It was my first trip to Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum! Already excited about the car I was supposed to drive, this was one of the rare occasions where I was also excited to visit God’s own country, Kerala, the second time around. Having seen the beautiful backwaters of Kerala, I was super excited to drive a car whose name resembles that of an Alaskan bear. The Kodiaq is Skoda’s first ever 7-seater SUV in its 121 year history. It competes with the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour at one end, and also some European rivals like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Skoda have packed their latest SUV to the brim with features. Let’s take a closer look at the latest from the Czech Republic.
The Skoda Kodiaq is one beefy-looking SUV, but it hides it’s weight rather well. It measures 4.7 metres in length and has a wheelbase of 2.8 metres. The car has been designed by Jozef Kaban and gets the typical Skoda features like a large butterfly grille, slim full LED headlights with a separate LED foglamp just below it and short bonnet with sharp crease lines. The length of the car is evident from the sides, but the strong creaseline that runs from the front fender to the taillights helps even out the mass. This SUV gets some rugged-looking square wheel arches that are filled up by 18-inch alloy wheels. Coming to the rear, there are the family look C-shape taillights that are full LED, again giving it a very upmarket feel. Overall, the car has an understated elegance that will appeal to your regular luxury car buyer.
Enter the cabin and you are surprised as to how easily you can get into a comfortable driving position. The driver’s seat is also fully electrically adjustable, but adjustments for the tilt and telescopic steering wheel are all manual. The instrument cluster has been lifted from the Superb sedan, and offers crystal clear legibility. The 8-inch infotainment system is a familiar one that can be also found on the lesser Octavia. This system supports Apple Car Play Android Auto and MirrorLink and has fluid touch responses for it’s touchscreen panel. Interior lighting again is all LED and there are loads of cubby holes around in the cabin. A smart feature is the umbrella holder within both the front doors. They also have a drain function where in you can insert the wet umbrella into the compartment and it will drain the rain water out of the door automatically. The front seats are extremely comfortable and will always keep you busy with a wide range of functions available on the infotainment screen and the lower central console.
Jump to the rear and you are pleasantly happy with the superb space in here. Yes! That pun was intended. If you have ever sat in a Superb you will know about the amount of legroom it offers its customers. The same is with the Skoda Kodiaq as well. There is excess legroom in the backseat with excellent back support and loads of space for your feet. There are centrally mounted AC vents at the rear. The 3 zone climate control system does it’s job well, while the huge panoramic sunroof adds hugely to the ambience and feel of this cabin. The second row can be slid back n forth by up to 18cms, offering great practicality. Skoda India has also offered something called as the Power Nap Pack. This includes two foldable cushions that flip down from the rear headrests to support your neck while taking a nap in the back seat.
But this is a 7-seater SUV and the most important is the 3rd row that is the talking point here. Getting into the 3rd row is easy. Just flip forward the second row with the pull of a lever. Get back here and you will find decent legroom. Although headroom and under thigh support is badly lacking. Adults can sit here for short trips or best leave it to the kids to do their shenanigans. Now you do get some clever touches on the insides, like the sun blinds on rear windows, up to 10 colors for interior ambient mood lighting, the boot lamp that also works as a removable wireless torch, a neat place to tuck in a rear parcel tray under the boot floor and fully adjustable 40:20:40 split seats that offer utter practicality. A feature that we loved was the one on all the four doors. A plastic piece pops out every time you open the door. It protects the edges of the door and also prevents any dents on other cars if parked in a tight parking spot.
The Skoda Kodiaq in India will be sold with one engine option that is a 2.0-litre diesel with 150 PS and 340 Nm on tap. This will be mated only to a 7-speed DSG gearbox. It will also come with all wheel drive system as standard on the range topping variant we drove. Start the engine via the push start button and you feel a slight quiver after which everything is absolutely smooth. The vibrations at idle are very well damped, but you do hear the typical clatter you associate with a Volkswagen Group diesel engine. Starting off is very easy, as the engine blips the throttle every time you leave the brake for the accelerator. This is intentionally done, as dual clutch gearboxes do not naturally provide the off pedal torque we normally associate with traditional automatics. On the move too, vibration levels are very much not present, but you do hear the clattery note of this engine whenever you rev it out of it’s comfort zone. The engine gearbox combo feels very responsive in the city, but on the highway we feel you will be left wanting for more power, since this is meant to be a heavy duty 7-seat SUV. The gearbox too, sometimes feels jerky. You do get a sport mode and paddle shifters when you want to take total control of the car.
The Skoda Kodiaq gets 5 driving modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, Individual and Snow. In Eco mode, the gearbox upshifts as early as possible to provide a fuel-efficient drive. The engine will coast at idle in this mode when you take your foot off the accelerator at any given speed. Sport mode is completely the opposite, while Snow mode is meant for low friction surfaces. The all wheel drive system in the Skoda Kodiaq behaves as a front wheel drive car for most part, sending 96 percent of power to the front wheels at all times. Depending on the situation, the system can transfer 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels for better traction. In situations where the car loses traction to the front wheels, it will send 90 percent of the power to the rear axle, and in extreme conditions can also send up to 85 percent of power to any one of the wheels. We didn’t really test it on any off-road track on our short test drive, but one thing is for sure that this machine has some confident highway manners.
The Skoda Kodiaq feels built to drive on the highways. The ride has a comfortable edge to it. You definitely feel the underlying stiffness of the chassis, but on perfectly paved tarmac this car glides like butter on a hot pan. This is especially true in the Eco mode, where the car feels extremely quiet and luxurious. The ride from the back seat isn’t fully sorted but the suspension offers a nice rounded edge to all potholes. Straight line stability is excellent and this car can be taken around corners confidently. The steering offers good feedback giving you that confidence. Brakes too feel adequate and bite offered is great from the all wheel discs. The Skoda Kodiaq has been rated 5 stars in the EuroNCAP ratings. It offers a total of 9 airbags along with features rear parking camera, and handsfree parking.
The Skoda Kodiaq is a practical SUV with an understated appeal. It will attract people who have a big family and need a soft roader, and not something hard core as the Toyota Fortuner or the Ford Endeavour. It will also compete with the likes of the BMW X1 or the Audi Q3, but on offer is a lot more interior room than the other two. Overall, the Skoda Kodiaq is an all-rounder when it comes to capabilities. This one is going to get a strong demand post its price introduction next week.
Photography by Dr. Anand Narvekar