Ready to bare claws

Skoda takes a typ­i­cally sin­gu­lar route into SUV ter­ri­tory with the pow­er­ful but nim­ble Ko­diaq, writes John Carey

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE -

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.

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