Skoda Kodiaq

Czech this: a seven-seat SUV that’s more than bearable

MIKE DUFF

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

TWO telling details stood out on the launch of the Skoda Kodiaq.

The first was the presentation where Skoda execs introduced us to the company’s new SUV, where we got the full run-down on connectivity, active safety systems, design and the three-row seating before even passing mention was made of powertrain or chassis. The second came when we got to drive it, with the test routes on the Spanish island of Majorca not including any off-roading. On the basis of those two facts alone, you’ve probably worked out that this isn’t the sort of expedition-grade offroader you choose for a trip into the wilderness.

Skoda is definitely pitching the Kodiaq at the lifestyle market, and it’s fair to see it as a bigger alternative for the Volkswagen Tiguan – size-wise it pretty much splits the difference between that car and the Touareg.

The Kodiaq is another stirring of the pot that is VW Group’s MQB product matrix, but with the neat USP of a pop-up third-row of seats. This will be optional in most markets, but standard in Australia. We won’t get any of the smaller-capacity engines or the option of front-drive, all cars coming here having either 2.0 petrol or turbo-diesel donks, all-wheel drive and the familiar seven-speed DSG dual-clutcher.

The third row delivers as expected, stowing neatly under the boot floor when not in use and then popping easily into place.

The base of the second row slides, but even moved fully forward, access to the back is a scramble.

The rest of the cabin impresses with strong design and toughfeeling materials. There are plenty of neat touches; the Kodiaq has umbrellas that can pop out of the front doors (as in the Superb), and the new haptic touchscreen of the range-topping Columbus entertainment and navigation system is excellent.

Dynamically, the Kodiaq has clearly been engineered to satisfy rather than excite.

Skoda’s engineers prioritised ride comfort and refinement; the selectable dynamic modes include Sport, but even when fully dialled up it’s more ‘lawn bowls’ than ‘slalom skiing’. The cars we drove on launch all had adaptive dampers, which remained impressively pliant even in their firmest mode and stayed composed when fully softened off.

Road and engine noise is very well contained, with only some slight wind-whisper from the tops of the doors standing out for (mild) criticism.

Although it controls its mass well, the Kodiaq feels heavy and slightly ponderous when asked to tackle a twisty road at speed. For the most part, it’s simple physics – the Aussie-spec TSI weighs 1738kg on Skoda’s figures, and the TDI is 1795kg – and although the chassis does a decent job at keeping everything in control, it never feels enthusiastic for faster progress, with feel-free electric power steering limiting faith in the front-end.

Even with Australia getting currently the most powerful engine variants, performance is only adequate, the 132kW TSI delivering the strange sensation of a hot-hatch soundtrack with a much slower rate of acceleration.

The 140kW diesel has noticeably more torque, but sounds much coarser when worked hard.

Australian sales of the Kodiaq start in the middle of this year.

We’ll only have the TSI available from launch, with the official hope being that the TDI will join the line-up within a year.

On first impressions it’s a fine all-rounder rather than the sort of car to set pulses racing, but it definitely ticks plenty of boxes.

PLUS & MINUS

Weight blunts dynamic prowess; lack of steering feel; access to third row Seven-seater within compact body; on-road composure; user-friendliness Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Skoda Kodiaq 2.0TSI 4X4 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 132kW @ 3900-6000rpm 320Nm @ 1400-3940rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1738kg 8.2sec (claimed) 7.3L/100km (EU) $45,000 (estimated) Mid-2017

Calling all SUVs

Skoda Australia’s sales may have increased year on year, but a tally of less than 5000 in 2015 still puts the brand low in the overall rankings in this country. The arrival of the Kodiaq is seen as pivotal to a stronger result in 2017, given it sits in a segment showing decent growth.

Currently, Skoda’s only offering in the SUV category is the Yeti, now very long in the tooth and too quirky for mainstream acceptance.

Its replacement is due to be revealed next year, but won’t be in Oz until 2018.

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