- Terrific value for money
- Spacious for 5, but roomy enough for 7
- Comfortable, quality interior
- Diesel isn’t here yet
- Petrol could use more urge
- Blind spot monitoring optional
Volkswagen’s low-cost brand Skoda launched into the Australian market in 2009 – but despite offering practical and interesting cars like the Octavia and Yeti, Skoda have been waiting on their first big winner here. Why? Two reasons: establishing a new brand in Australia’s cutthroat new car marketplace takes time, and Skoda’s Euro-centric range of hatches and wagons hasn’t spoken to Australia’s real desire: SUVs. Good news, then: Skoda’s entrant into the high-riding class is here, we’ve driven it, and the verdict is that the 2017 Skoda Kodiaq is the best seven-seater you can buy for $42,990. In fact, the Kodiaq embarrasses numerous more expensive three-row SUVs.
It may not be a Volkswagen, but it might as well be – the Kodiaq is based on VW’s Tiguan and that’s how it feels behind the wheel. Many parts are shared between the pair and inside, the Kodiaq actually feels a little more premium than its Volkswagen counterpart despite sporting more equipment at a lower price.
The Kodiaq’s Volkswagen lineage is clear under the bonnet, too – the VW Group’s familiar 132kW, 320Nm two-litre turbo petrol arrives from launch and feels adequate. The petrol has enough oomph in town but is a little short of go on the highway – and many interested buyers will prefer to wait for the musclier 140kW, 400Nm turbo diesel arriving later this year.
Despite being pretty big – it’s about the size of a Hyundai Santa Fe – the Kodiaq does a good job of shrinking around you, feeling small enough to manoeuvre with ease around town. It’s satisfying and pretty refined to drive and comfortable to travel in. The interior is well-made if visually boring, but outside it’s all sharp European lines and the Kodiaq has more driveway cred than most Japanese and Korean seven-seaters.
As it comes at $42,990, the Kodiaq is well-equipped: an 8-inch screen with navigation and smartphone mirroring, 19-inch wheels, leather and Alcantara seats are all thrown in, as is four-wheel-drive. Like its Volkswagen brethren, Skoda’s safety inclusions are good: AEB, active cruise control, and bright LED headlights are standard. The two available option packs contain tempting luxury features and are worth consideration but they see that attractive price climb quickly.
Where the Kodiaq is clearly a Skoda is in the details – Skodas tend to pack a few quirky creature comforts and this is no different. Door edge protectors proactively pop out when you open it up to prevent carpark scratches. There are umbrellas in the doors, and the boot cargo light can be removed and used as a torch. But cuteness aside, it’s clear what the Skoda Kodiaq is: a cheaper, but in some ways better, Volkswagen SUV.
At launch, you can only get the Kodiaq as a petrol, but the success of the exclusively turbo petrol Mazda CX-9 indicates that might not be a problem.
That said, the Kodiaq’s two-litre is a pretty modest engine. The 132kW of power and 320Nm of torque are perfectly adequate for the town duties the Skoda will be used for most of the time, but on the highway – above 100km/h – the 132TSI engine doesn’t have much more to give. Overtaking isn’t as brisk as it needs to be.
A diesel arrives in late 2017, and the 140kW and 400Nm two-litre unit is that found in high-spec Tiguans. In that application the 140TDI is a bit grumbly but it offers much more urge at high speed. For Kodiaq buyers who do a lot of country driving, the diesel will be worth the wait.
In our experience the 140TDI isn’t always the slickest partner to the DSG double-clutch automatic transmission, but it’s largely fine; on the other hand, the 132TSI petrol matched well with the DSG in the Kodaiqs we drove.
Those worried about the petrol engine’s fuel consumption needn’t: it’s fine. In Sydney traffic, the 132TSI returned about 9L/100km, before settling into low 7L/100km territory on country roads.
It’s a fairly quiet experience behind the wheel, at least in the petrol – engine noise is virtually nil, while road and wind noise are well-restrained. The only intrusion was environmental noise; that is, the engines and sounds of things outside the car seemed to leak through more than we’re used to.
On the available adaptive dampers (part of the Tech Pack, $2,500) it rides very well – Comfort mode irons out imperfections well; only a slightly too-short rebound was worth noting as a problem. Sport mode is a bit too firm. As for the standard-fit, non-adaptive springs, we’re not sure yet. Basic cars with normal springs haven’t arrived in Australia yet.
Delivered through a surprisingly lovely stitched steering wheel, the Kodiaq handles quite well for a vehicle of this size. The steering doesn’t deliver great feedback but it’s really well weighted – nice and heavy at higher speeds – and once you’ve mastered the Kodiaq’s present-but-unproblematic body roll, you can make confident progress on a back road. The brakes, too, are fine.
The active cruise control and forward collision warning are well-tuned. However, the lane keep assist (part of the Luxury Pack, $4,900) is too interventionist, actively steering the Kodiaq through corners and fighting driver inputs with a little too much intensity. Blind spot monitoring works as expected, but it too is part of the relatively dear Luxury Pack – it really should be standard.
As we mentioned, the Kodiaq is about the size of a Santa Fe and while it is roomier inside than the Hyundai, the Kodiaq is best thought of as a five-seater with a small third row that will be used occasionally. If your brood is big enough that you’re using the sixth and seventh seats frequently, you’d be better with a Citroen C4 Grand Picasso anyway.
Little kids will be more than happy in the third row and it’s big enough to fit six-foot adults at a pinch – but to make that work, you have to slide the second row forward ten centimetres or so. You get the picture: it’s a nice-to-have to accommodate extra kids when need be.
It’s in the second row where the Kodiaq feels downright luxurious: with the seats slid back, there is massive legroom and headroom and three adults will fit side-by-side without issue. There are standard-fit tablet holders for those in the back, and sunblinds keep the glare away. Air vents are, naturally, fitted.
Up front the Kodiaq feels homely and comfortable. Visually, it’s nothing particularly special – the Skoda’s slabby dash panel trimmed in a sort of faux-wood is a bit naff, but importantly, the dashboard is well laid out around a standard eight-inch touchscreen and all the touch points feel good.
Standard trim on the seats is leather on the edges and Alcantara inserts. It feels luxurious enough, but families will want full leather (part of the Luxury Pack, $4,900) which will be far easier to keep clean. The driving position, though, is pretty good – better than that in the Tiguan – and outward visibility is solid.
The steering wheel, in particular, is great – with perforated leather, pronounced stitching and a flat bottom, the Kodiaq makes a good impression when you hop in. Likewise, the soft leather gear shifter and yielding plastics on the dash are quality. There’s even a slight softness to where your leg rests against the centre console. You don’t get that on the Volkswagen Tiguan.
Back to that screen. The Kodiaq debuts Skoda’s new ‘Columbus’ system with a crisp, high-resolution screen, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But where’s the DAB digital radio? We were also perplexed why lists tended to scroll a bit slowly, as if the Skoda doesn’t have sufficient computing power behind the attractive gloss display. However, the optional Canton speaker system (part of the Tech Pack, $2,500) sounds pleasant.
Despite its relatively compact size as three-row SUVs go – it’s smaller than the CX-9, the Kluger and the Sorento – the Kodiaq is roomy and offers good cargo space. With all seven seats up, the Kodiaq’s boot measures in at 270 litres – about as much as a Toyota Yaris, so the schoolbags will all squeeze in.
Folding those rearmost seats away is nice and easy from the boot. They fold flush into the floor and once they’re away, the Skoda has 630 litres of room to offer up, which is heaps. Luggage for five people on a holiday will fit back there no issue. Fold all five rear seats and a pair of bikes with wheels left on will slide right in.
As standard, it’s an electric tailgate on the Kodiaq. However, tick the $2,500 Tech Pack and that is upgraded to a boot that opens and closes hands-free, with a kick of the foot under the rear bumper. That’s handy if your hands are full.
Storage is plentiful in the cabin, too. The squared-off dash hides two stacked gloveboxes; the central box between the seats is pretty big, there are large cupholders, room for phones to charge and huge, felt-lined door bins to stop items from sliding and scratching around.
And that’s just up front. In the second row the big door bins are replicated, and there is a fold-down armrest between the seats with large cupholders. Why Skoda didn’t copy Mazda’s decision to include rear USB ports, though, seems like a silly omission for a modern family car. Air vents are present for the second row but not for the third row, which would have been generous.
There are plenty of thoughtful touches, though – the door sill protectors need to be seen in action to be appreciated and the door umbrellas are generous (don’t lose them). You’ll also find a parking ticket holder on the front windscreen, individual door child locks and a cool feature that amplifies the driver’s voice through the steering wheel … so you don’t have to scream at the kids in the back.
Parking the Kodiaq isn’t too difficult – it’s a little surprising that the VW Group’s very effective automated parking feature is relegated to the options list (Tech Pack, $2,500), but sight lines from the driver’s seat are good enough and the large door mirrors and standard reversing camera make life easier. The Luxury Pack ($4,900) lightens the load further by including a 360-degree camera to see each side of the car digitally.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
Skoda Kodiaq service costs
The Kodiaq needs to be serviced annually or every 15,000 kilometres, which is average for the class, and there are two ways you can pay for it. The Kodiaq will fall under Skoda’s capped price servicing programme, where you pay a fee each service – though the prices are currently unpublished – or Skoda will sell you an up-front servicing pack. That’s what is currently on offer.
For the Kodiaq the pack is $1,399 for three years or 45,000 kilometres – getting you three scheduled services at a cost of about $467 per service. So, if you avoid the pre-plan and pay per service you can expect to pay in that vicinity.
That’s a bit dearer than the $915 a Hyundai Santa Fe petrol would cost over that time, but it comes in under the $1,600 Mazda quote to service the CX-9 for three years.
The Kodiaq has an excellent five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Skoda Kodiaq fuel economy
The forthcoming Kodiaq diesel will be the version to get if you’re after the best fuel economy, but until then the petrol is probably economical enough for most people.
Officially the Kodiaq 132TSI consumes 7.6L/100km in mixed driving and in our testing this wasn’t too far of the mark. In city traffic expect somewhere in the 9L/100km range. On the open road, the Kodiaq petrol settles down to about 7L/100km.
These scores make the Kodiaq one of the more frugal cars in its class – the CX-9 officially drinks 8.8L/100km, and the Santa Fe 2.4-litre petrol, 9.4L.100km.
When it does arrive the diesel will likely cost a couple of thousand dollars more and will use about 20% less fuel – meaning it’ll pay for itself only if you do fairly substantial distances with the car.
Skoda Kodiaq depreciation
If you keep a new Kodiaq 132TSI ($42,990) for three years and 40,000 kilometres – about average – Glass’s Guide data indicates that it should retain about 58% of its value, returning you about $24,900 when you sell it. Not bad for a brand that a few years ago was fairly unknown.
However, the Kodiaq does depreciate slightly faster than the Mazda (58.9% retained value), and the more expensive Land Rover Discovery Sport Si4 SE retains an impressive 65% of its value in the same period.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Skoda’s most compelling selling point is that you’re effectively buying half-a-generation-old Volkswagen tech at a significant discount. That’s true of the Kodiaq, and in fact some of the Kodiaq’s proposition feels more special than what you get with Volkswagen.
And spec-for-spec, the Kodiaq is substantially better value than rivals like the base-model Mazda CX-9 AWD ($46,490) or the basic Hyundai Santa Fe 4×4 ($41,850), with additional features and effectively the same amount of space.
Initially, only Kodiaqs with a Launch Edition spec have arrived in the country which brings them to just under $49,000 but adds a number of worthwhile options for early customers.
Later, the Launch Edition will disappear leaving the basic Kodiaq ($42,990), to which customers can option one of two option packs: Tech ($2,500) and Luxury ($4,900). A panoramic sunroof ($1,900) and premium paint ($700) are standalone options.
Skoda tells Chasing Cars that effectively all of their cars are delivered to Australian buyers with at least one option pack fitted.
The Tech pack ($2,500) adds adaptive dampers with adjustable driving modes – including an off-road mode – plus a good 10-speaker Canton stereo, automated parking, and a kick to open and close function for the tailgate.
The Luxury pack ($4,900) will be popular, adding full leather seats that are electrically adjustable with memory in the front, heated and cooled in the front row and heated in the second row, rear temperature control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, a 360-degree parking camera, and traffic jam stop-and-go for the cruise control.
But the Kodiaq might be the first local Skoda to see a significant number drive out of the showroom without any options at all because the standard car is well-equipped.
That $42,990 price gets you a suite of safety tech including forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, a reversing camera and front and rear sensors, and tyre pressure monitoring. On top of that, you get an electric tailgate, auto adaptive LED headlights, auto wipers, tablet holders, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 19-inch wheels, and Alcantara and leather upholstery.
So we’d be highly tempted by the basic Kodiaq – though the lack of blind spot monitoring, a feature of the Luxury Pack, would singlehandedly have us leaning towards splashing out on that $4,900 pack’s lush feature set.
The Kodiaq occupies a relatively unique place in the market – it’s the only European seven-seat SUV that is priced like (or under) an Asian vehicle of the same size.
The closest European rival – Land Rover’s Discovery Sport – is both a smaller and much more expensive car. It starts at $59,990 and if you optioned up all of the Kodiaq’s feature onto a Discovery Sport would cost about $80,000, or double the Skoda’s price.
Asian rivals range from the similarly-sized Hyundai Santa Fe, which is a touch more expensive, and the externally-larger Mazda CX-9, which is dearer again.
So, it’s the Skoda that is the value buy of the segment.
|Power||132kW at 3,900-6,000rpm|
|Torque||320Nm at 1,400-3,940rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||78.7kW/tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||7.6L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||60 litres|
|Average range||789 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||All wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,677 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||630 litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||2,005 litres|