We Indians love SUVs, especially the ones that can tower over hatchbacks and sedans and tackle bad roads with ease. However, not everyone is fond of owning an XXL-sized vehicle that’s difficult to park and drive through narrow lanes. This is where the new Skoda Kodiaq swoops in perfectly – it’s a mid-size SUV that genuinely drives like a big sedan, with enough room for the whole family.
The Kodiaq is based on the same modular MQB platform that forms the Octavia and the Superb and in terms of dimensions it sits right in the middle. At this point you would be wondering if it’s a worthy alternative to the larger ladder frame SUVs. As it turns out, it is. The Kodiaq is selling in good numbers in Europe and it’s even hatched its own ‘mini me’ in the upcoming Karoq. So what’s the appeal? Is it ‘simply clever’ or a lot more?
Design and Style
From a distance, the Kodiaq doesn’t appear as tall or tough looking as its main rivals (Read: Ford Endeavour, Toyota Fortuner). Having said that, it isn’t as compact or curvy looking as a typical soft-roader either – it is in fact broad-shouldered and attracts plenty of stares. In typical Skoda fashion, its sharp lines and creases give it a clean and thoroughly modern look. This applies in particular to the highly recessed shoulder line which adds some visual drama.
The Kodiaq isn’t about all flash and muscle but subtle flair in finer details. Take the front-end, for instance – the narrow, raked headlights (which flow seamlessly into the grille), the ten-bar grille and the LED eyelashes within the headlamps are distinctive to look at. You will find plenty of standout elements in profile as well, including the well-designed 18-inch alloys, the C-shaped kink at the rear lights and those angular wheel arches. The rear-end, though, looks conservative in comparison despite the highly detailed taillights and a sharply sculpted tailgate. Nonetheless, the Kodiaq is a fine-looking looking SUV overall, with crisp detailing and spot-on proportions for an urban SUV.
The Kodiaq’s interior design and layout has a whiff of Skoda’s other premium models and that’s not a bad thing at all. Like the Superb and the Octavia, chrome highlights and light coloured materials wrap around the dash, while a generous centre console and a large touchscreen infotainment system are visual draws. The three-spoke steering wheel, instrument panel and the climate control stack are all shared with the Superb. What’s unique to the Kodiaq though are the vertical elements such as the four large air vents. The gear lever, too, is different and is nice and chunky to hold. It’s not all perfect though, as despite the flagship nature of the Kodiaq, it isn’t as special as it should be when it comes to common switchgear. The cabin may seem wide at first but the ergonomics are spot-on, with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment. The control stalks behind the wheel and the climate control switches are within easy reach, as well. The Kodiaq scores high when it comes to storage options, with twin glove boxes, a large storage bin under the front armrest and equally practical door pockets.
The black and beige trim, the far-reaching windscreen and the panoramic sunroof contribute to the Kodiaq’s airy ambience. The front seats are nice and big and they let you sink in comfortably. Thanks to their generous size, there’s good thigh support although we would have liked some more lateral support. Rear seat passengers unarguably have the best deal, with excellent legroom (though not as good as the Superb) and shoulder room. There is enough room for an adult to stretch their feet out and sink into the seat. However, the cushioning here is a tad firm and the seatback isn’t as deeply sculpted as the front.
The bench has a 40:20:40 split feature and it can be moved back and forth by up to 180mm for variable legroom needs. Surprisingly enough, the bench doesn’t tumble forward which means getting into the third row is bit of a squeeze. As for the space in here, it’s acceptable only for a couple of kids - the combination of a high floor and low seat means you end up sitting in a cramped manner with your knees locked in.
Even with all the seats up, the Kodiaq’s 270-litre boot is fully usable. With the third row folded flat, it’s a lot more capacious at 630-litres but it’s when you put the second row down as well, that you realise how big and practical the Kodiaq’s 2,005-litre storage is. What’s more, the loading lip on the boot is at a good height, and the tailgate itself is electrically powered, making the whole deal all the more convenient.
Safety and Equipment
To put it simply, there’s hardly anything missing inside this cabin. You get an 8-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system (featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), a 12-speaker high-end sound system, nine airbags, ABS, ESP, traction control, panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, parking sensors all around, ambient lighting and electric front seats.
While all of these are standard affair in this class of cars, the Kodiaq has quite a few neat tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, the doors get integrated protection strips that veer out as you open the door, to protect the paint in case you slam it against a wall or another car.
Another neat feature can be found inside the boot wherein the dome light can be detached to double up as a magnetised torch. What’s more, the sound system includes microphones up front that are meant to pick up the occupant’s voice and relay it through the speakers to make conversations easier above road and wind noise. Perhaps the most impressive party trick of them all is the automatic parking feature – it works at really low speeds and is light and easy but at times we found ourselves taking those 235-section Hankooks a little too close to the curbs for our liking and each time we ended up parking the Kodiaq by ourselves.
Engine, Performance and Braking
Under the bulging hood of the Kodiaq you will find Skoda’s standard fare – a 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine and a 7-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. While the engine (developing 150bhp/340Nm) has been returned for drivability keeping the Kodiaq’s extra weight in mind, the dual clutch unit here is the DQ500 spec which sends power to all four wheels via a torque-on-demand all-wheel drive system.
Within minutes of driving the Kodiaq, you will notice how refined it is compared to traditional ladder frame SUVs. There’s less diesel clatter and fewer vibrations through the cabin than a lot of rivals. Although there is a tiny amount of that typical diesel buzz, the engine overall is a commendably subdued unit. It impresses around town as it allows this big vehicle to mask its weight (1830kg as tested) and get up to speed effortlessly. Thanks to the strong bottom-end and mid-range, this motor remains punchy and tractable and pulls extremely well once you are in that sweet spot (between 2,000 and 4,000rpm).
Out on the wide multilane highways, the Kodiaq lazes into triple figures and cruises comfortably at 120kmph, with the needle hovering around the 2,000rpm mark. It’s when you want to make a quick overtake that you realise that this motor could do with some more punch - the progress in momentum gets noticeably slower at higher speeds and the Kodiaq just ends up sounding strained when pushed hard. While it doesn’t feel rapid, the car pulls away strongly off the line and is acceptably brisk for daily duties, thanks to the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic which is quick and responsive when you are in a hurry and you need to reel in that gap in traffic. Interestingly, in the Kodiaq it seems to be smoother compared to the Superb or the Octavia – there is less hesitancy in stop/start traffic and the downshifts are better masked, too. On part throttle, it upshifts early at the meat of the torque band to make quick progress.
The Kodiaq gets several driving modes including a Snow mode. In Sport, it behaves noticeably different as the steering gets heavier and the throttle response becomes crisper. The DSG, too, hangs onto gears for longer and kicks down earlier than expected. All in all, the impressive engine and gearbox combo helped the Kodiaq post decent acceleration times, with 0-100kmph coming up in 10.30 seconds and surprisingly quick in-gear pulls.
Ride and Handling
As for the handling, the Kodiaq remains remarkably well sorted. It feels stable and predictable through the corners with a steering that is light and weighs up ideally as you keep turning the wheel, with sufficient bite on centre. Mind you, it isn’t as ardent to turn in or change directions like the BMW X1 or the Audi Q3 but then the Kodiaq doesn’t wallow like a ladder frame SUV either. All in all, its body control is more car-like and for a mid-size SUV it feels lighter and more compact on the road than you would expect.
The Kodiaq’s low speed ride errs on the firmer side and you do feel sharp edged bumps unsettling the occupants, however, the suspension is superbly refined. The noise suppression especially is fairly good as reverberations into the cabin are next to none. At high speeds, the Kodiaq settles down quickly after going over undulations - there’s inherent composure to its chassis that gives the driver great sense of control behind the wheel. This is something that’s missing in all ladder frame SUVs which tend to be bouncy and unsettling at high speeds.
Price and Fuel Economy
The Kodiaq is a big let-down when it comes to price. At Rs 41.61 lakh on-road Mumbai, it’s significantly more expensive than its arch rivals. Then again, it’s only available in one variant which is the top-of-the-line Style TDI 4x4 AT. In terms of fuel efficiency, the Kodiaq put up decent numbers under our testing cycle, delivering 11.18kmpl in the city and 15.20kmpl on the highway.
In conclusion, the Kodiaq is an impressive step up for Skoda India in the premium mid-size SUV space. After all, only a few vehicles combine ‘family car’ and ‘SUV qualities’ like the Kodiaq. We will start off with its family car traits – it’s really well put together, comes with several legitimate clever features and the cabin is spacious and versatile even for a large family (including kids, that is). As for the SUV qualities, it may not be as macho or in-your-face as the Fortuner or the Endeavour but there is no denying that the Kodiaq enjoys its fair share of road presence – it rides high and is substantial enough to turn heads.
No car is perfect and the Kodiaq is no exception. It isn’t a full-size 7-seater but more like a 5+2 wherein the third row is suitably spacious only for kids. Then there’s the brilliant 2-litre diesel motor which is refined and makes all the right noises, however, in the heavier Kodiaq it could certainly use some extra pulling power. The real bugbear though is the on-road price which is well over Rs 40 lakhs (in Mumbai) and above the established segment leaders. So if you are after ultimate road presence and extreme off-road ability there are better options, but if you are aiming for a quality all-round SUV that drives like a car, the Kodiaq makes for a convincing albeit an expensive choice.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi and Kapil Angane
Click here to read our road test of the Skoda Superb
|CAR NAME||Skoda Kodiaq|
|Variant||Style TDI 4x4 AT|
|Valve gear||4 valves per cyl|
|Power||150bhp at 3500rpm|
340Nm at 1750rpm
|Power to weight||81.96bhp per tonne|
|Torque to weight||185.79Nm per tonne|
|CHASSIS & BODY|
|Tyres (F/R)||235/55 R18|
|Type||Rack and pinion|
|Type of assist||Electric|
|CAR NAME||Skoda Kodiaq|
|Variant||Style TDI 4X4 AT|
|PERFORMANCE & BRAKING|
|20-80kph in 3rd gear||4.59s|
|40-100kph in 5th gear||5.96s|
|80-0kph||2.46s / 27.47m|
|Seat base length||470m|
|Boot (with all seats up)|
|Loading lip height||-|