Skoda had started its innings in India with a bang. The Octavia, back then, was second only to Mercedes with its tank-like build and typical European demeanour. Without the presence of any real competition, Skoda’s brand value leap frogged many seasoned players in the Indian car market. With its perceived luxury, a big fat SUV was always on the cards. So here we are driving the all-new Skoda Kodiaq, the first big-fat SUV from the Czech carmaker in over 100 years to find out if it can be the giant slayer like its sedan sibling, the Skoda Superb.
The Skoda Kodiaq demands attention. Not in the overtly aggressive, flashy style that the other SUVs demand, but in a rather assertive manner. Based on the versatile MQB platform, the Kodiaq is the first ever seven-seater SUV and does take a few design cues from its sibling, the Skoda Superb. The large chrome-laced moustache grille pasted across the tall fascia is commanding especially with the full LED headlamps and daytime running LED lamps beaming alongside.
The lines adorning the Kodiaq are straight and clean and work rather well in hiding the bulk. It is only when you move to the profile that you realise its size, especially with the flared square wheel arches, large doors and an equally large overhang behind the rear axle. The graded shoulder-line and the sloping roof give Kodiaq visual speed while the large 235/55/18 Hankook wheels add the required muscle. The black peripheral cladding is devoid of any bash-plates either fore or aft, establishing the fact that the Kodiaq is inclined towards tarmac.
The tailgate is signature Skoda with the angular creases fusing together to create a busy design. With all three rows up, the boot-space is still quite decent at 270 litres. Fold the third row and you can open up 360 litres more and if you fold the second row as well, you have a massive 2000-litre cargo bay for yourself.
The Kodiaq’s cabin feels bright and roomy thanks to the black top and beige combination. Mind you, it is not small at all. The front row seats are large and let you sink in comfortably. Being electrically adjustable along with the adjustable steering column, finding the sweet spot on the driver’s seat is quite easy. There is not much lateral support but it has good thigh support and the adjustable lumbar support works just right.
The 40:20:40 split second row is equally spacious but the cushions are bit on the firmer side. The second row seats can be moved forward as much as 180mm to open up some knee-room for the third row. The third row is not that spacious and when you are seated so low, you will get cramped in longer runs. While the second row accommodates three people easily, the third row is best suited for two. But with the second row seats not tumbling up, getting into the back becomes cumbersome, especially for the big boys.
Coming to the interior, it is quite German – understated but functional. The dash is shod with soft touch plastics and gets glossy wooden inlays to add a touch of class to the premium cabin. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system sits between the vertical AC vents which Skoda claims are quieter and help in cooling the cabin faster. The three-zone climate control system has a separate blower for the rear passengers. The rear blowers are barely adequate for the second row and you might get cooked in the third row on a sunny afternoon till the entire cabin cools down.
In terms of equipment, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, push-button start, steering mounted audio controls, electrically operated wing mirrors etc are standard fare. The Kodiaq gets 10 different shades of interior lighting and a panoramic sunroof. And then there are the smart touches. For example, the door protector pops out every time you open the door and retracts back when you close it. The boot-light is detachable and works as a torch whenever needed. The second row headrests have swivelling probes which cushion your head against lateral movement – a first for any car in India.
The cabin is well insulated and offers a quiet ride. The Canton audio system is quality and along with the intercom like front row voice reverberating function, communicating with those sitting in the back is effortless. The safety aspect is taken care off by nine airbags along with multi-collision braking and fatigue sensors.
The Skoda Kodiaq is powered by Skoda’s standard fare – the 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine but in a custom state of tune. It develops 150bhp of power and a meaty 340Nm of torque and comes mated to the seven-speed DQ500 dual-clutch gearbox that powers all-four wheels through the torque-on-demand AWD system. It also gets five drive modes – Eco, Normal, Sport, Individual and Snow that alter the responses from the engine, the gearbox as well as the steering.
The 2.0-litre mill has been tried and tested over and over again and seems a little more refined now, but the distinct clutter is far from gone. In terms of power delivery, it has always been a gem, belting the turbocharged torque out from almost 1700rpm till the gust of power takes over from the mid-range. At city speeds, the seven-speed gearbox works flawlessly, pottering through the city confines with elan. Apart from its size, you have nothing to worry about the Kodiaq in the urban jungle.
Out on the highway, the Kodiaq lazes into three figures and cruises comfortably at 120kmph the needle hovers around the 2500 mark. But when you mash the throttle, is when you realise that the 150bhp of power might be just a tad less than what the Kodiaq needed. At about 1800kg, the Kodiaq is not obese, but a little more grunt would certainly have given it the brownie points.
The ride is supple and does not throw you from side-to-side through uneven low-speed bumps. But it still has that underlying firmness which keeps the Kodiaq rock solid at high speeds. The dual-wishbone suspension with anti-roll bars come into play when you chuck the Kodiaq into corners. By virtue of its size, it will never handle like a sedan but its manners are impressive for a car of its size. Turn-ins are sharp and easy thanks to the precise steering and fat tyres.
In Sport mode, the steering becomes heavier and gives better feedback. The brakes are also quite impressive dropping anchor as and when required. They are progressive but do lack feedback. Managing this big a car is not easy but you have the stability program working full-time with ABS and traction control at your aid all the time., unless you decide to switch it off manually.
The torque on demand all-wheel drive kicks in as and when required and you do feel it kicking in especially when you veer of the tarmac. Power is sent to the rear wheels when the front wheels are unable to cope up with the available traction or grip. The Kodiaq is certainly capable of mild off-roading but low front and rear bumpers with longer overhangs will limit its off-road ability.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||150bhp @ 4500|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||340Nm @ 1750|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||66|
|Three-zone climate control||Yes|
|Sleep package for rear seats||Yes|
|7-Speed DSG gearbox||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Fuel||4x4||2.8 4x4 AT|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||150bhp @ 4500||174bhp @ 3400|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||340Nm @ 1750||450Nm @ 1600|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||66||80|
The Skoda Kodiaq adds a new dimension to the big-fat SUV segment. While the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour are all about bulk and muscle, the Kodiaq aims to be the gentleman’s choice in the segment. It does have all the bells and whistles required in the segment and brings civilised manners and refinement to the equation.
If priced right, which is a sub Rs 30-lakh price tag for the entry-level trim, it can actually be an excellent option for the entry-level luxury SUVs like the Audi Q3 or the Mercedes-Benz GLA or the BMW X1. Sure it is a soft-roader like all of them and matches them spec-by-spec on the features list. It might be a tad less powerful than the German, but it sure does make it up with the two extra seats! It certainly has the potential to be a giant killer like the Skoda Superb, but that depends upon the pricing.
Pictures By Kapil Angane