The Kodiaq is a massive car for Skoda. Massively important and just plain massive.
This is the Czech manufacturer’s second SUV, after the slightly left-field but hugely popular Yeti crossover. It’s aiming to take a big bite out of the market by offering a large SUV, complete with seven-seat and four-wheel-drive options for the price of a vehicle a class below.
Technically, you can buy a Kodiaq for £21,495. But that won’t get you the 4×4 or seven seats that Skoda are shouting about. It’ll get you the S trim, which only comes with a 124bhp 1.4 petrol engine and six-speed manual.
For four-wheel drive you’ll need to pick an SE with the more powerful 148bhp petrol (£25,445) or one of the diesels. With those you can also specify a seven-speed DSG auto and, for £1,000 add the seven-seat option.
“The Kodiaq offers the space and equipment of a full-size SUV for the price of something a segment smaller”
Above the SE sit the SE L – expected to be the best seller – and Edition, which get the seven seats as standard and a tranche of other tech and convenience upgrades. They start at £28,595 and £30,695 respectively, with 4×4 an extra £200.
All in, that’s still thousands cheaper than the likes of the Ford Edge, Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan.
From launch, the Kodiaq has a choice of five engines – three petrol and two diesel. As well as the two 1.4-litre petrols there is a 178bhp 2.0 TSI, only available in SE L and Edition trims. On the diesel front there are 148bhp and 187bhp versions of the ubiquitous 2.0-litre. Again only SE L and Edition get the more powerful unit and it comes with four-wheel drive and the DSG box as standard.
The 187bhp has plenty on tap to move the Kodiaq along and with the DSG does so smoothly and easily. It can sound a bit gruff when accelerating hard but most of the time it’s unobtrusive. If you travel fully loaded a lot or do much towing it might be the engine to go for but for most users the 148bhp will do the job just as well. Its power deficit isn’t noticeable in most applications and it’s as smooth and quiet as the ‘bigger’ unit.
The 148bhp petrol is also capable of shifting the Kodiaq along but without the torque of the diesels it feels like it’s working harder.
On the road the Kodiaq feels big. It’s not unwieldy but you are always aware of its size. Thankfully and unlike many SUVs, the corners of the bonnet are visible so it’s easy to place on the road. It’s also easy to manoeuvre thanks to adaptive steering that’s feather-light around town but gets reassuringly heavier as speed increases.
SE L and Edition cars get drive mode selection as standard, allowing owners to choose from eco, comfort, normal, sport and snow modes.
Our hairpin-packed mountain test route proved that this is not a particularly sporty SUV, no matter what the button says. Some hard-riding rivals are more agile and there is some lean in corners but it’s nothing to frighten passengers and it handles better than premium “sports” models of a generation ago.
The test route also showed off the Kodiaq’s ride over everything from smooth motorway to pock-marked urban streets. Even without choosing comfort mode, the Kodiaq is impressively smooth. It’s a car that will eat up long distances with ease and soak up whatever road surfaces it faces without discomforting passengers.
On the subject of passengers, the Kodiaq, like the Nissan X-Trail, is marketed as capable of carrying seven people. While it’s slightly more roomy than the X-Trail, like the Nissan the extra two seats are best viewed as handy extras rather than an everyday choice.
That said, there’s a reasonable amount of room in the rearmost row. Three average-sized adults could sit line astern comfortably and even someone six feet tall could manage in the very back. The tilt and slide of the middle bench aids getting in and out but you’d want to be young and/or agile if you were doing it regularly. Still, if I were speccing the car I’d pay the extra £1,000 on the SE for the additional flexibility.
Ahead of the third row the Kodiaq feels cavernous. Leg, head and shoulder room in the front are excellent and equally impressive in row two. Shoulder room might get a touch tight with three in the middle row but that go-to metric of four six-footers could cross continents in maximum comfort in the roomy, airy interior.
It’s not just space that the Kodiaq’s interior excels at, either. The seats are fantastically supportive and comfortable and endlessly adjustable. You can have them heated and ventilated in the front and there’s the option of tri-zone climate control to keep those in the back happy too.
There’s a familiarity about a lot of the interior materials and switchgear – no bad thing given how well put together other Skodas are – but there’s also a newer, slicker sheen to some elements, especially the full-colour infotainment system.
In fact, the Kodiaq is packed with technology. Google Earth-enable navigation, wireless phone charging, a top-down camera mode for parking, wifi hotspot and connected services that do everything from provide fuel prices to calling the emergency services in the event of an accident are all available.
On the safety front, the standard-fit front assist with city emergency braking can be complemented with adaptive cruise control, lane assist, blind spot detection, rear traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and multi-collision braking.
Options like these inevitably push up the price but the same is true of models from rivals which are more expensive to start with.
The Superb proved last year that you could have luxury spec and acres of space for the price of cars in a class below. The Kodiaq has done it again, offering the space and equipment of a full-size SUV for the price of something a segment smaller. And what’s more, it’s done it with no apparent sacrifice in quality.