TAKE THE TEAM ON A TOUR

The Ko­diaq is so clever it has fea­tures you didn’t even know you wanted

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - MOTORING - BILL McK­IN­NON

SVALUE

koda’s new Ko­diaq SUV is named af­ter the largest car­niv­o­rous mam­mal on earth, the Ko­diak bear, but as sev­enseaters go it’s light, ma­noeu­vrable and com­pact. More like a koala. You may not know the what, where and why of Skoda, so let’s deal with that first. It’s one of the world’s old­est car mak­ers, from the Czech Repub­lic. Owned by Volk­swa­gen since 1991, it be­gan selling cars here in 2007.

The Ko­diaq, like other Sko­das, is ba­si­cally a re­badged VW — in this case the long­wheel­base, seven-seater Tiguan Allspace due in 2018 — dif­fer­en­ti­ated by Czech sheet metal, in­te­rior de­sign and spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

There’s only one Ko­diaq model for now, at $42,990 plus on-road costs.

When you’re car­ry­ing kids around, you want a wagon that makes life easy and stress-free. The Ko­diaq does just that with a power­op­er­ated tail­gate, key­less en­try and start, a big boot that can be ex­tended to al­most two me­tres long with the 60-40 split mid­dle seats folded flat, rear win­dow sun­blinds, park­ing sen­sors, rear cam­era with mov­ing guide­lines, elec­tric safety locks for the rear doors and seat belt indi­ca­tors for all po­si­tions.

You can never have too much stor­age, ei­ther, and Ko­diaq has com­part­ments all over the place, in­clud­ing two glove­boxes (one chilled) and a drawer un­der the driver’s seat.

Then there’s the ge­nius stuff, which you don’t know you want un­til you’ve got it. How about an um­brella and a small rub­bish bag holder in each front door pocket, plas­tic pro­tec­tors that pop out from the edge of each door when it’s opened (pre­vent­ing dings to ad­ja­cent cars), an LED torch in the boot and two tablet hold­ers for rear pas­sen­gers?

The peo­ple who de­signed Ko­diaq’s cabin ob­vi­ously have young fam­i­lies, be­cause you don’t get this level of kid-and-par­ent-friendly thought­ful­ness in most other SUVs.

In­fo­tain­ment in­cludes a big, bright eight­inch touch­screen, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, nav­i­ga­tion, voice con­trol that works, a USB port and two SD card slots.

COM­FORT

You sit high, with clear vi­sion in all di­rec­tions, in a firm, com­fort­able leather/Al­can­tara up­hol­stered chair.

The el­e­vated mid­dle row has ad­justable legroom on each side and ad­justable back­rests too. Kids won’t feel en­tombed and there’s plenty of space for adults. Re­straints are se­cured via two Isofix mounts or three an­chors.

Two third row seats fold up from the floor. They’re fine for young kids but very tight for teens and adults. Fold­ing and slid­ing the mid­dle seat for­ward for ac­cess re­quires two hands and a bit of ef­fort.

Our test car was fit­ted with the $2500 Tech Pack op­tion, which in­cludes adap­tive sus­pen­sion. On Com­fort and Nor­mal modes, the ride is sup­ple and quiet, even on rough coun­try roads.

SAFETY

Speak­ing of op­tions, if you want the full safety works­burger, you need to tick the $5900 Launch Pack box, which in­cludes the Tech Pack. It adds blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, sur­round and bird’s-eye view cam­eras, lane keep­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert to the stan­dard safety kit, which in­cludes radar cruise, nine airbags and au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing, though only from be­low 30km/h.

If you have a higher speed prang and lose con­trol, the brakes are au­to­mat­i­cally ap­plied to stop you as quickly as pos­si­ble, hope­fully pre­vent­ing sec­ondary im­pacts.

DRIV­ING

The Ko­diaq is one of the best drives in the class. Per­for­mance is solid rather than spec­tac­u­lar but its tur­bocharged en­gine is tuned to op­er­ate al­most like a diesel, with de­cep­tively strong shove avail­able from low revs, us­ing a light right foot.

It works ef­fi­ciently with the seven-speed trans­mis­sion, too, while au­to­matic stop-start can help deliver sin­gle fig­ure fuel re­turns in town.

With a weight ad­van­tage of at least 200kg, plus all-wheel drive, pre­cise steer­ing and qual­ity Pirelli tyres, Ko­diaq feels much more ag­ile, well balanced and car-like than other seven-seater SUVs.

It will tackle a dirt road with con­fi­dence and the Tech Pack in­cludes an off-road mode to max­imise trac­tion on slip­pery sur­faces and steep climbs.

HEART SAYS

Some­body just like you, with a few young kids, de­signed this car.

HEAD SAYS

In­tel­li­gent de­sign, good value, the best drive in the class ... but is it big enough?

AL­TER­NA­TIVES MAZDA CX-9 SPORT, from $42,490

A larger wagon, with front-wheel drive and more stan­dard safety fea­tures.

HYUNDAI SANTA FE AC­TIVE, from $42,350

This is for the turbo diesel seven-seater, the pick of the Santa Fe range.

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