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First Drive: Skoda Kodiaq

Can Skoda’s new large SUV give the brand yet another opportunity in fleet? By Steve Moody.

SECTOR SUV   PRICE ££21,495-£30,695   FUEL 38.6-56.4mpg   CO2 131-168g/km

It used to be the case (not that long ago) that in order to get on a choice list a manufacturer needed a couple of staples: a lower medium hatch and a family saloon. Increasingly though, that now includes some form of SUV.

Skoda, which likes to do things differently – within the rigorous confines of the VW Group of course – has made huge headway in fleet with a sort of family hatchback in the Octavia, the Superb and a kind of crossover in the shape of the Skoda Yeti, which looks like an Angry Bird.

So the launch of the Kodiaq, an SUV drawn in the traditional manner of this relatively new genre, looks like an open goal. Skoda value? VW Group mechanics? A market hungry for these cars? How can it fail?

Let’s start with its failings then. It’s an increasingly crowded market, and much of the SUV boom came out of badge snobbery, and despite its myriad improvements in perception, Skoda will always have to contend with that. And for the very lowest CO2 levels a 1.6 TDI engine with front wheel drive as in the smaller SEAT Ateca sister car would be useful, but currently it is not in the range, while some of the more advanced safety systems aren’t standard on the lowest model. But all of this is straw clutching. If you are in the market for an SUV, it’s hard to see why the Kodiaq wouldn’t be very high on the shopping list.

Let’s start with the basics. There are five powertrains, featuring the usual VW Group stats: two TDI and three TSI engines, capacities of 1.4 and 2.0 litres, and power output ranges from 123bhp to 188bhp. Front wheel drive, four-wheel drive, manual and seven speed DSG gearboxes are all options.
Prices are suitably Skoda-ish: from £21,495 for the S, which comes with LED daytime running lights, 17-inch alloys, Front Assist, touchscreen infotainment and DAB. SE models are £1,500 more expensive, with seven seats a £1,000 option, while SE L models start from £28,595 and the new Edition top of the range trim start from £30,695 and gets leather upholstery, metallic paint, Lane Assist, High Beam Assist, wireless charging and phone box, and Blind spot detection. This is all exceptionally good value, whichever one you’re looking at.

It does, however, only tell half the story. The Kodiaq is only marginally longer than an Octavia, yet interior space, especially in the second row, is exceptional. How Skoda has done this, I can’t really say. I stared at it for a long time, and it was still not entirely apparent. From the outside, and particularly from the rear, it doesn’t look especially big or aggressive either. It is the SUV other road users won’t dislike you for driving.

Then there’s the quality. The cabin is superbly finished while there’s an indication of exactly where Skoda comes in the Group pecking order (hint: it’s pretty high up) in the super sharp high definition touch screen. When the new tech gets handed out, it seems Audi and Skoda get it first. It also has wireless hotspot capability, Apple CarPlay, and the latest version of remote phone charging which is less clunky than the earlier system in Audis.

As for the way it drives, it is tidy rather than spectacular. If you have ever been in any VW Group Group product, or Skoda in particular, there are absolutely no surprises. The lowest powered petrol is just about adequate, but otherwise all petrol and diesels do the job with no fuss, while it rides well and body control is controlled nicely for such a large car.

The result of all this is an SUV that is near-faultless. I haven’t looked at the residual value predictions for this car. Because I don’t need to. It’s a brilliant new car, and will be an even better used one – RVs will be extremely high. Put simply, if you have SUVs on your choice list, it must feature.

What we think
The Kodiaq is a superb car in every way. Built to an extremely high standard, with all the latest VW Group tech, a wide range of engines and powertrains and huge, adaptable interior space. All at extremely good value.

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Steve Moody

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