2017 Skoda Kodiaq first drive review
As a premium car maker, Skoda's aura has pretty much been unshakeable. Known for its elegant designs, European build quality and luxurious interiors, Skoda is set to launch the Kodiaq in India. It's less than a month since we drove the mad, rabid beast that the new Octavia RS is, and it's time to welcome the Kodiaq, Skoda's second SUV in India after the Yeti. Here's what we think of it.
What is it?
The Kodiaq is Skoda's first ever 7-seater SUV, and in terms of positioning will sit a rung above the Superb. Positioned as a premium SUV the Kodiaq is expected to take on the likes of the Hyundai Tucson on one hand and its own cousin from Volkswagen, the Tiguan on the other. In terms of design the Kodiaq looks typically Skoda, but with a difference. For instance, the butterfly grille is wider, bolder and finished in matte black for a more muscular effect, to suit the SUV stance better. Headlights are all-LED units with cornering function, while fog lamps use projector beams and get a cornering function too. The Kodiaq is pretty wide given its overall width of 1882mm, and the grille and headlights accentuate that feeling. The raised front edge of the hood makes for a taller appearance.
The Kodiaq gets matte black finished roof rails, but on the whole it isn't tall like traditional SUVS especially the Ford Endeavour and Toyota Fortuner which makes for a more crossover/station wagon like stance from the side. The sloping roofline and rear-three quarter profile reminded me of the last generation Audi Q7, which isn't a bad thing, as it accentuates the Kodiaq's premium feel. What's more, the glass panels for the third row are large, which should make for a roomy feel. Of course, with a length of 4697mm the Kodiaq is long.
Its tail lights are reminiscent of the Superb's, and in fact the Kodiaq's rear isn't SUV-like at all. The front looks the way a large SUV's should but that isn't quite the case with the rear as the roofline tapers off past the C-pillar, and the rear simply isn't as tall as you would expect. The India-spec Kodiaq runs on 18-inch wheels shod with 235/55 Hankoook tyres, which make for substantial visual mass.
How is it inside?
The Kodiaq's insides look similar to the Octavia and Superb's. You get a two-tone finish with the top half of the dash finished in black while the lower half and seats are beige-hued. This is a well-designed cabin and feels premium. The top of the dash uses soft-touch plastics from end to end, while the panel below it wears a wood finish. Air-conditioning vents are vertical ones, which Skoda tells us have been designed to channel air better while also being quieter.
The front seats are wide, bolstered well and well-cushioned, and I particularly like how spacious the cockpit is. There's lots of space for the driver and the electrically adjustable seat and rake/reach adjustable steering make finding a good driving position easy. You don't sit too tall and the feel is more car-like than SUV. Second row seats are very spacious and comfortable and seating three abreast shouldn't be an issue. The second row seatback is split 40:20:40, and while the seat can be moved ahead by 180mm, the seats don't tumble forward completely which makes getting into the third row a bit of a task.
The third row has you sit higher and under thigh support isn't great but legroom is good and the seats should be good for short distances. Boot volume is a decent 270 litres with all three rows up, but flip the third row down and you get 630 litres of volume. Flip the second row down as well and you get a massive 2005 litres of volume. The Kodiaq gets three-zone air-conditioning and the system worked well in Kovalam's humid climate. There's a massive panoramic sunroof to add to the airy feel along with the beige interiors, and on the whole the Kodiaq feels very spacious, particularly as a family or chauffeur-driven SUV.
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It comes packed with features and equipment, some of which are unique and innovative. For instance, the retractable door protector that juts out of the front door edges each time the door is opened, and hides itself inside when you shut the door. It will help avoid scratching the paint on the doors or hitting the door onto another car in tight spaces. Then there's the two umbrellas stashed into dedicated pockets on both front doors. Move to the boot, and you have a light that illuminates the area but can be detached and used as a flashlight.
The Kodiaq gets 9 airbags, higher than most premium SUVs, compact luxury SUVs included. It also gets multi-collision braking and a fatigue alert system. In terms of features the Kodiaq gets the same 8-inch capacitive touch display. The infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connectivity. You can also control the infotainment system using Skoda's boss connect app via your smartphone. The Kodiaq gets 10 colour ambient lighting like the Octavia, while a digital voice enhancement system plays the driver's voice to occupants via the audio system's microphone and speakers for better audibility, though the cabin itself feels very quiet.
How is it to drive?
Skoda is launching the Kodiaq with its 2.0-litre, four cylinder diesel engine only, mated to its DQ-500 seven-speed DSG gearbox. The engine offers 150PS and 340Nm and feels very responsive. The engine is extremely refined, and despite being a diesel doesn't make itself audible inside, while being quick to build revs. Along with the DSG it makes for rapid progress, be it in Sport mode using the paddle shifters or on its own in Drive mode. The Kodiaq also gets Eco, Sport, Individual and Snow modes apart from Normal and Eco which alter the steering, engine and air-conditioning response depending on the mode.
Kerala's narrow roads didn't allow us to explore the powertrain's potential, neither were we able to drive the Kodiaq off-road, but it comes equipped with a Haldex all-wheel drive system that should allow light off-roading. In normal conditions 96 percent torque is sent to the front wheels but in slippery conditions the system can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear. The powertrain and firm suspension should make for good highway cruising as well. The suspension has you feel some of the bumps at slow speeds but soaks up undulations and bumps very well as speeds go up. The firmness also ensures vertical and lateral movement and body roll are controlled, while making for a confident feel in terms of handling.
The steering wheel feels perfectly weighted and is excellent in terms of feel and feedback, just like other Skodas. The Kodiaq thus feels more car-like in terms of driving, which is the way most new age urban SUVs feel. This should help it find favour with those looking for a spacious SUV that's nice to drive and comfortable enough to be driven around in too.
The Kodiaq benefits from Skoda's expertise in making cars that are engaging to drive. With its powertrain, firm suspension setup and responsive steering the Kodiaq is engaging to drive while being comfortable. Interior space is abundant and it comes packed with a very impressive feature list too, while feeling solidly built. It isn't too large but looks big and very impressive, particularly from the front, though I wish the rear echoed the butch feel offered by the front end. That said, the Kodiaq is packaged well as a seven-seater premium SUV. When launched, we expect it to cost just under the 35 lakh rupee mark.
Images by Ishaan Bhataiya
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