel model costs £ 33,735, which is expensive, but the lower-powered front-wheel-drive diesel weighs in at £30,840. With a 10 per cent deposit, that means it’s around £75 less per month on a PCP finance deal.
Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 190 4×4 DSG SportLine
Price: £ 33,735 Engine:2.0-litre, 4cyl, diesel Power:188bhp/400Nm Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch auto, four-wheel drive 0-60mph:7.7sec Top speed: 142mph Economy:55.4mpg CO2: 135g/km On sale: Now
While there’s no Skoda Superb vRS in the range, this top-spec SportLine model happily fills the void, it’s handsome, fast and good to drive, yet remains efficient and practical. SportLine spec adds loads of kit and a racy look that’s not too outlandish, while the 188bhp diesel with 4WD has plenty of performance, whatever the weather. But unless you need the extra traction, it’s the cheaper 148bh p diesel that we’d spend our money on.
I photographed some big executive estates for a comparison: a Mercedes, an Audi and a Volvo. Now, I’m not about to suggest that they’re an extravagance, because they’re all lovely inside and everything, but you know what? At nearly twice the price of the Skoda Superb SE L Executive I’ve been running, they should be.
The Superb is one of those cars that makes a massive amount of sense.
In any market segment there’s a standout model that nous suggests you should buy: a Volkswagen Up, a Ford Fiesta, a Volkswagen Golf R, a Porsche 718 Cayman. Well, for my money the Superb Estate is right up there with them.
For a start, it’s massive. If you want an estate car to be an estate car, look at the Skoda, which has 660 litres of load space with the seats up – about 100 more than any rival – and 1950 litres, again another 100 litres on anything else,with them down.
That’s without it being longer than a typical executive estate, too. In fact, it’s a few inches shorter than most executive cars, which must mean it’s more compactly packaged, because certainly there’s enough room in the cabin for a basketball player to sit behind another basketball player.
Perhaps there’s less soundproofing and carpet, or fewer infotainment and electronic bits and bobs. If so, that’s perfectly understandable, because this is a £26,320 car, rather than a £40k one plus options. The things you can get on a Superb are mostly of the ‘strictly useful’ rather than ‘frivolously pleasing’ variety: if you want to drop the seatbacks from outside the boot, the release costs £90 (spend it), a retractable parcel shelf is £120 (likewise) and a variable-height boot floor is £150 (I’d leave it).
I’d also keep the fold-flat front passenger seat (£100), not only because I like to stand on it and take pictures out of the sunroof (£1150), but also because it makes the already cavernous Superb the king of DIY-store cars.
Despite majoring on practicalities, there are pleasing little touches, too. The boot has Velcro-bottomed load bay dividers, which you can stick where you want to prevent things from slipping around. And the easy-to-navigate but averagely designed infotainment system has a function that reminds you not to forget to take your phone with you when you stop, if you’ve had it connected via Bluetooth while driving. There’s an umbrella in each door, too (wouldn’t it be nice if, after you’ve been using the windscreen wipers, the car reminded you that they were there?).
In all, I’ve covered 15,000 miles in the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel Superb wagon and returned what I think is a pretty reasonable 46.5mpg, given that quite a lot of my journeys are either commuting in London or on the motorway. The Superb is nearly always fully laden and I’m quite often in a hurry. At 70mph in sixth, the engine is spinning at a fairly leisurely 1800rpm, which, combined with some excellent seats and a brilliantly adjustable driving position, means this is one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever lived with.
“The supple-riding Superb is one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever lived with”
The ride helps, too. In SE L Executive spec, the Superb runs on 18in alloys (in this case a non-standard design that’s a no-cost option) and our car came with adaptive dampers, at £750. I’ve since driven Superbs without the adaptive suspension, or Dynamic Chassis Control in Skoda-speak, and neither rides better or worse than the other.
At least, not in our car’s Normal mode, in which itis extremely comfortable. The ride is too jiggly for my liking in Sport mode, while in Comfort it’s softer, certainly, but body control is a bit loose, so I don’t actually find it any more relaxing.
But combine the gentle, supple ride with smooth, consistent steering and the kind of ergonomics and pedal weights that no one else seems to get quite as right as the Volkswagen Group does, and you’ve got a car that’s very easy to rub along with.
Nothing of note has gone wrong.
A few thousand miles into the test I noticed that the nearside front passenger door wasn’t sitting quite flush with the body. It must be quite well sealed, because there wasn’t any extra wind noise, but on closer inspection the door latch, where it fixes to the B-pillar, looked to be working loose. So I tightened it myself and that was the end of that.
The Superb has variable oil service intervals, too – to a maximum of 20,000 miles. I topped up half a litre of oil during its time with us, but it would have wanted an oil change at 19,000, so I was planning to get both that and the full service done then.
However, I never quite got there. The Superb has been so good that we have decided to replace it with another one, in a rather different spec. It’s an undercover rozzer version: a hatch with a 276bhp petrol engine and four-wheel drive. I’m not running it, but give it a few months and I’ll bet I’ll still be prepared to say that this variant is one of the most sensible, appealing cars you can buy.
The Skoda Kodiaq will cost from £21,495 when it goes on sale in November, undercutting the Nissan X-Trail by £900. Seven seats area £1000 option on lower-spec cars, but touchscreen infotainment and DAB are standard on all models.
Skoda has confirmed that its long-rumoured new baby SUV has been given the green light and will be in showrooms as soon as 2019, where it will join the Kodiaq and next year’s all-new Yeti.
“We are already working on the car,” said Christian Strube, Skoda’s technical development chief.
The small SUV is based on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB AO architecture, which will also underpin the next Fabia and VW Polo. Although different in concept and execution, the new SUV should, in effect, fill the space vacated by the slow- selling Roomster, which will not be replaced.
Details of the small SUV are scarce, but with the Yeti increasing in size to become a fully fledged rival to the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, this frees up space for a fun and funky SUV to take on models such as the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur.
The platform provides for both front and four-wheel drive, but no decision has been made yet about the availability of all-wheel-drive models. Engines will most likely be small-capacity turbo petrol and diesel engines, with any electrified versions some years down the track.
Skoda’s electrification plans start with a plug-in Superb, which will also be seen in 2019. That will be followed by an all-electric SUV now scheduled for release in the same year, a little earlier than previously thought.
Strube confirmed that a plug-in hybrid version of the Octavia will be built, along with a plug-in Kodiaq that’s currently being prepared for the Chinese market but may well go on sale in Europe, too.
Skoda’s plans also include vRS high-performance models. Currently, the only vRS on sale is the Octavia, available in petrol and diesel forms with outputs of up to 227bhp. But Skoda is seriously considering vRS versions of the Superba and Kodiaq, with power outputs nearer the300bhp mark for all-wheel-drive models.
Model tested: Kia Optima Sportswagon GT-Line S 1.7 CRDi DCT Price: £30,595 Engine: 1.7-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 139bhp
There’s only one engine available in the Optima Sportswagon, with the firm’s 1.7-litre CRDi diesel fitted to 2, 3 and GT-Line S models. It’s the latter we test here, which gets Kia’s DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox as standard. However, at £30,595, and with less power than its rivals, the Optima SW needs to be on top form to succeed.
Like its saloon sibling, the Optima Sportswagon’s lines give it an elegant look. The design remains faithful to the Sportspace concept seen at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015, so the wide grille with Kia’s trademark dip in the middle links the car’s headlights.
The design details have been toned down slightly for the Optima Sportswagon, but the basic shape is similar, A narrow, wide air intake sits beneath the main grille, accentuating the car’s width, while two upright vents at the corners of the front bumper incorporate some silver strakes to differentiate it from the rest of the range, breaking up the bodywork.
The Optima Sportswagon’s wheelarches and shoulder line aren’t as chiseled as the concept’s, but for a production car the creases running back from the headlights and down its flanks are a nice design detail thar give it a solid look.This line rises gently to the tail-lamps, while the window line kicks up and in towards the D-pillar, providing the Kia with strong shoulders and elegant, elongated proportions.
A diffuser-style insert in a contrasting colour to the body houses two oval tailpipes and breaks up the rear bumper and tailgate, while the bright silver roof rails are yet another styling touch that means the Kia cuts an attractive figure on the road.
Inside, the styling is a little more subdued. It’s reminiscent of the saloon, so the centre stack features an eight-inch touchscreen above the primary infotainment controls on this GT-Line S model, while the ventilation buttons sit underneath – with the silver accents around the edges of these sections, it looks very similar to a BMW 3 Series.
Material and build quality are solid, while the plastics that cover the dashboard and centre console are soft to touch. However, elsewhere in the cabin the design and plastics aren’t a match for its rivals. But as you’d expect from the top trim level, you get a fair amount of kit for your £30,595.
Sat-nav, all-round parking sensors, Bluetooth with voice recognition and Kia’s connected services that work in conjunction with the sat-nav and climate control are standard across the range. GT-Line S also gets a Harman/Kardon stereo, park assist, wireless mobile phone charging, electrically adjustable heated and ventilated leather seats, adaptive cruise and keyless go. In fact, the only option is metallic paint – as on our test car – which costs £545.
Kia’s 1.7-litre diesel is down on power compared with the 2.0-litre engine fitted to both the Skoda and VW. And while the 139bhp unit delivers an identical 340Nm torque output to its rivals at the same 1,750rpm, you have to rev it harder to match the other cars’ acceleration due to the Optima’s heavier 1,635kg kerbweight.
At the track the Kia served up respectable performance, but when you’re not on full throttle its competitors feel faster. The DCT box manages shifts smoothly, even if it’s not as quick as the VW Group dual-clutch transmission in the Superb and Passat, and helped the Optima cover 0–60mph in a respectable 10.2 seconds given it’s 9bhp down on its rivals, and nearly 200kg heavier than the Skoda. Yet it loses clear ground to its rivals in terms of ride quality. The Kia’s suspension set-up doesn’t feel as calm or collected as the Superb’s, even on smooth surfaces.
Over bumpy, rippled tarmac the difference is even more noticeable, as the Optima’s body gets jiggled about as the dampers struggle to isolate the movement of the wheels. On motorways the ride is better, but the overly light steering feels at odds with the firmer set-up. Plus, the weight doesn’t change as you enter a corner, so while there’s plenty of grip, it’s not relayed to the driver through the steering.
You can still drive the Kia quickly in plenty of safety, but under normal conditions, if you’ve got passengers on board, they might not be as comfortable as in the Skoda or Volkswagen.
Six airbags are standard, and while the SW hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, the Optima saloon was awarded a hill five-star crash safety rating. Along with a host of other systems, autonomous emergency braking is standard.
With Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty, there’s peace of mind if you intend to keep the car for more than the usual three years, too, while as the coverage package is transferable, it’ll sweeten the deal if you sell the car before the warranty is up.
Running costs 3.3/5
Large estates like these make up a significant part of the company car market, so despite competitive C02 emissions of 120g/km, the purchase price counts against the Kia. As a result the Optima will actually be the most expensive car to run for business users, with higher-rate taxpayers having to cough up £2,932 eveiyyear. This is £231 and£343 more than those choosing the Skoda and VW respectively, with the latter’s lower emissions helping keep costs down.
Kia’s £329 three-year servicing pack is well priced. Its rivals only offer two-service/two-year deals, so the price per check-up on the Optima works out at £110. It might only be a small margin, but the Skoda and WV come out at £140 and £144 respectively.
Estate cars have to offer practicality, which tends to come from a cavernous boot. While the Optima’s 552-litre load bay will be sufficient for day-to-day use, it might not be for a family holiday. It’s down on the Superb’s 660-litre offering, while the 650-litre Passat also serves up more space.
The SW’s cabin is spacious/but this practical side means it earns its spurs as an estate, with big door bins, two large trays in the ccnrre console, a lidded cubby and divided compartments under the boot floor. A sliding panoramic sunroof makes the cabin feel airy.
Details including levers to fold the rear seats remotely make the Optima easy to live with, but its rivals also pack plenty of neat convenience features.
Skoda’s research and development boss has said he’d like to develop a high- performance Kodiaq SUV, but admits that a vRS version hasn’t yet been signed off.
The vRS accounts for around 20 per cent of Octavia sales in the UK, but Skoda has underplayed the performance brand since dropping the Fabia vRS. However, R&D chief Christian Strube has confirmed that a Superb vRS is likely to appear above the Sportline version in the range. He also said he’d like to follow it up with a faster Kodiaq.
“l see more scope for vRS,” said Strube. It’s good for us, because it means we’re selling more high-end cars. vRS is extremely successful and I would like to extend that portfolio to other models.”
“The Octavia vRS is a good brand messenger for 5koda. So now we’re discussing about how to make a vR5 version of the Superb, and I would also like to have a vRS on the Kodiaq. The technical development team Is fighting for this.” However, CO2 targets could put the brakes on the project, “Even if some of the models were faster diesels, they would still emit more than [Skoda’s 95g/km average CO2 target] – so we have to see.”
SKODA’S FAST CAR strategy is under review, as new boss Bernhard Maier seeks to establish how far he can stretch the brand’s appeal and whether he can make top-end vRS models sufficiently profitable to justify the development costs. At present, the Octavia vRS is the only top-end fast model in Skoda’s line-up. Instead, Skoda has focused on developing its Monte Carlo, Laurent & Klement and Sportsline styling packs, which have proved both profitable and popular with buyers.
“Theoretically, there are no barriers to any kinds of derivatives, but it is a question of demand,” said Maier. “We have had a wonderful experience with trim upgrades, so I expect to do them again.” Asked about the recently launched Kodiaq, he added: “I can say now that it will have many emotional directions and we will leverage it in every way possible so as to leave as few people as possible out.”
Although more powerful Kodiaq models than the current 187bhp four-cylinder diesel are expected, there’s no clear indication of whether a vRS derivative will be made. Similarly, despite a Superb vRS model being mooted – with speculation that it and a Kodiaq vRS could be powered by the 296bhp powertrain from the Volkswagen Golf R – there is no certainty that this will happen. Insiders suggest the Superb and Kodiaq remain the most likely models to get vRS variants, because their size means buyers are more willing to pay a premium. However, other reports suggest that Maier is eager to focus R&D money on hybrid and electric powertrain solutions rather than projects that add little sales volume or profit.
The styling of the all-new Skoda Yeti – set to hit UK roads in early 2018 -has been signed off, design chief Jozef Kaban has confirmed to Autocar. Although Kaban wouldn’t be drawn on specifics, he said the Yeti’s current distinctive boxy style wouldn’t be abandoned completely. But he also acknowledged that the Kodiaq, Skoda’s new large SUV, would inform its look. Potential customers are expected to get their first chance to see the new Yeti in mid-2017, ahead of its UK on-sale date in early 2018. “It’s no secret we didn’t build the Kodiaq in isolation, and there are aspects of that car that can look good in every segment,” said Kaban. There was an aspect to the Kodiaq brief that meant we needed to keep in mind that it is a car that is opening the door to a very attractive SUV world. So, of course, it can influence how other SUVs might look.
“I’d say that the next Yeti will look up to its bigger brother, rather than simply being cut from the same cloth. As with any family, the big brother will have influence, but each member of the family will have their own spectacular talents.” Kaban’s comments are thought to reference some of the Kodiaq’s most distinctive design touches, including the front and rear light elements, the front grille design and its front, rear and side profiles. The current Yeti has been on sale in a variety of updated forms since 2009 and has enjoyed increased sales in Europe every year since its launch. However, its sales growth has slowed in the past two years despite the segment booming, peaking at about 65,000 units in Europe – around a quarter of the number achieved by Nissan’s market-leading Oashqai.
The new launch is likely to give Skoda the opportunity to move the Yeti onto the VW Group’s MOB platform, bringing with it economies of scale and greater access to the newest generation of engines and technology. As such, it will be powered by the latest petrol and diesel engines and have some advanced technology options from the Kodiaq, potentially including the option of limited autonomous functions to allow it to drive itself in traffic jams. The switch to the MOB platform also means the new Yeti will sit in the VW Group’s range alongside the Seat Ateca, VW Tiguan and Audi Q3, giving the firm its most convincing SUV line-up for the European market yet.
Those universal Skoda jokes were just starting to fade from the collective consciousness of petrolheads when the Octavia appeared in 1996, as it became apparent how quickly the Czech company had adopted Volkswagen quality control standards. To ram home the point these ‘Volkswagens by another name’ were sold at extremely tempting prices for the high specification and level of finish offered, with the intention of swiftly re-establishing the Skoda marque as a born-again player on the international scene. Continue reading “Skoda Octavia – 1996”