► New Skoda Kodiaq SUV tested
► Offered with up to seven seats
► First deliveries in April 2017
Desirable, seven seat, compact(ish) SUVs are thinner on the ground than Prince William’s hairline: only the Discovery Sport properly qualifies. But now there’s another candidate – in the form of the newly launched Skoda Kodiaq SUV.
It’s the sister off-roader to the Volkswagen Tiguan and Seat Ateca but, unlike them, is available as a seven-seater (and as a five-seater, with prices starting at £21,495). There are three petrol and three diesel options, plus two- or all-wheel drive: we drove the mid-ranking diesel, a 148bhp 2.0-litre in posh Edition trim, with power transmitted to all four wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
How’s the drivetrain: grizzly diesel, all-wheel-drive traction?
The smooth diesel engine revs willingly, delivering adequate mid-range punch and spinning past a lofty 5000rpm, though peak power is summoned from 3500-4000rpm.
That said, this 150PS Kodiaq only just nudges beneath 10secs in the race from nought to 62mph; you need the 180PS petrol or 190PS diesel to unlock sprightly performance. Dual-clutch automatic transmissions can be specified for an extra £1300; if you like swapping cogs you’ll like the six-speed manual, thanks to its springy, precise action.
All-wheel drive is widely available. The electronically controlled system continuously calculates how much of the 295lb ft of peak torque is sent to the rear axle via a multi-plate clutch. To save fuel, the Kodiaq will decouple rear axle drive when it’s cruising along. There’s also an off-road button, which moderates the power delivery and stability systems to aid progress on muddy or slippery surfaces; Hill Descent Control braking helps keep downhill runs controlled.
Is ride and handling bearable?
The Kodiaq is based on VW Group’s MQB architecture, spanning Golf, Passat and Tiguan and hatch, saloon and SUV siblings at other brands. The Skoda’s body is suspended by MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear axle, and the test car featured adaptive damping (£980 Dynamic Chassis Control).
In normal mode, the ride is like well-cooked penne: firm but not teeth-shattering. The body is well controlled, cornering is pretty flat, and you can introduce a more relaxed gait by selecting comfort mode. It’s not quite up there with the Superb’s splendid comfort and composure, but the Kodiaq is more settled than Land Rover’s stiff Discovery Sport.
However, the Skoda’s steering feels more suitable for a city car than an SUV – it’s disappointingly light and artificial. Sure, drivers won’t want to strong-arm their SUV down the school run, but this lightness doesn’t key you into the road and breed confidence that you know exactly where the wheels are pointing.
Use Drive Mode Select to engage sport steering (which DCC allows you to couple with comfort or normal damping) and the rack feels less flighty, but it’s the Kodiaq’s one weak spot: hopefully the standard, steel-sprung chassis will turn with more conviction. Wind and road noise are on par for the SUV segment.
A case of simple bare necessities inside?
The £21,495 base S model includes 17-inch alloys, air-con, a multifunction steering wheel and SmartLink to mirror your Apple or Android phone functions. Skip past SE to likely best-seller SE L (from £28,795), to snaffle 19-inch wheels, powered tailgate, full LED headlamps, Drive Mode Select, heated front Alcantara-trimmed seats and navigation including Google Street View, plus real-time parking and traffic info.
SE L includes the impressive capacitive central touchscreen (also standard on SE too), which eliminates hard keys or virtual switches on the glass fascia, and can relay a beautifully clear nav map or pictures from the rear view camera (£500).
Indeed, if you delve into the options list, you’ll find the Kodiaq deals more in opulent luxuries than bare necessities. Self-parking, automated trailer reversing, a £1350 Vision Pack including lane monitoring, blind spot warning, automatic high beam lamps and auto dimming mirrors; you can even close an open tailgate with a wiggle of your foot.
But it’s the standard stuff designed to make your life easier that’s so likeable about the Kodiaq. Plastic protectors unfold to save door edges from scuffs, a trick learned from Ford, while the detachable parcel shelf stows beneath the boot floor and there are emergency umbrellas hidden in door recesses.
And the occupant space is brilliantly optimised. The wheelbase is longer than a Discovery Sport’s, which makes the aperture for getting into the third row of seats a bit less Sandhurst assault course. And it gives the third row brigade a little more room, especially if the 60:40 second row slides forward, all the while barely compromising their bounteous space. Fold away all but the front row of seats, and you’ll be able to slide in 2065 litres of luggage.
The Kodiaq is the customary less-is-more Skoda proposition: Volkswagen engineering and quality but at a price three-to-four figures less, coupled with more space, more seats and more standard equipment. It’s comfy, capable and compelling – and for its customers, family life on the road is about to get a lot more bearable.
Read more Skoda reviews