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Car reviews - Skoda - Kodiaq - 132TSI 4x4

Our Opinion

We like
Packaging and value for money, comfortable ride, sporty handling, cabin noise levels, an alternative to the usual suspects
Room for improvement
No third-row air vents, harder to get to third row than larger SUVs, blind spot warning an option only

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Skoda logo31 May 2017

SKODA’S transformation from a slightly oddball Czech car-maker to a sophisticated European brand offering sleek, value-packed cars, is still in process.

It is slowly shedding the niche models – the tall-boy Roomster is long gone and production of the Yeti ends next month – and has instead shifted focus, somewhat belatedly, to the thriving SUV segment.

Its first offering as part of this renewed focus is the Kodiaq. It is a seven-seater that straddles the mid-size and large SUV segments.

Just a handful of mid-size SUVs offer a third row – Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander and the imminent Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan Allspace – but there are a bunch in the large segment that could also pass as rivals.

Skoda has just one petrol-powered variant available from launch, but a diesel is coming before the end of the year.

It is called the 4x4 132TSI and it costs $42,990 before on-road costs. In terms of the mid-size rivals, it’s a few grand more than the CR-V and X-Trail, but slightly less than the Outlander.

But Skoda being Skoda, the Kodiaq is packed with a serious amount of standard goodies, including some impressive standard safety gear. Think autonomous emergency braking, fatigue detection, nine airbags, Passenger Protect Assist, adaptive cruise control, multi-collision braking and electronically activated child safety lock for the rear doors to name a few.

The Czech brand has also kept things simple when it comes to options. It has bundled a whole bunch of goodies into two options packages – three if you count the Launch Pack but it won’t last long – including the $2500 Tech Pack and the $4900 Luxury Pack.

One of these packs is probably sufficient but if you want all the goodies, knock yourself out.

The options packs do highlight an omission or two from the standard gear list.

We think that blind spot detection should be standard. It can’t be that expensive to include the system and it is offered as standard on cars that are a lot cheaper than the Kodiaq.

Also, electrically adjustable seats are included as part of the Luxury Pack. A $43,000 European car should probably have power-operated seats as standard.

Aside from that, however, there are few complaints when it comes to the packaging.

The Kodiaq has a bold exterior design with sharp creases and interesting lines.

It will certainly attract attention and the overall look should help it stand out from the conservative SUV crowd.

Our test car was in Skoda’s Lava Blue hue which is a stunning colour in the metal.

Inside, it is immediately clear you are in a Volkswagen Group product. The dash design and layout is clean and functional, with soft touch surfaces on the top of the dash and an unusual faux woodgrain panel covering the second upper glovebox.

Being a Skoda, the Kodiaq is fitted with a number of neat storage solutions and other quirks.

There is the familiar umbrella in the door to make sure you stay dry at all times, the dual gloveboxes, loads of small storage compartments, some quite handy under-seat storage for both of the front seats, an LED torch in the cargo area, a pair of tablet holders for second-row passengers, a parking ticket holder and not one but three nets in the cargo area.

‘Simply Clever’ is the company’s marketing tagline and it seems to ring true.

The flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel is lovely to hold, as is the stubby little gear selector. There are no paddle shifters, but we did not miss them.

The second row offers loads of leg, head, knee and toe room and the seats are surprisingly supportive. They also have a fabulous pattern that adds to the overall appeal of the cabin.

Getting in and out of the third row is not as easy as it is in larger seven-seat SUVs, particularly the likes of the excellent Mazda CX-9.

Folding the second row to gain access to the third took a couple of attempts to understand but was then straightforward.

Once back there, there is an appropriate amount of room for a child, but unlike some of its larger rivals, you wouldn’t want to be back there for too long if you are an adult.

There are a number of storage compartments in the third row, but there are no air vents and the curtain airbags do not stretch that far back.

Perhaps the Kodiaq is more for people who need to use the third row occasionally, or for families who want to split their three offspring between two rows to avoid conflict. But if you need all seven seats all the time, maybe shop it against a larger SUV.

The cargo capacity with all rows in place is just 270 litres and it does not feel like a lot when you place two small bags in there. Interestingly, that figure is better than the CX-9, which can only stow 230L with the three rows up.

The Skoda’s 132kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is a solid unit and while its zero to 100km/h dash time of 8.2 seconds won’t break any records, it offers more than adequate acceleration from a standing start.

Overtaking was not as brisk as we hoped and the Kodiaq does lose some power on steeper inclines, so the incoming 140kW/400Nm turbo-diesel arriving later this year could be a better pick for some buyers.

The Kodiaq’s handling performance was something of a surprise, holding its nerve beautifully through sweeping bends and even sharper corners.

This was helped by Skoda’s four-wheel drive system that kept the Kodiaq stuck to the road, maintaining its composure over loose surfaces with no skipping and no loss of traction despite the terrible regional NSW roads.

If anything, it feels slightly more top heavy than its excellent VW Tiguan cousin in terms of bodyroll but it certainly does not negatively impact the drive experience.

Ride quality was at its best in Comfort mode which is part of the Adaptive Chassis Control with Drive Mode Selection that is offered in the $2500 Tech Pack. Sport mode dialled the stiffness up a little and in the end, wasn’t really necessary.

Skoda sent us briefly off-road to test the abilities of the Kodiaq, and it handled the rocky, rough terrain surprisingly well.

The hill descent control did its job well and despite some terrain that looked like it would undo the Kodiaq, we got to the bottom of the hill without getting bogged. Not that many buyers will use the function but there is some comfort knowing it is there and can be used in a sticky situation.

The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission lacked the lag of other units and offered smooth changes, although it holds gears longer than expected with the foot firmly to the floor.

The sharp handling and relatively resolved ride comfort is matched by nicely weighted and direct steering.

Yet another pleasant surprise is how well insulated the cabin is. Skoda engineers have done a fine job keeping all sorts of noise out, even on coarse bitumen. It is a beautifully quiet space, and might even be the class leader on that front.

The Kodiaq is entering a hot segment and while most buyers tend to favour the usual mainstream suspects, anyone who ventures beyond the Japanese and Korean favourites is in for a real surprise.

In the Kodiaq, Skoda has a genuine alternative for the segment, offering a refined, classy package with loads of standard kit, strong value for money, a useable third row, reasonable running costs and a thoroughly enjoyable drive experience.

If the Kodiaq doesn’t truly put Skoda on the map in Australia, we are not sure what will.

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