Ready to bare claws
Skoda takes a typically singular route into SUV territory with the powerful but nimble Kodiaq, writes John Carey
BEAR by name, not bare by nature; when the Kodiaq arrives next year it will come richly equipped and ready to claw sales from better-known brands.
Named after the world’s largest brown bear, this goodlooking SUV from Skoda is the brand’s biggest and best chance to date to attract the attention of Australian buyers.
There will be five-seaters fitted with small engines, manual transmissions and front-wheel drive in Skoda’s Czech Republic factory — but they won’t be heading our way.
Skoda Australia has decided to import only seven-seat versions of the Kodiaq. They will come equipped with the largest and most powerful engines Skoda has to offer, seven-speed double-clutch automatics and all-wheel drive.
The Kodiaq will go on sale in Australia next July.
Its price will be decided closer to that time, as will the standard equipment list.
Skoda Australia planning and product manager Kieran Merrigan says the Kodiaq will be priced to compete with popular seven-seat SUVs with all-wheel- drive, including the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and the excellent new Mazda CX-9. To do this, the starting price for the Kodiaq will have to be in the area of $45,000.
Skoda’s designers and engineers put a lot of thought into making the Kodiaq’s interior practical, flexible and user-friendly.
“We wanted to put the emphasis on roominess,” says Kodiaq technical project leader Jiri Dytrych.
The second-row seat, for example, comes standard with a fore-and-aft sliding mechanism and a 40/20/40 split-folding backrest.
Storage space is ample, including two gloveboxes, and the rear cargo compartment is very large when the rearmost seats are folded away.
With the child-sized thirdrow seats in use there’s still a useful amount of stowage space available behind.
There are also a couple of unexpected standard features to sustain Skoda’s Simply Clever slogan. Open the Kodiaq’s doors and rubberised bumper strips pop out of hiding to snuggle around the section of door edge most likely to bump an adjacent vehicle.
As in Skoda’s big Superb sedan and wagon, there’s an umbrella stowed inside the trim of each front door.
Skoda Australia will also equip the Kodiaq with safety and infotainment systems that will be optional in other markets. Autonomous emergency braking and active cruise control will be standard, as will high-grade infotainment.
Comfort-enhancing adaptive shock absorbers may also be included.
The likes of bird’s-eye 360degree view cameras for easier parking, a clever trailer reversing assist system borrowed from the Audi Q7 (both brands are owned by VW) and some sensor-based driver aids are likely to be bundled into extra-cost option packages.
The Kodiaq will have towing capacity of 2000kg.
ON THE ROAD
The Skoda is a better drive than the average seven-seat SUV. It’s WHY hasn’t anyone else thought of this?
The Kodiaq’s centre console storage module includes a pair of drink holders, their bases shaped to interlock with the bottom of a standard half-litre PET bottle. Which means you can unscrew the cap one-handed.
Skoda takes its Simply Clever slogan seriously. relatively quiet, with only a little wind rustle around the front windows at highway speeds to disturb the peace inside.
Ride comfort is good (although all the Kodiaqs at the international press intro in Spain were equipped with adaptive shock absorbers) and the handling is decently agile.
The steering lacks feel and there’s lots of lean when cornering but the Kodiaq doesn’t lack road grip.
As with many other models from the Volkswagen Group, the Skoda is built from a mixandmatch set of component modules that goes by the codename name of MQB.
One result of this kinship is that the Kodiaq shares its wheelbase with the latest VW Passat, also MQB-based.
Volkswagen’s engineers made weight reduction a priority when developing MQB and the Kodiaq benefits from the attention. The Skoda is lighter than its obvious competitors.
The lack of excess flab means the Kodiaq’s fourcylinder engines deliver decent performance. Initially Skoda’s big SUV will be imported only with a 2.0 TSI petrol-burning turbo producing 132kW and requiring 95-octane fuel.
There’s a hint of hot hatch exhaust note when the engine is pushed, although acceleration doesn’t quite match the soundtrack.
Some time after launch, a 2.0 TDI turbo diesel (140kW) will join the line-up. It’s noisier and less eager but consumes even less fuel than the already quite thrifty petrol engine.
There’s clear potential for the attractive, roomy, refined and efficient Kodiaq to become this under-appreciated brand’s bestseller in the land of the other “bear”, the koala.