AS motoring costs escalate one brand which has widened its appeal is Skoda.
From being the one time cheap if not cheerful car range, Skoda can now add a smile to choice, particularly for families who appreciate value for money.
With SUVs the mainstay of sales in Britain and Europe thanks to their versatility, the very capable Skoda Kodiaq does a fine job for a number of reasons and has won a number of awards.
There are five versions and nearly 20 models in the company's biggest model series, up to seven seats, and vary only in trim and choice of 1.5 petrol or 2.0 diesel units, which both produce 150ps and come with automatic transmission, two or four-wheel-drive.
Our SE L Executive model began at £37,345 but came with a sample of extras amounting to nearly £4,000 and included electrically folding tow bar, graphite grey metallic paint, adaptive cruise control heated front and rear seats, virtual cockpit and park assist.
Prices of the range go from about £34,500 to just over £48,000.
First introduced in 2021 it has been facelifted to enhance on and off-road performance while reducing fuel consumption through improved aerodynamics.
The SE and SE L trims feature aluminium-effect trims on the front and rear apron. The L denotes seven seats fitted, a first for the model and the inclusion of a powered tailgate.
A new spoiler design optimises the large SUV's aerodynamics and enables a drag coefficient from 0.31. The now significantly slimmer LED headlights are available with full-LED Matrix technology as an option - this is a first for the range.
The 1.5-litre engine gave reasonable but not outstanding economy as it had to work hard when loaded and a kerb weight of 2.2 tonnes, but it was very smooth delivering what it had and matched with a seven speed automatic which could be used as a manual it was a good combination. Changes in either semi or fully automatic modes were seamless, quiet and quick.
The brakes really did a good job with just modest pedal pressure and quickly slowed the car without drama while the electric parking brake securely held it on our regular test slope.
It had to be encourged along with a firm throttle due to the weight and it responded quickly as a result but most of the time under gentle pressure it was noticeably more economical on the instant fuel consumption readout and felt more relaxed.
The Kodiaq is also a large model and while it responded quickly to steering and brakes it also seemed less agile than some rivals with pronunced body roll on tighter turns.
It stuck to the road however and never gave us cause for concern.
You could faintly hear how hard the suspension was working to really smooth out the surface bumps and lumps and even those sitting in the third row over the back wheels said it was not hard or uncomfortable.
The seats do a very good job, being very supportive and had good front adjustment and were particularly generous in size.
Access to the third row was not too tricky for youngsters but the legroom in the rearmost pair was not suitable for anyone over an older child. Second room room was excellent and infront it was truly spacious.
Getting in to yje front and middle seats was easy and we appreciated the high opening powered tailgate, low wide and long luggage bed with compartments beneath and the uniformly flat space created which could be reached through the rear side doors as well.
Interior oddments spaces were very generous throughout as well and the driver should have no issues with the controls layout, dials positioning or clarity of their displays.
Essential dials in front of the driver were big and clear split by a selectable display covering instant and average readouts and the large infotainment panel was a touch display which was also very clear for all its functions.
Heating and ventilation was comprehensive, clear and coped with the big cabin, backed up by powered windows, with heated seats and steering wheel for added luxury on our test car.
Visibility was good to the front and sides, more restricted over the shoulder and when reversing so the optional camera really came in useful, with big wipers both ends and a voluminous wash when needed.
The new headlights really open up a country road on a dark night with their width and range and even on dip setting clearly illuminated the verges either side.
The whole package is very well put together with excellent fit and finish even if there are not lot of bright highlights inside, but the Kodiaq test car felt refined and sophisticated with the option packs fitted.