From an abominable snowman to a bear, Skoda’s history with SUVs in recent times has been of the large, furry kind. There’s no doubt that the Yeti (for all its lack of size and street presence) made up with charm, driving dynamics and a very clever seating arrangement. A true blue automotive enthusiast’s dream car, the Yeti sadly remained just that. While it rocked the boat in Europe, it sold in rather limited numbers in India, its higher than expected price tag not helping matters.
In today’s world, with every car market of any note lapping up SUVs by the hordes, Skoda had no choice but to expand its range – therefore the Kodiaq. The Kodiaq (which borrows its name from the Kodiak bear found in Alaska) will be Skoda’s flagship SUV for many years to come, and also its heaviest offering, weighing in at 1.8 tonnes. For India (at least for now), there’s just one top spec offering, with all the bells and whistles, priced at Rs 34.5 lakh, ex-showroom, a price tag that might seem a bit much for a Skoda. So what really is on offer on this full fat, ‘no compromise’ SUV?
A lot, actually. For starters, it’s a 5+2 seat SUV with an intelligent seat configuration. With an adjustable second row, there’s space for seven average-height adults or five large adults and two kids. Flip the third row forward and there’s considerable room for luggage for five, for a week-long journey. You also get a beautiful 8-inch touchscreen with impressive touch sensitivity and all around mood lighting that can be altered in ten different ways. Think the pesky child in the third row can’t hear the driver? Sweat not, for the handsfree microphone, in combination with the car’s speakers, means the driver’s stern instructions can be heard loud and clear. Since it’s a Skoda, the clever bits don’t really end there. You get umbrellas stored in the front doors, a removable garbage bin, a magnetised torch in the boot, plasto-rubberised stoppers on the doors to prevent nicks and dings and even a hidden shelf under the floor in the boot.
What’s it like to drive? Skodas are well known for their heft and solid build, which translate into neat driving dynamics – and the Kodiaq is no different. The MacPherson struts up front and the four-link setup at the rear give the Kodiaq solid behaviour on the road. All vertical motions are well controlled for a car its size, and the ride quality is surprisingly very good on most surfaces, with only the largest bumps upsetting its composure. The handling is spot on, with the car turning into corners like a, well, bear on skates.
Under that massive hood is a 2-litre diesel engine that’s also found in the Superb and Octavia, making 150 bhp and 320 Nm of torque. It’s a strong engine with good bottom end performance, but it does lack some shove at high speeds and at high revs. There’s enough motive force to keep the car pretty much in sync with traffic, and it gets to three-digit speeds reasonably quickly, but post 120-130 kph, progress becomes a little tardy. While the automatic seven-speed DSG transmission is clever and quick- shifting, it can be found wanting at overtaking speeds. Had Skoda put the 170 bhp engine from the Superb in this car, there would be little to complain about.
That really sums up the Kodiaq. With the exception of its engine, there’s little to find fault with. I just hope Skoda launches more variants lower down the price scale, because competition is strong, what with the Ford Endeavour and Toyota Fortuner stacked with several variants and lower price tags. They won’t, however, leave you with a cheery feeling like the Kodiaq, and that might be worth emptying your bank account for.
SKODA KODIAQ SPECS
Engine 2-litre diesel
Max Power 150 bhp
Peak Torque 320 Nm
Transmission 7-speed DSG
What we like: Excellent build quality, fully loaded, easy to drive
What we don’t: Lack of top-end power, high sticker price