► Skoda product plans outed
► New small SUV follows Yeti
► Plus EVs, facelifts and more
Thought the Czechs had cocked up by binning the bijou and brilliant Skoda Yeti? So did we. But it turns out they're planning to replace the characterful small SUV with a replacement in 2019, as part of a new product offensive.
In the wake of the VW dieselgate emissions scandal, Skoda is being forced to reappraise its product portfolio like never before.
Eight new products will be launched between now and 2020, as the company fights to retain its strong market position. With electrificiation, the rise of crossovers and other external factors changing the new-car market like never before, this is no time to rest on your laurels (or your Laurins & Klements).
Here's what Skoda is planning in its new-car strategy 2018-19.
1) A new Skoda Yeti baby SUV
First up is the Czechs' answer to the Seat Arona and VW T-Roc. Yes, it's a one-size-fits-all approach to baby crossovers nowadays at the Volkswagen group, and Skoda's not about to miss out.
The so-called B-SUV (industry shorthand for a small crossover) will be based on the group's small-car architecture, so will share many of the components, electrical architecture and downsized engines from the Arona/T-Roc.
The styling will be brand-generic, rather than quirky this time. Word is, the Skoda version will sport another K-q name to echo the Kodiaq and Karoq. The Yeti name will not make a reappearance, as the quirky Mk1 didn't sell well globally.
2) Electric Skoda is coming in 2020
In line with Volkswagen's acceleration of the electric vehicle (EV) programme, Skoda will join the battery car club before too long.
In 2020, it will launch a production version of the Vision E concept (pictured above) - more of a crosover coupe than a traditional saloon car. A fastback rear end will give the Vision E (production name unknown) a dramatic profile and great practicality, while that futuristic front end will see it into production largely unchanged, marking a distinctive, light-heavy front graphic.
Powered by the VW group's MEB electric architecture, it'll have a range of at least 300 miles.
Expect conductive charging for cable-free battery top-ups and an emphasis on high power, with a 225kW output mooted. That's enough for a top speed of 112mph.
The still-nameless Vision E will also introduce Skoda’s most autonomous driver assistance systems yet. Expect it to drive itself on motorways at speeds of up to 80mph and in traffic jams - it’ll qualify as a Level 3 driverless car.
3) The Skoda Karoq midi-SUV
No great news, this. We've already seen the first official photographs and - indeed - already driven the prototype.
The Karoq is a Tiguan in Czech national dress (ie a shrunken, scaled-down Kodiaq).
4) and 5) Facelifted Fabias and Superbs
In summer 2018, the evergreen Fabia range will be facelifted with spangly new headlamps and a more progressive, distinctly contoured grille - what we can expect to become a signature face for the brand. Estate and hatchback family members will be spruced-up simultaneously.
A similar refresh will be rolled out to the Superb family in early 2019: new nose, more chrome and revitalised engines will all feature, while the company's first PHEV plug-in (with an electric range of 40-50 miles) is also destined to arrive with the facelift.
Further plug-ins will spread across the range; CAR understands a top-down roll-out is planned, so expect the Kodiaq and other largers Skodas to get PHEVs first - their higher purchase price is handy to mask the increased cost of batteries and electric control systems.
6) All-new, more mainstream Rapid Spaceback
This is a major shift: the bit-part Rapid will transform into an A3 Sportback-style family hatch in 2019. It's promising to be much more mainstream and adds style to the previous utility focus.
Based on the group’s latest MQB A0 platform, it’ll bring the latest connectivity and engine tech to the Rapid for the first time. Insiders who’ve seen the car refer to something with a hearty dose more appeal than today’s insipid effort. Mind you, the Rapid remains the brand’s second biggest seller globally.
This new 2019 Rapid also heralds a new approach to interior design, with a much more modern, crisper cabin style due to roll out, with floating touchscreen and more upmarket materials.
This will signal a new interior design direction for all Skodas moving forwards.
7) New Skoda Kodiaq vRS due autumn 2018
Skoda doesn’t plan to drop its go-faster vRS models any time soon. Proof will come next autumn, when the Czechs plan to unveil a new performance derivative of the Kodiaq crossover.
It’ll follow the template of the Octavia vRS, with bigger alloy wheels and a subtle but more menacing bodykit with plenty of blacked-out chromework and a full-width rear reflector. No word yet on which engines will be offered, but we’d predict that a powerful (twin?) turbodiesel will be the most popular offering.
Expect to see the Kodiaq vRS at the 2018 Paris motor show before UK sales that autumn.
The Kodiaq continues to sell well for the Czech car maker; it’s sold 27,000 since sales began in February 2017.
8) The next Octavia: waiting in the wings for 2020
Last but not least is the next Octavia, confirmed for a 2020 launch. It'll leapfrog the current look and embrace the new Skoda look more fully - likely with a suite of electrified options and the latest autonomous capabilities, too.
It's a brave new decade: petrol and diesel will still predominate, but battery-powered Skodas will become more and more prevalent. And product planners reckon that 40% - forty percent! - of all Skoda's output will be SUVs or crossovers, meaning cars like the Octavia will be increasingly sidelined as buyers flock to taller, bigger, more rugged models.
This is one market trend showing no signs of abating just yet...
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