Over the weekend I flew to Canberra. I decided last minute I was going to get a hire car so I walked into Hertz and said “give me a Skoda.” They had a rather bland white Kodiaq for me so of course I said, “I’ll take it!”.
I figured after two days and over 300km of driving in and around Canberra on a vast array of road types I’m pretty well equipped to give my thoughts on my experience so here goes.
The first thing I noticed was that they do look quite bland in white. Their design doesn’t look as sophisticated in white as other cars do, but it still had a premium look to it, although a nice black or dark grey would look a lot better on these. The large gaps above the wheels does make them look a little awkward and as with a lot of Skoda wheels lately I’m not a fan of the design.
Walking up to the car with key in pocket I put my hand inside the door handle like I was going to pull on it and bam, car was unlocked, no stupid gestures on the outside of the handle or rubber buttons. Just grab the touch sensitive handle like you would to open it. To lock you just touch the outside of the handle and if you keep holding your finger there it will also wind up any windows and close sunroofs if fitted. Whilst doing so the large obvious blinker in the front headlight units (that doubles as the DRL) and mirrors flash and the mirrors fold in out of the way and become flush with the outer extremities of the car which is great.
Jump inside in the dark and you’ll notice each door is fitted with a long LED strip from front to back which at the time was red in colour and on further investigation you can change the colour with a lot of options. In this menu you can also turn them on or off along with the footwell lamps that give the car an air of class. Turn on the ignition by pressing the rather cheaply placed on/off switch (where they key normally would go) and the dash lights up and the ridiculously wonderful LED headlights light up.
I just could not stop talking about how great these lights were. They had a very wide angle and were extremely bright, turning the LED fog lights on only made this angle wider and the LED high beam were also very very good. Great to see a car with a full complement of forward facing LED’s and not LED headlights and the rest halogen. My only gripe with the lights is something I’ve found with a lot of LED and HID headlights and that they cut off a tiny bit to low with no adjustment forcing you to use the high beam a lot more on dark roads. Auto high beam would make this a lot easier.
First I was looking for a cup holder... hello cup holder? Surely it has one right? All I could find next to me was a shelf in a box. I later realised when you turned this upside down it had cup holders and other hidey holes in it for keys and cards and so on. As ‘simply clever’ as it was I found it a bit cheap to be honest. When putting a bottle of coke in it it would ever so gently touch the sides of the drink holder so that when you went to pull the bottle of coke out the whole drink holder unit would lift up then fall down again as it separated from the bottle.
The dashboard is nicely laid out and typically premium looking as always with Skoda. The 8” screen is very clear and a decent size with excellent touch sensitivity but the optional 9.2” looks loads nicer and more premium. I do look forward to the kodiaq getting the digital dash sometime this year though as I think they look great. Standard on the only trim available (though I really do think they need an entry model) is leather seats which are very comfortable also and the centre arm rest adjustable forward a long way (long enough to cover the cup holder) is great with a large storage space underneath. Plenty of door and dash storage spaces also to be found further shows Skodas ‘simply clever’ mantra along with umbrellas in the front doors.
Over two days I must say I was loving the SUV life, as a bus driver the higher-driving position was welcome, being able to see a lot more of what was going on and getting in and out of the taller car was so much easier, getting out was a matter of drop legs and you’re standing.
The centre row of seats can be slid forward or back to be either boot or leg room biased of which there is a lot of both. One thing I find stupid however is that the third row of seats isn’t an option in Australia. I would never ever use these as even my five-foot skinny friend doesn’t fit in them and have no interest in having kids. By having these as standard it means that those that would never use them are stuck with extra weight and less underfloor storage as well as the annoying gaps along the floor.
Another bug bear I found was the the rolling cover/blind inside the boot area didn’t actually meet the second row of seats when they were fully back which means you get that tiny extra bit of road noise from the rear. The standard electric opening tailgate is a great touch though which can be operated from the boot, a switch on the door or the key fob, but can only be closed from the boot which I thought was silly.
The 132kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo certainly has its work cut out for it in this car. With nearly 210kg more weight than the 162kw 350Nm Superb, most of which stems from the AWD system, it’s got quite a bit more to move. Around town I found the car Spritely and somewhat fun and could even get it off the mark quite acceptably. However taking it up to black mountain with the pedal to the floor on a 30°c day was a different story. Now I wouldn’t say it was struggling but I wouldn’t call it powerful either.
At highway speeds mashing the pedal also didn’t really find me speeding up as quick as I would like for an overtaking manoeuvre. With the big wheels and a decent final drive ratio it sees the Kodiaq sit on a leisurely 1800rpm at 100km/h which will be great for fuel consumption and NVH but is also just another reason it’s a bit slower. However, for the average family that would buy this or the average mum driving it I’m sure it would have enough poke but I still don’t think that means that more powerful models shouldn’t be available.
The comfort throttle makes it even worse, all MQB cars seem to require more pressure on the throttle to get them moving and can take quite a while to get used to, this can be changed to normal for those handy with VW systems with a computer but I think it’s something VW should put in its array of driving menus.
All Aussie Kodiaqs are fitted with a 7 speed wet clutch DSG which really left me wanting more, to be honest. As someone with a love for DSGs, I had high hopes for this gearbox and found it worse than the dry clutch 7 speed.
Full throttle takeoffs were met with instant high revving and then a sharp engage from the clutch providing a decent shove in the back, keep holding the throttle down and the engine meets the rev limiter before the gearbox has shifted, rating back power then shifting also with a decent thud. Around town it worked almost flawlessly I thought, shifting very quick and completely imperceptibly. I truly hope a lot of this comes down to it being a hire car with many different people driving it. But then a full throttle shift is a full throttle shift which should have a permanent parameter that should not be affected by gearbox learning.
The auto start/stop still has to be one of my most hated features in a car, it kicks in way too early and being Canberra and having almost every road as a dual carriageway it means you have to stop twice to turn right, sometimes only an extremely brief hurried stop is required for the sake of a stop sign and the engine still tried to turn off, sometimes that brief it almost feels like it’s trying to start before it’s even turned off with a not so nice sound a long with it.
Most of the time I just left it turned off because I wanted the AC to stay on. But when it was on I thought it was cool that the radar for the cruise control would restart the car when the car in front of you took off when in traffic. The radar cruise control is exemplary specially when compared to the only other system I tried in a new i30 I drove. It’s extremely smooth an precise and informative, even when allowing the system to come to a complete stop behind a stationary car. There’s selectable distances and different modes to tailor it to your driving style.
Ride quality was a bit too firm for a family car in my opinion. Its handling was pretty good but I don’t think that’s its target market. The slightest decrease in handling would more than likely have a much larger positive effect on ride quality and without adjustable suspension and now that there is a sportline version, the standard Kodiaq could do with a more supple suspension tune and smaller wheels with larger tyres. The Octavia RS I drove a week before with a lot less rubber on 19’s rode a hell of a lot nicer.
Lastly the AWD system worked flawlessly even with hard take-offs on loose surfaces, launch control on an up hill saw not even a hint of wheel spin or a flicker of the ESP light. Very intuitive.
Overall if this was just a vertically stretched version of a 162tsi superb with AWD I would buy one in a heartbeat. But a kodiaq as it is I would not buy for a number of reasons. A number of things that could easily be rectified if VW specced their cars better in Australia.