More of a jacked-up estate car than a steeply-profiled SUV, the crystal-inspired ŠKODA Kodiaq certainly possesses strong road presence and kerb appeal with a mature, sizeable but fairly inconspicuous face, flowing side flanks and roofline, and a generic rear end that closely resembles various VAG stablemates but nevertheless finishes the Czech 7-seater’s overall design off in a crisp, modern manner. Petrol Blue suits it well. Moody daytime running lights and hefty alloys seal the deal and the Kodiaq’s exterior package comfortably stands proud alongside similarly-sized SUVs from differing market segments. In fact, gazing down at it from a first floor window, the front corner with its clamshell bonnet has a whiff of Range Rover about it when viewed from the side, which is obviously no bad thing.
Anyone familiar with ŠKODA’s previous flagship model in SE-L trim will know what to expect inside, the Kodiaq effectively a Superb on stilts in many respects. The quality of the ŠKODA SUV’s cabin doesn’t put the wind up premium masters like Audi, but considering the Kodiaq’s (relatively, of course) highly impressive price of £33,995, its materials, fit and finish snap at the heels of VW’s best efforts, while the whopping piece of faux wood above the glovebox further elevates the initial perceived aura of sophistication after climbing aboard.
The pair of rearmost seats is unsurprisingly more suited to children than adults and on short journeys at that, while there’s plentiful room for the five main occupants, rear legroom particularly impressive as ŠKODA fans have come to expect, with the added benefit of seats that individually slide on rails. For anyone contemplating munching their way through 500+ miles in a day, the SE-L variant’s Alcantara seats with leather side supports are wonderfully comfortable, although families with young children would benefit from the cleaning advantages of optional full leather.
The Columbus satellite navigation with 9.2″ touchscreen display looks satisfyingly posh, is easy to get to grips with and even comes with integrated Wi-Fi. Wireless charging of compatible phones is also provided by means of an inductive pad, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported and even the non-range-topping sound system sounds fantastic for those who don’t choose the Canton upgrade. ŠKODA’s latest Connect system is excellent and includes fuel station, POI, Google Earth, Google Street View, news and weather information. Area View functionality with a quartet of wide-angled cameras and guidelines make parking this hefty car a doddle, and the Kodiaq can be specified with a raft of safety and convenience features from park assist and high beam control to front assist radar cruise control. It’s the most advanced ŠKODA yet, available with most of the latest technologies many motorists have come to expect.
Endearing touches are part of ŠKODA’s mantra and Kodiaq drivers will be smitten with the umbrellas slotted into the front doors, the torch in the boot, and the ice scraper provided under the fuel filler cap. The plastic door protectors that automatically swoop out to reduce damage in car parks and the like are also considerately ingenious. Storage wise, the central compartment is pretty large, the thoughtfully soft-lined door bins can’t be grumbled with, plenty of other oddment storage is dotted around the cabin and there’s even a waste bin if you can be bothered emptying it periodically. It’s just a shame that both sections of the twin glovebox are quite small, unless taken literally and used for storing actual gloves in. Darker privacy glass would also have been nice, although the rear blinds somewhat compensated while keeping one of our nieces entertained. Ahem.
Boot capacity is a compelling reason to plump for a Kodiaq and while the 5-seat version offers a cavernous 720 litres, the 7-seat car as tested provides a nevertheless formidable 630 litres, with no loading lip to navigate and sensibly linear parameters to play with. With the two boot seats erect the capacity drops to 270 litres, which in itself compares to some superminis on the market. For our Scotland road trip, we managed to cram a ridiculous amount of claptrap in the back of the Kodiaq in 5-seat mode, from a double mattress and bedding plus two large suitcases to umpteen other bags and boxes. The only real gripe is that there’s an unsightly and unprotected gap left between the load cover and back seats if the latter have been slid forwards to eke as much space as possible out of the boot. For caravan and trailer towers out there, the Kodiaq in 1.4 TSI petrol manual SE-L guise as tested can pull upto 2,000kg braked.
Any preconceptions that placing such a numerically paltry engine at the heart of a sizeable car like this will be as ineffective as using a motorised pepper grinder are promptly shattered. The four-cylinder turbocharged unit has proved itself across a swathe of VAG models, latterly in SEAT’s Ateca, and its 150PS and 250Nm peaks are plentiful to waft ŠKODA’s 7-seater 4×4 SUV along in a smooth and impressively hushed manner. The Kodiaq isn’t a performance car by any stretch of the imagination, so a 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds is perfectly acceptable. Various driving modes can be selected using the beautifully crisp screen, from Eco, Comfort and Normal through to Sport, Individual and Snow, and even in green-configured Eco mode, the driving experience is perfectly enjoyable around town, on the motorway and on A-roads.
Most Kodiaq 1.4 drivers will likely leave theirs in Normal mode for the best overall balance of characteristics. Although Sport mode does sharpen up the handling and boost the throttle response, the result isn’t particularly intoxicating but does enable this comfort-focussed car to corner much more aggressively than in Eco mode, which can be a wallow fest in the bends. It’s not a hardcode off-roader, more suited to grass and gravel, but the 4×4 button provides added reassurance when things get messy under the wheels.
There’s a caveat to the 1.4 TSI engine’s abilities in the 4×4 Kodiaq, though. While Eco, Comfort and Normal modes were acceptable for the 3-hour leg up the M6, and Sport mode tangibly helped us snake our way through the glorious Trossachs successfully, only two of us were in the car, and although the boot was crammed to the hilt, many of the items were relatively light, such as pillows and blankets. The next day, with the boot emptied and with four adults and two children on board, the small capacity petrol engine struggled on the even twistier and steep roads heading west towards Loch Lomond, necessitating regular downshifts. For anyone who will regularly ferry five to seven passengers or else a collection of washing machines around, the diesel version will prove more suitable.
In today’s climate of increasing hostility toward diesel, private motorists and company car fleet drivers and managers might be tempted by the Kodiaq in 1.4 TSI guise and can rest assured that the unit is EU6 compliant. Okay, CO2 emissions of 156g/km in 4×4 manual form aren’t going to win it any prizes, but after over 700 miles of very mixed driving, some with a full capacity of homo sapiens and luggage on board, our test car averaged 36.4mpg. In comparison to the 40.9mpg figure published in ŠKODA’s literature, this is impressive – although drivers with a heavy right foot will see the average fall. With Kodiaq personal lease deals for this spec’ averaging around £250/month (exc. VAT) for a useable 8,000 miles per year, it’s a very tempting prospect.
With a fairly pedestrian but nevertheless elegant design, that highly-coveted ride height, an immensely comfortable, spacious and well-equipped interior, plenty of endearingly practical touches and an engine that makes a lot of sense for drivers who saunter rather than sprint and don’t carry six passengers on a regular basis, ŠKODA’s Kodiaq epitomises modern family motoring.
External photography: Isabel Carter