Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TSI L&K road test review
With the Volkswagen Group deciding to go with a petrol-only strategy across its brands in India, there has been quite a bit of reshuffling of models and variants to suit the new game plan. The Skoda Kodiaq though had to take a brief hiatus from the Indian market because the brand decided to wait and directly introduce the petrol variant with the then-upcoming facelift. The VW Tiguan was adopting a similar waiting strategy too and therefore the Tiguan All-space temporarily filled the void for customers looking for a large Volkswagen crossover or those looking for a three-row crossover in the Rs 30-40 lakh bracket. But things have finally fallen in place with both Volkswagen and Skoda having launched their updated Tiguan and Kodiaq models for India. While we would love to compare the two, they are very closely matched and the verdict is simple - if you need a spacious five-seater, pick the Tiguan or choose the Kodiaq if you need three rows of seats for a large family. If the Kodiaq is your pick then, read on to find out what has changed.
This is a mid-life makeover of the five-year-old Kodiaq and though minor, the most obvious change is to the face of the car. The lighting elements are narrower than before and the headlight has an angular kink in its lower edge. The taillights have a contrasting upward-pointing kink that plays with the signature C motif.
I keep saying that cars based on VW's MQB platform appear smaller than you would expect. That fact made the previous design of the Kodiaq appear like a raised version of an Octavia station wagon. Therefore they have raised this bonnet and made the grille more upright to give it a more SUV like stance. To highlight the width and balance the form, the bumper elements have been given a wider appearance and the front bumper employs wind curtains around its edges.
These, along with the extended rear spoiler offset any aerodynamic losses created by the taller and more upright face of the updated car. The design hasn't affected pedestrian safety either, hints Skoda. Sadly, the matrix adaptive LED highlight tech which has percolated down to the Kodiaq globally, hasn't made it to the India-spec model. The standard all-LED headlights work great though and are the all-weather type.
The 18-inch wheels get a new design as well, which adds a bit more sophistication to the otherwise unchanged side profile. In a sea of SUVs that look like they are designed to bite your head off, the Kodiaq comes across as an aggressive yet dignified looking car.
How different is it on the inside?
The cabin is largely unchanged, save for the new two-spoke steering like the Kushaq and Octavia and a 10.25-inch virtual cockpit digital instrumentation with multiple layout styles including a full-screen map for the inbuilt satellite navigation. As before, there are plenty of storage spaces in the cabin - from cubby holes in the tunnel console and a compartment under the steering to roomy door pockets, umbrella holders in the front doors and two glove compartments - one of which is cooled. The 270l boot expands to 2005l with all seats dropped, so versatility is still as good as you would expect from the Kodiaq.
The fit and finish are appreciable as you would expect of a flagship Skoda of modern times. But I would have liked newer material choices and upholstery colours than the ageing black and being that's common to most Skoda cars. On a related note, I would have also liked to see Skoda include the massaging front seats that came with the global update for the Kodiaq.
As before, the range-topping L&K trim gets the sweet Canton audio unit which is easily the best in class and sounds great in all three rows. The second-row seats are quite comfortable for long-distance journeys and they can be adjusted for reach and recline to liberate more room for the third row. But as before the last row is only good enough for kids or short adults. The cabin is pretty spacious and airy otherwise and the panoramic roof helps that cause. Ingress and egress are easy and the cabin leaves you with the feeling of being safe, well-built and reassuring.
Does the petrol engine make sense?
If you are kind who needs to ferry a large family on most days but needs a healthy dash of performance when you are alone behind the wheel - we hear that the 245PS Kodiaq vRS could be considered for India. Sure, Skoda just confirmed that the Octavia RS won't be coming to India even in 2023, given the lukewarm response to the RS 245. But since premium SUVs of all shapes and sizes are selling like hot cakes in India, let's not give up hope on the Kodiaq RS just yet. For those of you who don't need that kind of power, the familiar 190 PS 2.0l engine does a fine job too.
Sure, it's no replacement for the diesel's snappy torque delivery and needs you to rev well beyond 2,000rpm to get into the meat of the power, but you will appreciate its smoothness that makes other three-row SUVs in this price bracket feel old and unrefined. Between 3,000-5,500 is where the engine feels most lively and despite the relatively dull low-end compared to the diesel, the Kodiaq has good city manners. It hit the standing ton in 8.5s during our tests (7.8s claimed), which is just a shade slower than the Superb. But its in-gear acceleration is on par with Skoda's flagship sedan, which is commendable for this three-row offering.
The Kodiaq comes with an all-wheel drive which draws its power via the slick seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Unlike the other application of this engine that we have seen recently in the Octavia, the Kodiaq gets driving modes that give you a more responsive power delivery in Sport mode or let you dull it down to maximise fuel economy. But even in the fuel-sipping Eco mode, you would be lucky to get a double-digit fuel economy and that is the big dampener for anyone choosing the Kodiaq for practicality. There is no denying that the Kodiaq badly needs a hybrid variant if it is divorcing the diesel for good. But I guess that will only happen with the next-generation model which is at least a couple of years away.
Ride and handling
The Kodiaq is quite a light for a three-row crossover and feels agile compared to the likes of the Fortuner or the Gloster. Speaking of it, the new Kodiaq's biggest highlight is the electronically controlled dampers. You can select between Comfort, Normal and Sport levels of stiffness to either give you a supple ride over poor road surfaces or tighten things up for better handling around bends. The change in the characteristics isn't alarmingly different but is noticeable. All said and done, the Kodiaq isn't as sharp around the bends as you would expect from the spec sheet. It is best enjoyed when driven in a laid-back, measured manner. The ride, as before, is a bit on the firmer side and not as plush as the bigger three-row SUVs from Toyota and MG. But it is a comfortable car nonetheless and the well-controlled body roll will ensure that your family isn't going to feel car sick even when you hit the twisties.
The electronically controlled damping and the three rows of seating are the trump cards for the 2022 Kodiaq and these two features could make you choose the Kodiaq over entry-level luxury compacts like the BMW X1 or the Mercedes-Benz GLA. The Kodiaq comes with a healthy list of safety features too - the most notable being nine airbags, multi-collision brakes and attention assist - and all of them are standard across the range.
As is the case with most cars from Skoda India, the Kodiaq isn't cluttered with too many options. There is only one engine and gearbox option and it can be had with three-trim levels. The petrol-only approach is certainly going to hamper its cause, but if you don't necessarily need a diesel the Kodiaq is easily one of the most refined options that you can bet your money on.
Photography Anis Shaikh
Watch our video review of the 2022 Skoda Kodiaq facelift below,
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