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
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.
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.
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.