Skoda’s Kodiaq sets the bar for affordable SUVs

The mighty seven-seater will be hated by its rivals as it entices Irish motorists with ease

Make: Skoda

Model: Kodiaq

Year: 2017

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: April 11, 2017

Thu, Apr 20, 2017, 16:39

   

If there’s one thing the new Skoda Kodiaq is going to generate, it’s hatred. Not among the car-buying public – far from it. In fact, one Skoda dealer, allowed to temporarily show off a left-hand drive model in their showroom, described the ensuing crowd as “like the ploughing championships”. Skoda’s bear is generating circus-like publicity for itself.

Which is a bit odd, if you think about it. Okay, so the world, its dog and its dog’s cat have all gone nuts for SUVs, and a growing cadre of family car buyers, having clearly been a bit stuck for something to do in the dull days of recession, are now starting to realise that seven seats is actually a pretty good idea but even so, the excitement levels over a practical Czech-made family car are just off the scale.

Hatred? Well, hatred will come from its rivals, and possibly even a certain amount from in-house supposed allies at Seat and VW. Seat’s own seven-seat SUV is still a year away, and while the seven-seat VW Tiguan Allspace arrives sooner than that, the Skoda has it done up a treat when it comes to price.

As for others, it’s more affordable by far than the Kia Sorento (our current favourite seven-seat SUV), Hyundai Santa Fe, or Land Rover Discovery Sport, and while the Nissan X-Trail is comparably priced, it’s lacking the effusive brand image of the Skoda.

Brand image? Skoda? You betcha. While it may take a while yet for some of the more steadfast among us to abandon our love of Jasper Carrot’s Skoda Joke Book (the heated rear window is for keeping your hands warm when pushing, please, my sides etc…) the fact is that everyone else has emphatically moved on.

Market share

Skoda was the sixth best-selling brand of all last year in Ireland, with a healthy 6½ per cent market share, and it wants to get to eight per cent.

The Octavia is currently out-selling the mighty VW Golf, and is only just behind the Ford Focus in the race to be the best-selling non-SUV car in the country. We have, as a nation, taken Skoda to our hearts (and our wallets) like few others.

Into all of that wades the Kodiaq, its name taken from an Alaskan bear and native tribe. Based on the same boxes of oily bits that makes up the Seat Ateca and VW Tiguan, it’s a tall(ish), bluffly-styled SUV with space for seven (optional) seats and as much as 720 litres of luggage, bikes, bags, shopping, sports kit and whatever you’re having yourself. That’s the figure for the basic five-seat version, but the seven-seat model can stow 660 litres if you fold down the third-row seats.

So, have we got a cut-price Land Rover Discovery on our hands? Well, not quite. Although Skoda makes some impressive boasts about legroom and space, the fact is that room in the third row is suitable only for children you dislike or adults you despise. You can juggle the available space around a little as the middle row slides back and forth, but realistically those boot seats are for short people on short journeys.

The middle row is much, much better. There’s generous headroom, and legroom is extensive to say the least. The seats are firm, but comfortable and Skoda’s resistance to installing a clichéd “coupe-like windowline” in the Kodiaq means there’s a great view out.

It is also width sufficient for the all-important three child car seats abreast, but Skoda seems to have missed a trick by only offering ISOFIX point in the outer two seats. You can have an optional third ISOFIX point in the front passenger seat, but those looking for three in the back will have to wait for the arrival of the Peugeot 5008 in the summer – the Peugeot being probably the Kodiaq’s most serious competition for now.

Up front, again we have firm but comfortable seats, a properly tall-in-the-saddle driving position which will please John Wayne fans no end, and a high-quality cabin with the usual thoughtful touches (umbrellas in the doors, cupholders which allow you to open a bottle one-handed). While quality is high, style is a little low – our max-spec Style test car (which clocked in at a hair over €40,000) had a big eight-inch touchscreen and some fake wood trim to liven things up, but basic models have a rather more plain, utilitarian interior.

Still, standard equipment is good and even a basic €28,795 1.4 TSI 125hp Active five-seater comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, smartphone connectivity, and more.

Petrol model

Skoda reckons a mere 15 per cent of buyers will go for a petrol model (there’s a more powerful 150hp version too) but is trying to educate those, especially in urban areas (hitherto not Skoda’s homeland) that petrol is a better choice, even in a bigger car, for low-mileage drivers.

You’ll need to spend a hefty €35,495 for the cheapest diesel model, a 2.0-litre TDI 150hp with a DSG automatic gearbox, and a manual 4x4 with the same engine is €36,495 – both in the better-equipped Ambition trim. Add €1,000 to the price of any model for the extra seats in the boot. That’s a hefty chunk of money for a car with a Skoda badge, but is it worth it?

For the most part, yes it is. The Kodiaq is delightful to drive, without ever being especially engaging. The steering is light, has zero feel, but points the Kodiaq happily into and through corners. There’s grip to spare, a gentle ride quality and fine refinement.

Adding all that to the space on offer, and the promise a tax rating no higher than Band C, even for the petrol models, and you have a family car package that’s close to ideal. Is it exciting? No. Is it dynamic? Not especially. Is it styled to look like Scarlett Johansson (or Tom Hiddleston, delete as appropriate) on wheels? Not in the slightest. Is it big, roomy, comfy, well made, practical, and good value for money? Definitely.

Skoda reckons it will sell 1,000 Kodiaqs here this year, and that’s a figure slightly restricted by what the Irish operation can get from the factory. 1,500 next year, is the prediction, but seeing as that’s less than half of what Nissan shifts in Qashqais, or Hyundai in Tucsons, it seems like a conservative figure, constrained by how many the factory can churn out.

If the Kodiaq sells in proportion to the publicity it has generated for itself, then we may have to redefine our understanding of a bear market.

The lowdown: Skoda Kodiaq Style 2.0 TDI 150hp 4x4 7-Seater

Price: as tested: €40,395 (Range starts at €28,795)

Power: 150hp.

Torque: 340Nm.

0-100km/h: 9.8sec.

Top speed: 195km/h

Claimed economy 54.1mpg (5.4-l/100km)

CO2 emissions: 142g/km

Motor tax: €390 per annum

Verdict: However good you think the Kodiaq is, it’s just that little bit better.

Our rating: 4/5