The Skoda Kodiaq seven-seat crossover has arrived in Australia, designed to attract a whole new group of buyers to the brand.
As a key member of the Volkswagen Group, Skoda is growing across Europe and Asia, and new vehicles such as the Kodiaq will maintain its momentum.
We've already compared the Skoda to Mazda's bigger CX-9 and found it an appealing proposition, albeit one suited to five occupants with occasional use of the third row for kids.
Additionally, Skoda's famous clever packaging techniques and utilitarian bent make it the perfect brand to branch out into the large SUV segment.
As you can read in more detail here, the Kodiaq comes in only one variation for now, with all-wheel drive as standard, priced at $42,990 before on-road costs.
Standard is an 8.0-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, rear-view camera, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive LED headlights.
There's also Alcantara (suede) seat inserts, LED interior lighting, a proximity sensor in the key fob, an electric tailgate, 19-inch wheels and radar-guided cruise control that mirrors the speed of the car ahead automatically. Impressive.
Our test car had the optional Launch Pack that adds $5900 to the sticker price in exchange for more equipment.
What equipment, you ask? Adjustable dampers, lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, a 10-speaker audio system by Canton, a 360-degree overhead camera, auto park assist, a foot-operated tailgate, an off-road driving mode, traffic jam assist, emergency call-out assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and auto-folding side mirrors.
This massive pack is a limited-time offer, however it partially combines the permanent Tech and Luxury packs that cost $2500 and $4900 respectively, which you can buy in perpetuity.
The cabin has a typically VW Group elegant layout, modern touchscreen that swipes like an iPhone, tactile materials on most contact points, generally solid build quality and signature felt-lined door pockets front and rear.
We also dig the steel kick-plates, clear instruments with a digital speedo, signature bright green lighting, and various digital off-road and environment-focused sub-menus for the tech-fans among us. That optional 360-degree overhead camera dramatically eases parking too.
Downsides? As we found in the Mazda comparison, the lack of electric seat adjustment, the strange glossy fake wood finish on the top-tier glovebox, and the hard plastics on the door handles and flanking the ventilation controls.
The Kodiaq's cabin also has a ton of incredibly clever features such as umbrellas fitted inside both front doors, sliding drawers under the front seats, two gloveboxes, a removable console insert and little rubbery plastic bits that deploy when you open the doors and protect you from dinging other cars in car parks. Note: the doors feel a little odd to open at first go.
The Skoda’s middle row slides on rails by up to 18cm fore or aft, and reclines a few degrees via a fabric loop situated by your thigh. Rear occupants sit high, yet have good legroom, headroom and toe-room, and decent outward visibility through the rectangular windows.
Beyond just the rear vents are other amenities including auto-up/down windows, a 12V socket, tablet holders, pull-up sun blinds, LED reading lights, jacket hooks on the B-pillars and a flip-down armrest with cupholders.
There are also ISOFIX points on the outboard seats and three child-seat anchorages behind the middle row, which folds on a 40:20:40 basis. The only real downside is the cheap-looking exposed ISOFIX anchors with easy-to-fray fabric edges.
The Kodiaq is the textbook definition of a ‘5+2 seater’, with space back there most suitable for kids. This is unless you slide the middle-row well forward to liberate legroom, but inconveniencing whoever’s in this second row.
With all three rows in use there's still 270 litres of cargo space, which exceeds the much longer CX-9's figure. This expands to 630L with the third-row folded, and 2005L with the middle row flat too.
The Skoda also offers an automatic tailgate that raises very high, clever levers in the rear cargo area to de-couple and scrunch the middle seat row, an under-floor storage area for the removable sliding cargo blind and even a LED torch stashed in the side of the storage area. Typical.
There are also side-mounted storage tubs, bag hooks and a 12V socket, though on the downside the Kodiaq makes do with a temporary, space-saver spare wheel.
Under the bonnet, the Kodiaq has the same 132TSI 2.0-litre engine as the Volkswagen Passat, making 132kW of power from 3900rpm and 320Nm of torque between 1400 and 4000rpm. The 0-100km/h claim is 8.2 seconds.
The factory fuel claim is 7.6L/100km using premium, though on our testing we returned a more representative figure of 8.4L/100km.
Matched as standard is a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch auto (the brand’s first car with this particular DSG ’box), and a stop-start that turns the car off in gridlock and restarts when you lift-off the brake or touch the throttle.
The Skoda also has a nifty feature that works when you put the car into its Eco mode. As soon as the driver takes their foot off the accelerator at a speed above 20 km/h, drive is disengaged, meaning the Kodiaq is coasting only.
Also standard is an on-demand AWD system that sends torque to the rear axles when sensors detect the front tyres scrabbling for traction on loose surfaces. This also helps with fast getaways on tarmac, particularly when it’s wet.
Skoda’s system predominately sends torque to the front wheels until the sensors tell the control unit otherwise. Torque is shuffled rearward at a constantly recalculated ratio via an output shaft, electronically controlled clutch and rear differential.
We tackled some modest gravel trails with corrugations and found it the typical soft-roader. It'll handle a snow run without fuss. Also, the Off Road mode on our test car takes the standard 4×4 system with hill-descent control and further adjusts the throttle response and shift points to suit slippery surfaces.
The engine gives excellent rolling response thanks to the strong mid-range, and the Skoda's weight, which is about 200kg lighter than a CX-9, for context. The Kodiaq’s engine is stronger down low than the average non-turbo V6, helping fuel use and making it a more relaxing drive.
However, the drivetrain needs more careful throttle modulation around town due to the innate characteristics of its DSG, which is great at fast-shifting but suits a more measured driving style around town.
Note: a 140TDI diesel Kodiaq will go on sale later in the year.
Dynamically the Kodiaq feels nimble for the class, with direct steering, tied-down body control and an excellent chassis. The various driving modes can adjust the steering weight and throttle response, plus damper settings with the Launch Pack.
Yet even in the car’s softest mode, the standard 19-inch wheels on slim tyres – which, we accept, look sensational – mean the Skoda feels a little more unsettled over sharp hits than the Mazda, and lets a little more road noise into the cabin. It feels a little unsettled. The price you pay for style...
From an ownership perspective, the Kodiaq gets a five-year and unlimited kilometre warranty (second only to Kia) and three years or 45,000km of servicing coverage (that’s three visits at the recommended intervals) costing a total of $1399 across the term, which is cheaper than some Japanese brands. Conquest away, Skoda...
That slightly terse ride and limited third seating row aside – the latter of which still exceeds rivals such as the Honda CR-V – the Kodiaq represents clever buying.
We'd be inclined to splash out on some of the options, though this pushes the Skoda close to that psychological $50k mark.
Perhaps, then, you're best avoiding this strategy and buying the Kodiaq as-is, giving you a $46k drive-away European family SUV with style and good ownership coverage, that'll stand out in any car park or driveway by virtue of scarcity.
Skoda doesn't want to be a fringe player here anymore, and the Kodiaq has the attributes to take sales away from the Japanese and Korean top-sellers. Go take a drive.
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