Czech out this wheely big sur­prise

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News - PAUL GOVER

THE Car of the Year for 2017 is ... a what?

It’s a Skoda. The Ko­diaq. A fam­ily seven-seater that trumps the very best of the mod­els that ar­rived in show­rooms over the past year.

The Ko­diaq is the first car of the year cham­pion from the Czech brand that was once the butt of cruel jokes about its re­li­a­bil­ity.

One of the world’s old­est car mak­ers — and part of the gi­ant Volk­swa­gen group — Skoda was in­tro­duced to Aus­tralia in 2007 and has strug­gled to gain a foothold in the com­pet­i­tive lo­cal mar­ket.

The Ko­diaq’s vic­tory will sur­prise many — it was rated a 34-1 chance with book­maker Sports­bet — but it scored a unan­i­mous vic­tory in the fi­nal run-off.

The Skoda is built off the same un­der­pin­nings as the VW Tiguan, which took the car of the year prize in 2016, but it’s im­proved in many ways.

Its cabin works as a comfy five-seater or oc­ca­sional seven-seater and smile-in­duc­ing lit­tle touches in­clude a built-in torch, a pair of um­brel­las, iPad hold­ers, a rub­bish bin and pop-out rub­ber door strips to pre­vent carpark dings.

“It’s the Swiss Army knife of cars. I love it,” said judge Joshua Dowl­ing.

The Ko­diaq had to beat one of the tough­est fields in the 21year his­tory of News Corp’s Car of the Year, with 10 con­tenders rang­ing from the baby Kia Pi­canto city car priced at $15,690 drive-away to the lux­ury Audi Q5 SUV from $72,400 on the road.

The Ko­diaq, from about $46,000 on the road, comes with a five-year war­ranty, which makes it a win­ner on the value front. A rare down­side is Skoda re­sale val­ues, which don’t yet match the qual­ity of its cars, largely be­cause the brand is rel­a­tively un­known.

Other con­tenders this year were also the sporty Honda Civic Type-R, with a turbo en­gine and sports sus­pen­sion, and the Kia Stinger, a land­mark South Korean car that re­calls the Holden Com­modore with a twin-turbo V6 and rear-wheel drive. The Kia was the pop­u­lar choice in a reader poll that at­tracted more than 85,000 votes. About 28 per cent of re­spon­dents chose the Stinger, ahead of the Audi Q5 and Honda Civic Type R.

The 2017 Car of the Year con­test was the first with­out a sin­gle con­tender from a lo­cal maker. Ford, Holden and Toyota failed to make the grade with any of the im­ported mod­els that now fill their show­rooms af­ter the end of lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing. Holden and Volk­swa­gen have won the award the most.

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