First drive: Skoda Kodiaq
Skoda can look back on excellent growth figures for 2016. But VW’s Czech subsidiary is still hungry for more… like a bear. An Alaskan bear called Kodiaq, to be precise. With this brand new 7-seater SUV, the brand ventures into a fertile territory that is now populated with Hyundai Santa Fes, Mitsubishi Outlanders and Nissan X-Trails. Should they be scared?
Not many will disagree when you say that this 4,7 metre long cross-over from Skoda is a real looker. Some even see certain Audi design cues – arguably, there are less favourable references to be made. The front carries the brand typical radiator grill, which as an optional extra is hugged by crystal clear LED headlights. It inspires quality – a visual impression that is confirmed as soon as you open the driver door. There is no doubt: this is a VW product, illustrated by the excellent fit & finish and solid materials.
Compared to the Tiguan it is derived from, its 20 cm extra length translates into an airy cabin and the possibility to have 2 extra seats in the back. The driving position is flawless, regardless of your height. Within seconds, you feel at ease, not least thanks to the great ergonomics and the supportive seats. The new sat nav system immediately catches the eye, with its hi-res Google Earth/Street View functionality. This is clearly where a lot of the development budget went.
Big bear roaming Mallorca
We were invited to get behind the wheel of the Kodiaq on the isle of Mallorca, where Skoda organised its international press presentation. Our test car was a top-of-the-line 190 hp 2-litre TDI with all-wheel drive and automatic DSG transmission. This four-cylinder diesel has a remarkably civilized heartbeat in the Czech bear’s chest, but doesn’t immediately give the oomph you would expect from 190 hp. The Kodiaq is no lightweight champ, that’s for sure.
Its relatively heavy constitution is good news for the ride comfort, though. It is hardly ever bothered by bumps in the road, while it corners neutrally and with great confidence. Bottom line: this is exactly how you would expect a family SUV to drive. Compared to its (mainly Asian) rivals, the Kodiaq is the better handling car, while its quick-shifting 7-speed DSG is probably the best automatic transmission you can get in this segment.
Brown bear, or green bear?
With 150 grams of CO2, our 190 hp 2.0TDI 4x4 DSG is an apt pupil in ecology. At 131 g/km, the front-wheel drive 2.0 TDI 150 with DSG transmission is probably the car that will enter most car policies and suit most profiles. Those who prefer petrol can choose between 5 models, ranging from the frugal 1.4 TSI which puts 125 hp on the front wheels and emits 140 g/km, all the way through to the 180 hp 2.0 TSI with all-wheel drive and DSG (168 g/km).
That makes the Kodiaq a relatively green car for its size, even though its real-life fuel consumption could deviate substantially from the NEDC figures when fully loaded or put through its paces. We should not hope for a plug-in hybrid any time soon, and Skoda has no plans of offering a CNG model either. This SUV probably won’t need it to be successful – at least not in the short run.
Top notch connectivity
The Skoda Kodiaq offers a choice of four new infotainment systems, which can all pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth or the SmartLink interface. The latter enables you to integrate certain phone apps into the car’s centre display unit using Apple Carplay, Android Auto or MirrorLink. The top-of-the-line Columbus infotainment system offers an 8-inch hi-res touch screen, 64Gb of storage, DVD playback and an optional LTE module for fast internet.
The brand new Skoda Connect system consists of three service packages, enabling features like remote access, emergency call and connected navigation using real-time traffic information. The Columbus system is available with a Google Earth service, integrating the route in Google’s topographic view, and with Google Street View, which shows the destination ‘at street level’. These services are included for one year after purchase, after which you have to pay a subscription.
Very protective of its family
The Kodiaq wants to offer value for money in all areas, including safety. Front Assist, a type of AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) at low speed, comes as standard. It can recognize pedestrians and obstacles up to 34kph, warning the driving for imminent danger and if necessarily grinding the car to a halt if the person behind the wheel does not react. This feature will positively influence the insurance premium of the Kodiaq, which aims at 5 EuroNCAP stars.
The usual suspects – lane departure warning, blind spot detection, et cetera – are extra. So are the more advanced safety systems that are now starting to trickle down from the higher vehicle segments, such as active cruise control. The latter keeps a safe distance to the preceding vehicle while cruising, whereas the active lane keeping assist steers the car back to the centre of the lane when it starts to drift to the left or the right. The optional traffic jam assist makes driving in stop and go traffic not only safer, but also incredibly comfortable and stress-free.
Skoda wants to sell 1.5 million units in the near future and relies on the Kodiaq to get there as soon as possible. Based on the forecast figures produced by various consultancies, this new kid on the block should be worth between 46 and 59 % of its list price after 3 years and 90,000 km (2.0 TDI 150hp), depending on the market. That translates into competitive lease rates. The pop-out door protection rubbers – one of the Kodiaq’s 30 ‘simply clever’ solutions – help avoid end of contract damage, while the standard Front Assist is likely to convince insurers to apply an attractive premium. Add to that a class-leading interior and boot space and there is little doubt that the Kodiaq will give its rivals a run for their money.