Skoda hits the SUV

sweet spot

Skoda Kodiaq, side action
Skoda Kodiaq, full front static
Skoda Kodiaq, front action 2
Skoda Kodiaq, rear action 2
Skoda Kodiaq, front action
Skoda Kodiaq, rear action
Skoda Kodiaq, dashboard
Skoda Kodiaq, dash detail
Skoda Kodiaq, boot
Skoda Kodiaq, ice scraper
Skoda Kodiaq, boot seats up
Skoda Kodiaq, third row seats
Skoda Kodiaq, second row seats
Skoda Kodiaq, brollie

HOW gratifying it must be for Skoda - a brand always strong on value - to see customers lining up to spend more than they could get away with.

For nearly everyone ordering a new Skoda Kodiaq, the firm's first seven seater, wants the version that sits near the top of the range, not near the bottom.

The Kodiaq (its name alluding to a bear found in Alaska) is available from £21,565 but 85 per cent of potential purchasers want posher ones costing more than £7,000 extra.

That surely signals Skoda's warranted arrival among cars that are fancied for their looks and ability more than their list price. A drive in the newcomer says the first owners of a Kodiaq made the right choice.

Longer (at 4,697mm) than both a Volvo XC60 or Audi Q5, the Kodiaq is a genuinely spacious car, with three rows of seats in the upper two trim levels (SE L and Edition) with the rearmost pair capable of comfortably seating a couple of young teenagers.

They might have to scramble past a second row of seats that slide forward but whose bases don't tilt upward, but the Kodiaq is going to be an answer for families sometimes called on to transport the kids' friends to football.

Better still, even with the third row in use there's the same amount of luggage space behind them that you might find in your average small hatchback - so enough for a decent shop. Fold all the seats down and the Kodiaq could probably house its namesake.

You can't opt for the third row in the entry level Kodiaq S and it costs £1,000 on the next grade up (SE) but almost all the early adopters are buying three-rowed versions anyway.

They'll also favour a Kodiaq with a 150 horsepower 2.0 litre diesel, the same unit that does sterling service in a host of other Volkswagen Group cars, from Audi through SEAT to VW itself. It costs from £27,114 in an SE level car, equipped with a six-speed DSG automatic gearbox.

Also on offer is a 190 horsepower diesel and a trio of petrol engines, two 1.4 litres offering 125 or 150 horsepower and a more powerful 2.0 litre petrol with 180 horses. The lowest powered petrol model is the only Kodiaq available with a manual six-speed gearbox and front wheel drive.

All the rest of the range is equipped with either an auto box or on-demand all-wheel drive, or both. They're both on parade in the current range topping Edition model, costing £34,050 and coming with the 150 horsepower diesel, whose 144g/km tailpipe emissions promise a reasonable £200 road tax hit from new under the latest Treasury revamp.

Most powerful engine at present is the 190 horsepower 2.0 litre diesel, available in a single SL L trim version for £33,110. Later in the year we'll see a Scout model with more obvious off-road looks (think plastic wheel arch extensions) and then a SportLine option too (think slightly lowered, firmed suspension and some black paint).

Without those stiffened springs the Kodiaq proved itself a delightfully comfortable companion on some indifferent roads in deepest western Britain, combining fine body control with an ability to soak up the rash of potholes and cracks our roads have succumbed to.

There's a sense of real solidity in the Kodiaq's cabin, smart enough to make you wonder how the designers at Audi make their cars look and feel worth all the extra cash.

Everything, from simplest switch to the satellite navigation system on the SE L and Edition models does its job so well you know many candles have been burned at both ends to make things just... well, work.

The entry level S, with just a 1.4 petrol engine offered comes with LED daytime running lights, manual air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio and SmarkLink to easily connect your smartphone to the car.

Up a grade, to SE and we find 18-inch alloys, cruise control, rear parking sensors, dual zone climate control and auto dimming mirrors.

The likely most popular level - SE L, tops up these goodies with sat nav, still larger (19 inch) alloys, powered tailgate, Alcantara trim and heated front seats.

Topping the Kodiaq tree, the Edition piles on leather upholstery, metallic paint and chrome roof rails. Added techno features include lane assist, high beam assist and wireless charging for a compatible mobile phone.

Depending on model, you'll also find evidence of Skoda's Simply Clever thinking, from umbrella neatly hidden in a front door to ice scraper sitting in the fuel filler flap and ready for the first frosts of winter.

But back to the ride in an SE L 150 diesel. It's no ball of fire (122mph 9.5 seconds to 62mph), but plenty potent enough for satisfactory progress and quiet with it - exceptionally so on smoother stretches of the M5 taken at 'press on business driver' speed.

A journey's end 50.5mpg on the dash readout (the official average is 52.3mpg) hinted that longer term acquaintance with a Kodiaq would only cement a positive relationship with an impressive new Skoda.

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