Skoda Kodiaq seven-seat SUV road test and review
SKODA'S big bear has arrived, claws out, baring teeth and ready to take a chunky bite out of the seven-seat SUV market.
Named after an Alaskan bear, the Kodiaq is the Czech brand's first foray into large SUV territory and kicks off Skoda's assault on popular SUV segments with a raft of new high-riding models due in coming years.
Starting big is good news for Australian buyers and the brand alike. We Aussies can't get enough of seven-seaters, evidenced by our market buying more than 100,000 SUVs with three rows of seats in 2016 alone.
The average price we paid? More than $58,000. That makes the Kodiaq's sticker price of $42,990 before on-roads a low-priced tempter, not least when you total the sum of its parts.
Seven seats. Four-wheel drive. Class-leading space. Comprehensive safety features as standard. Impressive equipment and entertainment inclusions. Truly clever features for which Skoda is renowned. Plus there's the added cachet of it being a European and the Skoda badge being less of a "me too" choice.
It all looks rather good for the value-chasing seven-seat shopper. The Kodiaq's five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty and service plan costing you $3000 over five years ain't half bad either.
Should we be surprised? Not really. Skoda may still be an emerging brand in Australia but its current range has some gems.
The fun little Fabia, family choice Octavia and sublime Superb biggie are value-packed cars offered in both sedan and wagon shapes - we really should be buying more of them. In Europe, for instance, Skoda outsells both Toyota and Hyundai.
So can the Kodiaq seven-seater properly put Skoda on the map? Its specification and price give it every chance, and on my lengthy city, highway, country and off-road test it proved hard to fault in terms of ride comfort, practicality and tech. It's a damn good thing.
With strong-selling seven-seat rivals such as the Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento all costing similar, Skoda's Kodiaq may be your smarter-than-the-average-bear choice.
It may seat seven but the Kodiaq isn't so huge as to be an imposing beast.
It's 4.7m long (shorter than a Commodore sedan) and not tall for a large SUV, yet its interior dimensions and boot size trump the likes of the externally larger Mazda CX-9 rival. Clever.
The body isn't necessarily pretty but it is sharp, modern and quite classy, not least on its standard 19-inch alloys.
Inside the Kodiaq appears higher value than its sticker price. Alcantara leather-appointed seats look and feel excellent - they're firm but comfy on long trips - while the spacious cockpit layout is intuitive and easy to navigate.
Your buttons and switches have a robust feel, while the steering wheel is quite racy being of the flat-bottomed leather variety. The eight-inch infotainment screen gives you sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
Minor grumbles are the tree bark-esque black plastic dash and door trim, which is a bit odd-looking, and the door panels' hard plastics are a reminder you can't have it all at this price point.
When carrying up to five travellers it's a simple exercise to slide the second row back on its runners. There's heaps of legroom to go with the headroom and three adults will be comfortable here.
The two seats in the third row are certainly snug and really only suitable for kids. That said, with the second row seating slid forward on its runners, occupants six and seven can have decent legroom but it remains claustrophobic for adults, plus the climb into the rear isn't elegant.
Boot-wise there's a useful 270 litres with all seven seats up and with all chairs down a class-leading 2065 litres. Like all Skodas, you wonder how they do it. It's vast inside.
On and off road
The Kodiaq uses a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine good for 132kW and 320Nm and is mated to a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox.
Buyers will typically be using this SUV around town, in traffic and on highways and here it excels. It's quiet, comfortable and bump-absorbing despite its big 19-inch wheels and at highway speeds you're well under 2000rpm.
The big Skoda is light for its segment at 1677kg but the four-cylinder at times runs out of response and guts, such as when overtaking. A punchier 140kW/400Nm diesel version arrives later this year and should suit the Kodiaq well.
A Tech Pack ($2500) brings Adaptive Chassis Control so you can choose between the likes of Comfort or Sport settings for your suspension. The latter brings a bit more urge to your throttle and tightens things up around corners, which the Kodiaq handles with composure for such a big car.
The Tech Pack is a bit of a must as it also adds a hands-free tailgate opener (you simply wave your foot under the bumper), better audio, auto park assist and an off-road mode.
I tackled a rocky and steep off-road course and the off-road mode with Hill Descent Assist surprised with its smooth control. Ground clearance isn't great at 187mm but the tracks I took would be more than most Kodiaq buyers would attempt. It would serve well as a non-hardcore adventure family wagon as its unsealed road manners were superb, but it will only tow a maximum of 2000kg.
Standard kit puts many pricier alternatives to shame. Threre's adaptive LED lights, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and start, electric tailgate, LED ambient lighting and rear camera.
Safety-wise you get nine air bags, auto city emergency braking and parking sensors, while on the quirky front there are umbrellas hidden in both front doors, tablet holders for two rear seats and clever door-edge protectors that pop out as you open the door.
Skoda buyers nearly always buy the option packs. As well as the aforementioned Tech Pack the Luxury Pack ($4900) brings electric perforated leather seats (heated front and rear), tri-zone climate control, a full suite of driver assistance aids and excellent Surround Area View, where you see your car from above through the screen to help with parking and tight manoeuvres.
Verdict: 4.5 Stars
Add the two optional packs and you have a fully loaded 4x4 seven-seater for about 50 grand. Considering its spec and ability, the Kodiaq unquestionably trumps the opposition.
Skoda may not be truly mainstream in Australia, but that doesn't stop the brand and its offerings - not least its first seven-seat SUV - looking very much the smartest choice.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE From $42,990
WARRANTY 5 years/unlimited km
CAPPED SERVICING Service packs available: 3 year/45,000km for $1399, 5 year/75,000km for $2999.
SERVICE INTERVAL 15,000km/1 year
SAFETY 5 stars, 9 air bags
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 132kW/320Nm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed DSG auto with Tiptronic manual change, 4x4
PERFORMANCE 0-100kmh in 8.2-seconds
DIMENSIONS 4697mm (L), 1882mm (W), 1655mm (H), 2791 (WB)
GROUND CLEARANCE 187mm
TOWING 2000kg (braked)
What matters most
The good: Excellent value considering its technology and safety inclusions, driving manners and comfort are stand-out for a big car, welcome smart features, enough off-road ability for adventurous family holidays, great cabin space.
The not so good: 2000kg towing and 187mm ground clearance means it's not for the serious off-roader or tower, the coming-soon diesel version may be a more suitable engine with its greater torque, third row seating isn't overly generous.