Lincolnshire

Test drive: Five minutes with a Skoda Kodiaq

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What is it?

A Skoda Kodiaq, the Czech company’s first proper SUV – the Yeti and Octavia Scout that preceded it don’t count as true off-roaders – that is named after a type of bear, albeit the animal’s name ends in a ‘k’ rather than a ‘q’.

As Skoda has only just announced that its smaller Yeti replacement will be called the Karoq, we can therefore see where the company’s naming policy for its SUVs is heading. The Kodiaq is thus (forgive the pun) the forebear and it is based on the same platform as a Volkswagen Tiguan or SEAT Ateca.

Prices start from an incredibly low £21,565, although our test car was from the opposite end of the tree – a 190hp SE L 4×4 DSG, starting from £33,110 but optioned up to almost £38,000.

Why are you driving it?

Well, aside from it being a pioneering SUV for a marque that we happen to love, the Kodiaq also has a neat USP. Although it does indeed share a floorpan with the five-seat Tiguan and Ateca models within the VW Group, and despite the highly competitive list prices, you can actually option up seven seats on the Kodiaq if you so wish.

In fact, on this high-grade SE L model, they come as standard. So what we have here is a great Skoda in the traditional sense – in that it offers a lot of space and equipment onboard, for not a lot of money – that could prove to be the class-leader in its segment.

What do you like about it?

Pretty much everything, truth be told. A variety of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines are offered in the Kodiaq, along with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive in certain instances.

And, while a 150hp 2.0 TDI model will probably do everything you ask of it in plenty of style, we can’t help feeling this super-smooth, muscular 190hp/400Nm range-topper is the motor to go for.

It shrugs off the Kodiaq’s bulk with utter disdain and actually managed to return more than 42mpg across roughly 450 miles of mixed-roads motoring, meaning it is one of those rare modern cars that actually gets close to its claimed on-paper economy. Better than its parsimony, though, is the luxury feeling this sort of power imbues on the Skoda. The grunt factor is also helped by absolutely fantastic ride quality, very good handling, impressive steering and surfeits of both grip and traction.

Come town, countryside or motorway driving, the Kodiaq simply shines. It also has a beautifully appointed and vast interior, with all the rear chairs sliding/tilting/folding very easily to allow you to make the most of cabin space.

Any issues?

In this guise, it is not cheap and for some people, £37,745 on a Skoda still remains a mental challenge.

However, that price does compare well to the top-spec models of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento seven-seaters that the Kodiaq competes against. What does not compare so well to the Korean cars is the space in the third row of seats – they are on the small side in the Skoda and so best reserved only for youngsters travelling on short journeys; think of the Kodiaq as more of a ‘5+2’, if you will.

Also, while the dashboard is beautifully screwed together, it does lack for much in the way of visual flair – it’s a very straightforward fascia, with the (pricier) Volkswagen Tiguan having a flashier console in this regard.

What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?

Not bad – CO2 emissions of 151g/km for this absolutely top-spec drivetrain result in reasonable Benefit-in-Kind of 27%, with low VED costs assured after year one because the Kodiaq doesn’t pass the £40,000 ‘rich tax’ threshold, even in this highfalutin guise.

It does command a pretty beefy £500 first year’s road tax, although you can cut your costs further by going for the smaller-engined models, like the 150hp TDI with DSG, which emits just 131g/km. Nevertheless, we think the 190hp engine is better suited to a family user who is an executive by day.

Where does it rank in class right now?

We wanted to know whether the Kodiaq was the new champion in this difficult-to-define market section, which sits between C-segment SUVs with only five seats and full-on premium SUVs with seven chairs; this means vehicles like the sublime Volvo XC90 and the desirable Audi Q7. Well, in a typically wonderful display by Skoda, the Kodiaq does indeed go to the top of the class.

It’s nicer to drive, has some elegant toys and a more refined drivetrain than either the Kia or Hyundai rivals, and it comfortably eclipses the Nissan X-Trail, which is perhaps the class also-ran at the moment. On the flipside, it is considerably cheaper and more spacious than the costly Land Rover Discovery Sport, even if it lacks just the final degree of lustre that the British car’s badge brings with it.

But, rest assured, if you need a big five-seat SUV that can occasionally carry two additional people in the boot, there’s currently nothing better than this bear-like Skoda Kodiaq. It’s another superb machine from a company which is fast becoming the go-to choice of the Volkswagen Group.

TECH SPEC

  • Model: Skoda Kodiaq SE L 2.0 TDI 190 4×4 DSG
  • Price: Kodiaq range starts from £21,565; SE L 190 4×4 DSG from £33,110, car as tested £37,745
  • Drivetrain: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, seven-speed DSG automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
  • Economy: 49.6mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 151g/km – £500 VED first 12 months, £140 annually thereafter; 27% benefit in kind
  • Top speed: 129mph
  • 0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
  • Power: 190hp at 3,500- to 4,000rpm
  • Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 3,250rpm