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2018 Skoda Kodiaq review, road test

2nd Feb 2018 6:00 am

The Czech brand’s first middle-of-the-road SUV promises much, but does it deliver enough luxury SUV to justify the price? We put it under the microscope.

  • Make : Skoda
  • Model : Kodiaq

Czech carmaker Skoda is famous for its large and well-engineered sedans. The company first started its innings in India with the solidly built Octavia, followed by the bigger and more luxurious Superb, and it hasn’t looked back since. Yes, there have been some service-related ups and downs, where the brand has taken a knock. But despite these, the Octavia and the Superb managed to carve out a niche for themselves. What works so well for Skoda in India is that the models deliver a massive amount of car for the money; exactly what Indian car buyers want. Does anyone do value luxury better? The answer is no.

Skoda, however, hasn’t been big on SUVs. In fact, truth be told, it seems to have missed the boat completely. Yes, the quirky Yeti – sold in India from 2010 up until early this year – was technically
an SUV and it came with a 4x4 system too, but its unfavourable price-to-size ratio and oddball styling meant customers ended up spending their money elsewhere.

But that is set to change now. Skoda’s new-gen SUVs will be big, very spacious, conventionally attractive and, like its sedans, loaded to the gills with features. The Kodiaq we have here is the first of Skoda’s new-age SUVs.

It seats seven, comes with a sophisticated and modern interior, and loads and loads of tech. The Kodiaq isn’t cheap, but, like the range-topping Superb, it promises to deliver the full luxury-SUV experience at a premium. Question is, is there enough luxury SUV here to justify the ex-showroom price of Rs 34.49 lakh? At this price, it isn’t too far off from compact luxury SUVs like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, and if you want something rugged and capable of tackling serious off-road challenges, there’s the brilliant Ford Endeavour and Toyota’s bulletproof Fortuner to contend with.

So can the Kodiaq – named after the island in Alaska that’s home to the largest grizzly bear in the world – offer the best balance of luxury, practicality, rugged appeal and comfort? It’s a big ask.

Walk up to the Kodiaq and apart from the size, it’s the crisp details and the bold lines that get your attention first. The grille and headlight combo is pulled back, much like a drawn bow, and with the swage lines pulled tight along the flanks and the clamshell bonnet, it just looks the business.

 Even the detailing is neat. The Czech-crystal-like, multi-element, all-LED headlights are enclosed in slim and sharply defined pods, the bonnet is flanked by squared-off wheel arches, and the flying arrow Skoda logo ( with its ‘comet tail’ of raised metal ) looks attractive.

The design, however, gets less interesting around the back and the wheels should have been larger, but the Skoda identity and that all-important off-roader stance are all there. And while the Kodiaq isn’t as ‘out there’ as the Yeti, there’s still plenty of individuality and ‘craft appeal’ here. Take, for example, the ‘pinch’ in the metal at the confluence of the bonnet, fender and front door; it’s unique. Look at the mini lamps on the ‘cheekbones’ of the Kodiaq, and the way the lights at the rear tuck in; they’re just cool. Jozef Kaba (former head of design), Skoda will miss you.

What you do tend to forget when you look at the Kodiaq, however, is that it’s only 4.7m long. Shorter than the Superb and only 40mm longer than the Octavia, it is surprisingly compact. And it isn’t as wide as other full-sized SUVs either. Compare the Kodiaq’s track to something like an Audi Q7, and the difference is apparent, with the Skoda at between 1,586mm and 1,576mm (F, R) and the Audi at 1,679mm and 1,691mm.

So, how then does the Kodiaq deliver all that space on the inside? Well, to begin with, it uses a transversely located engine as against a longitudinal one, which allows it to have a short bonnet and a long cabin. Built on the same MQB platform as the Octavia and the Passat, it makes good use of vertical space. And then, on the inside, the driver sits far ahead in the cabin, close to the windshield, made possible by the shallow dash that doesn’t protrude too much.

Under the skin, the Kodiaq gets independent front and rear suspension via steel coils, there’s a lot of aluminium used in the front suspension to keep the unsprung mass down and this 4x4 version even gets driving modes such as ‘Comfort’, ‘Sport’ and a low-friction surface mode called ‘Snow’. Missing on the Indian car, however, is Dynamic Chassis Control, the variable dampers available in other markets; the ones that actually make the most difference to the various driving modes. You do get an on-demand 4x4 system though. An electronically controlled multi-plate clutch allows the system to constantly meter the right amount of power to be sent to the rear wheel. And you also get XDS plus, where the brakes are used selectively via the ESP system to offer the effect of a limited slip differential. Hill descent control is missing, ground clearance at 187mm isn’t too impressive and if you are going to venture off road, you really need a better set of off-road tyres. Still, all the essential ingredients for an urban monocoque based SUV are here.

The climb up to the cabin of the Kodiaq isn’t very steep. With the range available on the adjustable steering and the powered seat, finding a comfortable driving position is easy, and the large, square-rigged seats offer excellent back and thigh support. The dash, however, is very compact and placed close to the windscreen, and sitting so far forward does take some getting used to. It is well designed and the build in most places is very good as well. This is clearly a Skoda dash, with the majority of the elements carried over, but what sets the fascia apart are the vertically aligned chrome vents and the faux-wood finish of the second glove box. The wood finish isn’t very convincing and functionality isn’t very slick, but you do get plenty of storage space in the front with the two gloveboxes, large bins on the doors and a massive elbow box. This ‘jumbo box’, as Skoda calls it, even comes with a smart insert that has cubbyholes and phone holders of different sizes and shapes; neat. There’s more clever stuff to appreciate, like the door edge protectors that extend to protect the door when it is being opened, umbrella holders in the doors and a mini LED torch that can be magnetically attached to the body of the car to provide illumination.

You also get what Skoda calls a ‘virtual pedal’ for the boot. Wave your leg under the hatch with the key in your pocket and the boot lid flips up. It doesn’t work seamlessly, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite a useful feature. There are nets and hooks in the back and should you need to expand the boot capacity of 630 litres (with the third row flat), you can do so with the 40:20:40 folding second row. And should you need to hide something, there’s even a double floor.

 The best seats in the house, however, are those on the second row. The big rectangular bench offers plenty of support, the height is just right and the seats can be inclined to suit your needs. It’s also wide enough for seating three abreast. And should you want to nap, you can extend the collars integrated into the headrests to prevent your head from lolling around; it actually works quite well.

What enhances the back seat experience considerably is the huge panoramic sunroof that allows for stunning vistas, even with just the blind pulled back and the glass roof closed. Palm trees, Mumbai’s heritage buildings, the cliff faces near Aamby Valley in Lonavala, we enjoyed viewing them all.

The third row, however, isn’t as impressive. This is Skoda’s first seven-seater, but honestly, it’s more like a 5+2; the last couple of seats nowhere near full size. The second row can be slid forward, and if you pull the front seats forward marginally, you can accommodate adult passengers in the back. But, ingress isn’t easy. You need to climb up into the cabin via a narrow gap between the second-row seat and the door frame, and getting out with even a modicum of decorum, is even more difficult. The worst bit, however, is that the seat has practically been placed on the floor, so the seating position is positively commodious and very knees-up; only for children, or for very short drives.

Under the hood of the Kodiaq is the VW Group’s 2.0 TDi engine. Power is limited to 150hp in this state of tune, but there’s still a very healthy 340Nm of torque from 1,750rpm. The driver gets paddleshifters, and, you guessed it, a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox takes over the job of multiplying the power and dishing it out appropriately.

Start up the diesel and it’s surprisingly refined. It’s quiet, at low engine speeds, and smooth, and it even responds instantly. Yes, there is a hint of turbo lag at low speeds, but tap the throttle once the engine has crossed 1,400rpm and the Kodiaq belies its size and shoots forward almost instantly. What impresses deeply is that it all feels so effortless, like the Kodiaq weighs 1,200kg instead of its considerable 1,799kg. And what helps keep the momentum up is the lightning-quick twin-clutch gearbox; still, the best in the business, if you exclude Porsche and Ferrari.

Performance in the mid-range is more than sufficient. The engine’s brawny slug of mid-range torque not only makes it feel punchy, the motor’s willingness to rev and its responsive nature also make it perform in almost sporty manner. In fact, choose ‘Sport’ on the drive menu, and the Kodiaq does manage to convey an impression of sport, the gears being held onto longer and responses to the throttle improved.

What the Kodiaq doesn’t quite manage well is flat-out performance. There are two reasons for this. To begin with, 150hp isn’t all that much, especially when asked to push a heavy vehicle like this. And then there’s the quite irritating slope off in power at 4,000rpm. Go past this engine speed and it’s as if you’ve hit a wall. Acceleration is killed, the motor drones a fair bit, and the engine only climbs up to 4,500rpm after plenty of labour. The only way to get around this is to short-shift manually just before 4,000rpm. Luckily, there are paddles and the shifts are very quick.

Flat-out acceleration to 100kph takes a not-too-impressive 10.62sec, but the Kodiaq does pull hard after that as well, with 140kph coming up in 22.1sec. Still, for a luxury SUV at this price, owners will miss having that extra performance on hand. Having to work hard for something you should have in the first place is no luxury.

Skoda usually gets the ride and handling balance on its cars right. But here, without the aid of adjustable dampers the car gets in other markets, low-speed ride is a bit brittle. This is especially true at low speeds, where, over some shaper-edged bumps, there is the odd crack and some occasional thump from the suspension. And get onto some of the patchwork roads that we have aplenty here, and there’s a restlessness to the ride that can be mildly irritating. The suspension has been set-up to be slightly firmer than usual in an effort to control the body roll better, and what also plays a role here are stiffer anti-roll bars.

However, up the pace and the Kodiaq has the ability to flatten almost any bump, the stiffness now paying dividends. There is a bit of pitching and a hint of a bob, but otherwise the Kodiaq rides so well, passengers can relax inside the cabin without being tossed around, with only the odd thump emanating from the suspension.

Another thing owners will love about the SUV is the light, direct and quick steering. There isn’t much real feel and that can be an issue at higher speeds, but in the city, the steering needs next to no effort, and the Kodiaq steers so quickly, with little lock required, all you need to do is flick your wrists; elbows and arms not really needed.

So driving the Kodiaq around in the city is quite agreeable. And once on the highway, handling is neat and tidy too. Body roll is kept well in check. The front end has a fair amount of grip, and with the rear wheels chipping in to provide traction as and when needed, wringing the Kodiaq out is more enjoyable than we expected. It’s just that the overly quick steering has little real feel, and that robs you of confidence.

With figures like 9.78 and 14.45kpl on our challenging real-world route, the Kodiaq is surprisingly efficient for a big seven-seat SUV. Of course, the fact that it uses a monocoque chassis helps, and
then there’s the fact that the MQB platform is also considerably lighter than most, but Skoda’s
crisp tune of the diesel engine and its clever gearing (short in the first three gears) plays a big
role here too. 

Skoda’s frameless 8.0-inch touchscreen has a slick interface that is both logical and easy to use. While using the home screen (and ‘Menu’ shortcut) and flicking through the various menus is easy, what is quicker still is using the fixed shortcut keys that are placed alongside. Navigation is a useful addition here and ‘App’ leads you to a page where you can load Skoda’s own apps, like Skoda One and Boss App. What’s also an absolute delight is the Canton 10-speaker sound system that delivers impressive clarity and thumping bass via the mini sub-woofer in the luggage compartment. The system is also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which further enhance the experience.   

The Kodiaq currently comes in only one generously loaded version. You get leather seats, LED lights all round, cornering lights, drowsiness sensor, headlight washers and smart-timed defoggers for the mirrors and rear windscreen. You get two types of brake assist, hydraulic and mechanical, multi-collision prevention, pre-safe (pre-fill) and an electrical handbrake with an Auto Hold function. Both front and rear get parking sensors, you get a parking camera and hands-free parking as well to help you squeeze into those tight gaps. You get a class-leading nine airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, active front headrests and fuel cut-off in the event of a crash. For entertainment and connectivity, there’s an 8.0-inch TFT screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amundsen navigation from Skoda. The screen works fabulously, operations are slick and even handling difficult tasks tend to be easier on this system. You even get an app called Boss Connect that allows you to use your phone like a remote from the back seat. And like the E-class, you can alter the ambient light to suit your taste – there are 10 colours. There’s even a removable rear parcel shelf that stores under the floor, roller blinds for the rear windows, small dustbins in the doors and a slender space saver tyre under the floor.

The Kodiaq may be Skoda’s first middle-of-the-road SUV, but the combination of appealing quality, smart practicality, and modern-day SUV desirability makes it an attractive proposition. Yes, it is a bit expensive at Rs 34.49 lakh, low-speed ride isn’t perfect, the third-row seats aren’t practical and the car needs a bit more power; 20 or 30hp should be good enough.

Still, the Kodiaq scores well in so many areas, it’s easy to overlook these shortcomings. To begin with, like its sister car, the Superb, it manages to deliver so much luxury SUV for the money; it seems like a bargain when you look at the competition and see where they are for the price and size. The cabin is lovingly put together, seat comfort in the first two rows is fantastic and Skoda has equipped the Kodiaq well and provided it with plenty of safety gear. Its engine is silent, smooth and extremely responsive, and, with its light steering, the Kodiaq is an absolute pleasure to drive in the city. When you get to more open roads, it is stable, turns into corners with enthusiasm and generally feels light on its feet and fun to drive.

Yes, there are areas it could have been better and Skoda’s service, though much improved, is still some way from being totally satisfying. But even as things stand, the Kodiaq is so much luxury SUV for the money; it’s an SUV you just can’t ignore. Remember to buy the service pack and extended warranty though, they are essential to your long-term peace of mind.

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 34.49 lakh
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Fuel Type / Propulsion Diesel
Engine Installation Front, transverse
Type In-line, 4 cyls
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1968cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 81.0/95.5mm
Compression Ratio 16.2:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 150hp at 3500-4000rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 340Nm at 1750-3000rpm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 83.37hp per tonne
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 188.99Nm per tonne
Specific Output (hp/litre) 76.21hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Drive Layout Four-wheel drive
Gearbox Type Automatic
No of Gears 7
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 3.562/7.762
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 2.526/13.13
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.586/20.92
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.938/29.47
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.722/38.29
6th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.688/48.22
7th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.574/57.80
Final Drive Ratio 4.733:1 (Gears 1,4,5) - 3.944:1 (Gears 2,3,6,7)
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 24.72m, 2.17s
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
City (kpl) 9.78kpl
Highway (kpl) 14.45kpl
Tank size (lts) 63 litres
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.48s
0 - 20 kph (sec) 0.88s
0 - 30 kph (sec) 1.44s
0 - 40 kph (sec) 2.34s
0 - 50 kph (sec) 3.09s
0 - 60 kph (sec) 4.19s
0 - 70 kph (sec) 5.50s
0 - 80 kph (sec) 6.90s
0 - 90 kph (sec) 8.60s
0 - 100 kph (sec) 10.62s
0 - 110 kph (sec) 12.81s
0 - 120 kph (sec) 15.37s
0 - 130 kph (sec) 18.63s
0 - 140 kph (sec) 22.17s
1/4 mile (sec) 17.56s
20-80kph (in third gear) (sec) 7.16s
40-100kph (in fourth gear) (sec) 8.40s
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
1st (kph @rpm) 39kph at 4800rpm
2nd (kph @rpm) 67kph at 5000rpm
3rd (kph @rpm) 107kph at 5000rpm
4th (kph @rpm) 148kph at 5000rpm
5th (kph @rpm) 189kph at 4900rpm
6th (kph @rpm) 192kph at 4000rpm
7th (kph @rpm) 192kph at 3300rpm
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Idle (dB) 46.2dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 53.2dB
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 55.5dB
50 kph in 4th gear AC off (dB) 61.5dB
80 kph in top gear AC off (dB) 64.2dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Construction Four-door SUV, monocoque
Weight (kg) 1799kg
Front Tyre 235/55 R18
Rear Tyre 235/55 R18
Spare Tyre 145/85 R18
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Independent, McPherson struts, coil springs
Rear Independent, multi-link, torsion beam
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 12.2m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Discs
Rear Discs
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Length 4697mm
Width (mm) 1882mm
Height 1665mm
Wheel base 2791mm
Front Track (mm) 1586mm
Rear Track (mm) 1576mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1440mm
Ground Clerance (mm) 188mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 270 litres
INTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
HVAC type 3-zone climate control
Touchscreen 8.0-inch
Auto dimming inner rear view mirror Yes
Sunroof Yes
Boot operation Hands-free
EXTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Automatic headlamps Yes (LED)
Parking camera Yes
Automatic parking Semi-auto parking
SAFETY FEATURES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Airbags 9
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