Considering Škoda traces its history all the way back to 1895 when it was founded by a bookseller and a bicycle maker as Laurin & Klement, it’s pretty strange to find that in 121 years of doing business the Czechs never stumbled upon the idea of an SUV, although it has had the Yeti, a small crossover for some time now.
As the saloon segment wanes, consumers worldwide are gobbling up crossovers and 4x4s — in China, the biggest car market on the planet, SUV sales were up over 50 per cent last year and growing by the same rate in 2016. If you don’t make some sort of crossover you may as well get out of the car business — even Aston Martin’s invested $270 million into a whole new plant in Wales just to make its DBX “all-terrain” sportscar. Bentley too is widening its fresh SUV portfolio to three models including a baby-Bentayga and a fastback, it’ll incorrectly call a coupé. Other first-comers include Alfa Romeo, which is premiering its crossover for next month’s Paris motor show; BMW with its first-ever seven-seater coming next year; Mercedes with a confirmed all-electric SUV; then there’s Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce, and the list goes on…
Škoda may be unfashionably late to the party, but the Kodiaq that’s just been revealed to the world’s automotive press in Berlin (useless trivia: the premiere took place in the same abandoned power station where Porsche presented its all-new second-generation Panamera a couple of months ago) is finally the Czechs’ first SUV.
So, what took them so long? Well, it seems they were just too busy getting things right — for starters the Kodiaq isn’t a rebadged full-size Volkswagen Touareg, which would be a reasonable assumption considering Škoda is Wolfsburg’s budget brand. Instead, the Kodiaq is based on the Group’s modern MQB platform, which also underpins cars like the seventh-generation VW Golf, the latest Audi TT, the Audi Q2 mini crossover, and the VW Tiguan that wheels rated so highly during our test drive in Germany, where contributor Tim Ansell proclaimed the thing “one of the most accomplished vehicles in its class”.
All that bodes quite well for the big Kodiaq, and in fact, the third-generation Touareg due in 2017 just might end up being a rebadged Škoda… At 4.7 metres long the Kodiaq is slightly shorter than the current Touareg, but critically it’s over 200mm longer than the Tiguan. That means room for seven, or the largest boot in class with a volume of up to 2,065 litres, a towing capacity of 2.5 tonnes, and an adjustable centre row. Well, Škoda never was much for flair (you need only look at these photos of the Kodiaq for proof) but when it comes to practicality, it’s hard to beat. When it goes on sale early next year the Kodiaq will offer five powertrain options, and an entry-level model featuring front-wheel drive and a kerb figure of just 1,452kg — featherweight for an SUV… In fact, much of Skoda’s Kodiaq presentation in Berlin was about cold hard figures — we did the maths and just 7.5 per cent of the press pack, for example, was devoted to design. The rest is about headroom, legroom, and elbow room (it’s roomy), and 60:40 split seats, and 180mm of second-row adjustability, optional 8.0in screens, 18in wheels…
Out of the five engines on offer three are petrol powered, starting with a 1.4-litre turbo making 125bhp, moving to a 150bhp 1.4, and topping out with a 2.0-litre engine worth 180bhp and 320Nm of torque. The sole automatic transmission available is a seven-speed double-clutch ’box featuring optional driving modes including Comfort, Normal or Sport.
Škoda’s added both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support in the Kodiaq, as well as a host of safety systems such as Manoeuvre Assist (avoids obstacles behind you), surround-view cameras, emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with lane keeping tech and blind-spot detection, plus finally, Tow Assist, which can handle the dreaded steering for you while reversing with a trailer hitched up. All in all the Kodiaq sounds like quite the all-rounder, as it should be considering it took Škoda 121 years to make it.