One of the most anticipated cars of 2017, the Skoda Kodiaq is the Czech company's first ever large SUV. First impressions suggest that, with its combination of space, style, on-road performance and a potentially very low price, the Skoda Kodiaq is set for SUV stardom. Here we test drive the 2.0-litre TDI diesel version with four-wheel drive and a manual gearbox.
In the metal
Given its ability to comfortably seat seven people, the new Skoda Kodiaq does a good job of disguising its size. Just 4cm longer than a Skoda Octavia, the Kodiaq can easily slip through traffic and into parking spaces. Its styling features crisp lines and sharp angles across its taut bodywork, with a distinctive front end being the only divisive point.
But it is inside where Skoda has made the biggest leap forward for the segment. Up front, the layout of the dashboard is uncluttered and is divided by air vents running the height of the facia. At its centre is an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen that includes Skoda Connect and SmartLink for enhanced mobile phone connectivity. Glossy trim panels fill in the rest of the upper dashboard while the secondary controls are housed further down on the wide centre console. Buttons for vehicle-related functions like hazard warning lights and Park Assist are larger and lower down, while controls for air circulation and heated seats feature a gloss finish. From a perceived quality perspective, the Skoda is one of the very best in this part of the market.
Moving back through the cabin, the second row of seats splits in a 60:40 fashion and can easily fit three people. The transmission tunnel does reduce floor space for the middle occupant, but it isn't a major hindrance. The third-row seating will be optional on models of lower specification, but expect it to be standard on the highest trim levels. These are effectively full-size seats and both egress and ingress to them isn't particularly difficult, even for adults.
Boot space in the Kodiaq is generous. In five-seat form, there's a minimum of 720 litres of volume, while the seven-seat version with the third row folded has 630 litres. With the extra seats in use, this volume decreases to a still useful 270 litres. Maximum storage capacity is 2,065 litres in the five-seat Kodiaq and 2,005 litres in the seven-seat model.
From even the first few kilometres it is evident the Skoda has gone to great lengths to ensure that the Kodiaq is as good to drive as it is at accommodating its passengers. Granted, it isn't going to offer sports car-like handling, but then neither does it flop around in the corners. Models equipped with the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), as our test car was, allow the driver to alter the characteristics of the suspension to suit their preferences. We found the ride to be firm on optional 18-inch alloy wheels, but never harsh. Through faster corners, there is just enough body lean for you to know what it's doing. The power steering assistance is also altered relative to the drive mode.
While the 150hp 2.0-litre TDI diesel is expected to be one of the more popular engine choices, we found it to be more vocal than the 190hp version. This is made apparent because of the lack of road noise on the move, even at higher motorway speeds. Sound aside, the engine offers a healthy level of performance with 340Nm of torque available, and an official combined consumption figure of 5.3 litres/100km (the seven-seat version is slightly thirstier at 5.4 litres/100km). The six-speed manual gearbox has a positive action with the selector slotting cleanly into each gear in the gate. With emissions of 139g/km for the five-seat model, this Kodiaq will sneak into motor tax Band B2 (€280 a year), but the seven-seat models just rolls into Band C at €390 per annum.
What you get for your money
You will have to be a little careful with the options list to prevent the cost of your Kodiaq ballooning into €40k territory, but the good news is that a basic Active model comes with everything you really need - 17-inch alloys, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity. There's also a new Skoda Connect system that allows you to monitor the health and status of your car remotely, and on higher-spec models you can have a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, live news, parking, fuel pricing feeds and more.
You will have to upgrade to a €35k Ambition model if you want a diesel engine though, which does make the Kodiaq rather suddenly more expensive, but Skoda does offer a nice Style + pack for €1,400, which includes a panoramic roof, electric tailgate and rear-seat tablet holders.
First impressions suggest that the Skoda Kodiaq appears unrivalled in its trifecta of cabin refinement, communicative driving dynamics and sheer practicality. So long as Skoda Ireland prices it right, it looks set to be the new benchmark in the practical seven-seat SUV segment.