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
Price: £ 32,695
Engine: 4cyls, 1968cc, diesel
Power: 148bhp at 3500rpm
Torque: 251lb ft at 1750-3000rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1676kg
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