Once a secondary concern in cars, infotainment is high on the list of priorities for modern new-car buyers. As a part of the ‘yuge’ Volkswagen Group, the Skoda team had a pretty handy parts bin from which to pick tech when designing the Kodiaq.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear our 2018 Skoda Kodiaq 132TSI Sportline comes close to nailing the infotainment puzzle, albeit with a few minor hiccups.
Central to the system is a 9.2-inch touchscreen integrated into the dashboard, complete with capacitive shortcut buttons on its left-hand side and proper climate controls below. The steering wheel has controls for audio and the in-dash display, while cruise control is handled by a stalk on the left side of the steering column.
There’s one thing missing, though: the volume dial. Please stop trying to replace volume controls with buttons, car manufacturers. We don’t want to be knobs about it, but knobs are just better…
Anyway, we digress. That 9.2-inch touchscreen is the nerve centre of everything you’ll do in the car. We’ll start off with the navigation system, which is typically Volkswagen Group: generally very effective, with a simple, easy-to-use design. It even has gesture control, allowing you to air-swipe through menus and between radio stations.
To be honest, most of the gesture-based controls are a gimmick, but the system recognises when you’re about to prod and makes frequently used icons larger, which is a novel way to cut down on driver distraction. I like it, for what it’s worth.
The inbuilt navigation misses out on live traffic updates, which is a bit of a shame, but the general mapping and route selection are on par with rival systems.
If you’re after the best navigation, Google Maps is still the gold standard – great news if you have an Android, given the car has Android Auto. It’s less great if you’re an iPhone user, given CarPlay only offers Apple Maps. Waze and Google Maps will be added to CarPlay later this year, which is great news.
There are a few things about the way CarPlay and Android Auto operate that rankle in the Skoda. Once you’ve decided you want to use the system, you’re completely locked in. Every time you connect your device to the single USB port after that initial decision, it’s CarPlay or bust.
I tried to forget the Skoda on my phone, tried fiddling around in the settings of the car, and tried praying to the gods of touchscreen technology, but the only way to allow my iPhone 6S to work as a regular media device was a full factory reset on the car’s infotainment. How hard would it be to have a pop-up message asking ‘do you want to use CarPlay?’ when a phone is plugged in?
Oh, and my phone is one of very few the car will recognise for Apple CarPlay. Kez Casey, Mandy Turner and my non-work friends have all tried and failed to take advantage of smartphone mirroring, only for the system to repeatedly freeze up. James Wong and Mike Costello, on the other hand, had no troubles. Weird.
Beyond the smartphone niggles, the Skoda system is perfectly functional. It’s quick to respond to your touch, rarely requires a second prod and is logically laid out. The optional Canton stereo is good, with strong bass and a nice, clear sound, while there’s a multitude of readouts on offer on the trip computer screen. Current speed will do me, thanks.
There’s one more niggle to address here. I might just be a weirdo, but I find modern displays and instruments way too bright for comfortable driving at night. It’s bearable in the city, where there’s enough ambient lighting to distract from their glow, but it’s tiring on dark country highways.
Most instrument binnacles can be dimmed using buttons or a dial next to the steering wheel, but Skoda buries the option deep within the touchscreen. It took a tech-savvy passenger five minutes of menu-diving to work out how to dim the screen and instruments, which is just ridiculous.
Phew, feels better to have that off my chest. Minor gripes aside, the technology in the Kodiaq looks slick, and offers all the functionality you could possibly need. Oh, and you can change the LED lighting colour. Just to reiterate, blue is best.