Skoda passes ul­ti­mate taxi driver’s opin­ion test with fly­ing colours

Look­ing to buy an im­pres­sive SUV or tempt­ing fam­ily sa­loon, as John O’Ma­hony dis­cov­ered, Skoda is very hard to beat

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - NEW CARS -

Taxi driv­ers are al­ways a good bell­wether when buy­ing a re­li­able car.

It’s make sense. They spend count­less hours in them. They talk among them­selves ( and to ev­ery­one else).

Their liveli­hoods de­pend on some­thing that’s func­tional, trust­wor­thy, ef­fi­cient, cost ef­fec­tive, sturdy, durable, can carry four adults in com­fort and has max­i­mum boot space. It’s no won­der then that so many drive Sko­das.

It’s now con­fes­sion time. I was one of those who had pre­con­ceived no­tions about Skoda be­fore I ever sat be­hind the wheel of one.

Maybe it was a hang­over from the Room­ster — that aw­ful look­ing peo­ple car­rier that shame­lessly threw away the rule book on aes­thet­ics in the hope that more room in­side would com­pen­sate for the lack of ap­peal out­side.

Call me shal­low if you like — and while you can’t judge a book its cover — for me, how a car looks re­ally taints ev­ery­thing else.

Can you se­ri­ously sell the mer­its of the Fiat Mul­ti­pla or the Ssangyong Rodius when they look like that?

The secret be­hind Skoda’s re­cent suc­cess is that it has dis­cov­ered you can make cars that of­fer prac­ti­cal­ity, oceans of space, are easy on the wal­let, but cru­cially are not too hard on the eye.

Ad­mit­tedly they don’t get the pulses rac­ing, but the vast ma­jor­ity of mo­torists are driven by bang for buck, which gives Skoda a dis­tinct ad­van­tage over its ri­vals.

Skoda Oc­tavia

The lat­est Oc­tavia of­fers sub­tle changes on the out­side, but it’s the in­side that all the fuss is about.

It’s hard to ex­ag­ger­ate the vol­ume of space, with more than enough room in front and back re­gard­less the size of your cargo.

The doors too are huge, the seats com­fort­able (once you find the right con­fig­u­ra­tion) with good vis­i­bil­ity in front and back.

The chal­lenge with so much in­te­rior space is what to fill it with — and in this case, there is an aw­ful lot of dash­board — which is slightly drab.

The 9- inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment-sys­tem of­fers a wel­come dash of colour, and while it takes a lit­tle get­ting used to ( what no but­tons) was straight­for­ward and easy to use af­ter the ini­tial awk­ward­ness.

Among the other fea­tures that come as stan­dard in the tester are dual-zone air con­di­tion­ing, sports mul­ti­func- tion steer­ing wheel, in car Wi-Fi, ex­te­rior chrome styling, auto light and rain as­sist and cruise con­trol. The 18” al­low wheels (€346) and sun­set tinted rear and side win­dows (€175) are ex­tra.

There are three petrol and six diesel en­gines to choose, with the 1.0 litre TSI (115hp) and 1.6TDI (115hp) prob­a­bly prov­ing the most pop­u­lar. For the more ad­ven­tur­ous there’s the 2.0 TDI 150hp 4x4 and the less sen­si­ble, but doubtlessly en­joy­able 230hp RS.

The 2.0 TDI 150hp in the tester was lively and sur­pris­ingly quiet, and coped ad­mirably with the de­mands of city driv­ing, but comes into it­self a bit more on the open road.

All in all, a pack­age that in­cludes com­fort, qual­ity, com­petes on price and is dif­fi­cult to beat in terms of space is hard to ar­gue with — which is prob­a­bly why 6,000 of them have been sold so far this year in Ire­land, with the Skoda sell­ing more ve­hi­cles glob­ally in May than any other May in its his­tory.

Skoda Ko­diaq

An­other big seller for Skoda will be the su­perb Ko­diaq — the com­pany’s first SUV.

Since its launch in March 2017, the 17,100 units have been sold glob­ally, and ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, has gone done very well with cus­tomers.

Judg­ing by the re­ac­tion I re­ceived in the week I had it, I can un­der­stand their op­ti­mism.

On the looks front, the new Ko­diaq is a stun­ner — the dou­ble grill ef­fect, wrap around lights, chis­elled lines adding to the over­all mus­cu­lar look and feel.

I’m a big fan of panoramic roofs and as well as adding to the over­all ex­te­rior styling, it adds to the sense of space in­side — not that short­age of space is an is­sue. There is plenty of legroom in front and back with op­tions to move the sec­ond and third row seats for even more room.

The Ko­diaq comes with the op­tion of five or seven seats (€ 1,000 ex­tra for the seven seat op­tion), but most will opt for the ex­tra two seats that fold out of the boot.

The dash is clean and un­clut­tered, again built around the 8” touch screen unit — which grows on you the more you use it.

Stan­dard fea­tures on the tester in­cluded full LED front head­lamps (com­plete with its adap­tive front­light

sys­tem, in­te­rior am­bi­ent light­ing, black Al­can­tara leather and a rear view cam­era — which is not a bad op­tion with blindspots on both sides.

There are five en­gines to choose from — two petrol and three diesel — the petrols both 1.4 TSI, with the op­tion of six-speed man­ual or au­to­matic. En­try level diesel is the 2.0TDI 7-speed au­to­matic, with a six-speed 4x4 and seven- speed 4x4 au­to­matic op­tions.

The 2.0TDI of­fered am­ple grunt around town, even with a full load, al­though the ride was a lit­tle bumpy at times, com­pen­sated some­what by the 19” wheels.

I didn’t have any cause to take it of­froad, so I can’t at­test to its 4x4 abil­i­ties, but I sus­pect the vast ma­jor­ity of Ko­di­aqs pur­chased here won’t see any­thing rougher that the school run of shop­ping mall carpark.

Re­gard­less of your pre­ferred sur­face of choice, the Ko­diaq will de­liver in spades and in even in a crowded mar­ket, it’s sure to el­bow its was to­wards the top of the best- sellers li s t in this SUV- crazy coun­try.

The Skoda Oc­tavia is a fam­ily-friendly sa­loon, a high qual­ity ma­chine which also de­liv­ers in terms of a re­ally at­trac­tive look.

The spa­cious in­te­rior of the Skoda Oc­tavia, whose 9-inch touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment-sys­tem of­fers a wel­come dash of colour.

The Skoda Ko­diaq has an im­pres­sive dou­ble-grill ef­fect, wrap around lights and chis­elled lines which add to the over­all mus­cu­lar look and feel.

The spa­cious Skoda Ko­diaq of­fers a lux­ury in­te­rior with am­bi­ent light­ing, Al­can­tara leather and a rear view cam­era.

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