By Mike Torpey on 2018-03-18 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Skoda Kodiaq 1.4 TSI
SEL 4x4 DSG
THE motor industry never seems short of surprises and the arrival last spring of the Skoda Kodiaq certainly served up one of them.
The Kodiaq, named after the Alaskan bear of the same name, is actually the first seven-seater model to be offered by the Czech car maker.
It arrived rather late on the scene given Skoda is a family focused manufacturer, but has been well worth the wait, swiftly making up for any lost time.
Five engines - three petrol and a pair of diesels - with power outputs from 125 to 190ps and five trim grades are currently up for grabs and all feature Stop-Start.
Transmissions are manual or the DSG twin-clutch automatic featured on the model reviewed here and there's both front-wheel and all-wheel drive.
Tough and muscular - in keeping with its wilderness namesake - the Kodiaq operates in a fiercely competitive area of the market, populated by the likes of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5 and SEAT Ateca to name just four major contenders.
Nothing can be left to chance in this arena, so Skoda has ensured the car's driving experience is matched by practicality, the latest tech and the sort of simple but effective touches that can tip the balance in the Kodiaq's favour.
The latter features fall under Skoda's banner of Simply Clever and among 30 common sense ideas are preloaded springs which prevent the metal edges of the doors from scraping a wall or other vehicles, an umbrella hidden in each front door panel and the ability to open the boot with a simulated kick up the backside.
Every model, from entry level S which starts at £22,190 up to flagship Edition grade with 4x4, comes extensively kitted out and has LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, air con, digital radio, touchscreen info set-up and SmartLink phone connectivity as standard.
But what really stands out is the overall quality, fit and finish of the Kodiaq - to the point that if you covered up the steering wheel badge and were told you were aboard a Â£40,000 Audi there would be little cause for doubt.
As regards space, the Kodiaq may be only 40mm longer than the brand's Octavia model but it has an above average interior for the type of car, particularly when it comes to head and legroom.
And the middle seat row can be folded 60:40, can slide by 180mm, has individually adjustable backrests and with all the seats folded there's a cavernous load volume of 2,065 litres, which Skoda says ensures the largest boot in its class.
On the down side the centre middle passenger can feel perched and has to travel with legs either side of the transmission tunnel and the third row pair of seats - which fold away into the floor - are realistically only for kids.
The tested variant in SE L trim - one below the flagship Edition grade and including synthetic suede seats - featured the more powerful of the two 1.4-litre TSI petrol units.
With 150ps on tap it felt strong, well balanced and comfortable to drive, the 35 miles per gallon average fuel return - compared to the official 39.8mpg figure - being close to what you could realistically expect from predominantly urban driving.
Need to negotiate some muddy fields, gravel track or a shallow Ford and the car's 4x4 system, designed to automatically distribute torque between the front and rear axels, will take care of business.
Making its debut on the Kodiaq is Skoda Connect with its live journey information and sat-nav, and the line-up also has new features like Trailer Assist and Area View while there's also Front Assist with City Emergency Brake on all models.
: 3yrs/60,000 miles
Skoda Kodiaq 1.4 TSI SEL 4x4 DSG
Mechanical: 150ps, 1,395cc, 4-cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 6-speed DSG gearbox
Max Speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 10.1 seconds
Combined MPG: 39.8
Insurance Group: 163g/km
C02 emissions: 31%
Choose from one or more of the options to find the car for you.
Based on your search find the dealership
nearest to you.