Skoda Kodiaq 132TSI

Skoda sells out for a slice of the high life; gets to keep its soul

JAMES WHITBOURN

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

STEVE Jobs made a solid case for the thinking that people don’t know what they want until its shown to them, while the average order at Subway suggests order at Subway suggests that choice shouldn’t be left to the consumer (Erm, teriyaki chicken, ranch sauce, swiss cheese, carrot and jalapenos... Oookay then.)

So massive respect, Skoda, for past attempts at giving the average family the vehicle they need, rather than the one they’re asking for in increasing numbers.

Mr Jobs has a high five he’d like to deliver from the grave.

Starting with the brilliantly versatile Roomster in 2007 and continuing with the Fabia and Octavia wagons, and baby SUV/ MPV the Yeti, the Czech brand has always known that people need, well, the qualities the Roomster offered a decade ago.

But people want family SUVs and Skoda has just sorted that glaring gap in its range with the Kodiaq.

Offered as a 132TSI DSG AWD only, initially, the Kodiaq is built on Volkswagen MQB components – think stretched Tiguan. In Skoda tradition, this sees it provide more room than a medium SUV at a lower price than a large one.

The Skoda is about 200mm longer and 43mm wider than its Volkswagen sibling, with a 110mm-longer wheelbase.

A body almost exactly the size of a Hyundai Santa Fe brings ample space for seven seats. The third row is usable for anyone under 170cm, and the second row’s fore-aft runners let you choose how legroom is apportioned. A 270-litre cargo bay opens up to a substantial 630 litres with the third row folded, and 2005 litres with the second row flipped.

The comfy driving position and solid thunk of the driver’s door provide positive first impressions, as does performance approaching a warm hatch. The refined 2.0 turbo petrol delivers 320Nm from 1400rpm and 132kW from the mid-range, hauling the 1677kg wagon via a crisp-shifting sevenspeed dual-clutch auto.

The cabin gilds a plain dash and door trims, and generic switchgear, with neatly stitched Alcantara/leather, an 8-inch multimedia screen and enough brightwork and piano black to create some class. With the overflow of convenience, safety and surprise and delight features (see sidebar), it amounts to a persuasive $42,990 package.

Good grip, a neutral chassis balance and a firmly decent ride form a decent dynamic backbone.

The steering, while not Ford Escape-precise or connected, is better in normal mode than the artificially resistive sport.

Importantly, though, the various modes’ damper calibrations are just right. Sport tautens the damping nicely for enthusiastic spurts, while comfort slackens it noticeably to provide a calmer primary ride than normal, which makes a good fist of anything from cruising to carving.

Pity the big, 235/50-shod 19s jiggle more than we’d like on nonsmooth roads.

Inside, it’s an oasis. At traffic lights, with the engine startstopped, the air-con fan is easily heard on low, over the hushed rush of traffic. The Kodiaq is just as adept at shutting out its own tyre, wind and engine noise.

It’s a pretty polished drive, then, and the Kodiaq’s practicality and huge value seal its appeal.

We get that the Roomster was not a cool-looking car, which is no doubt why they didn’t sell like iPods, yet we’re still glad it exists. Same goes for the excellent Octavia RS wagon that serves the enlightened dad.

But the Kodiaq is an SUV that gives families what they want and what they need. That should be impossible to ignore.

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Skoda Kodiaq 132TSI 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 132kW @ 3900-6000rpm 320Nm @ 1400-3940rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1677kg 8.2sec (claimed) 7.6L/100km $42,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Low-speed ride niggles on standard 19s; no manual paddles Value; space; refinement; primary ride; handling; ‘surprise and delight’

Burst load

Consider the well-equipped Kodiaq’s $46,290 driveaway price – roughly mid-spec large SUV money – and it’s ripper value. There’s a powered tailgate, rear sun blinds, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, lane assist, blind-spot detection, nine airbags and front and rear park sensors. Reversing and surround-view cameras, a tyre-pressure monitor, fog lights with cornering function, adaptive cruise control, smart keyless entry, adaptive front lights, dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Phew. And the list goes on...

OR TRY THESE...

Kia Sorento Si $44,490

The 441Nm turbo-diesel AWD Sorento Si is a more worthwhile cross-shop than the thirsty petrol V6 front-drive model. The Kia is practical, safe, dynamic and refined, and tempts with two years more warranty than the Skoda.

Toyota Kluger GX $43,550

Front-drive Kluger is spacious, practical and quite refined, and, as a product of Toyota, is likely to run long and cheaply. But V6 grunt comes with a thirst, and there’s nothing of the Skoda’s cabin class or equipment.

OIL IN WELL 01

A 140kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is coming. For now, a 2.0 turbo petrol offers flexibility and 7.6L/100km combined-cycle economy, which undercuts some rivals by a big slurp.

SEAT HEAVEN 02

Front seats lovely to look at and sit in, with terrific support, while perforated, flat-bottomed wheel would feel at home in a hot hatch.

Dial adjustment for front backrest angle negates powered pews.

BOXING CLEVER 03

Surprise and delight features include: a cargo bay light/torch, umbrellas in the front doors, and neat automatic door-edge protectors that power into place as you pull the doorhandle.