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Kodiaq moments: From Czech roots to Alaskan influences

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 08, 2018

All-wheel drive equipped Despite the ground clearance and wheelbase, it may make for a decent off-roader SMURALIDHAR   -  S Muralidhar

Skoda’s new 4X4 SUV is loaded with nifty features and seven plush seats. Should you buy one?

Skoda has a certain flair for naming its vehicles — some are a little too direct like the Superb and others a little oblique like Fabia. The latest entrant into its portfolio bears a cryptic name. But, the Kodiaq, named after an Alaskan bear (twist to the last letter), has much more significance to Skoda’s India portfolio than the name would suggest.

After the Yeti, Skoda’s line-up here has been missing a sports utility vehicle (SUV). The Kodiaq was developed for a global market and debuted in Germany in the middle of last year. It is a seven-seater and has been built on the same versatile Volkswagen MQB platform on which the Superb and the Octavia are also based. With so much action in the SUV space in India, it is no wonder that Skoda decided to bring in the Kodiaq as quickly as possible after its global debut.

In typical Skoda style, the Kodiaq is being brought to India with only one powertrain option and in only one, fully-loaded trim level. So, like some of the other Skoda models, does the Kodiaq deliver more bang for the buck? We travelled to rain-drenched Thiruvananthapuram to test drive this big SUV and find out first hand.

Design

From one perspective, the Kodiaq is Skoda’s first real SUV. It has three rows of seats and at about 4.7 metres long and about 1.9 metres wide, it is a big vehicle. The Kodiaq’s design has a number of Skoda signatures — sharp creases, the butterfly bonnet grille and strong character lines that merge into the glass and trim elements. It is instantly recognisable as a Skoda and of course, predictably you can identify a number of design elements that it shares with its siblings like the Superb.

In the Kodiaq, the butterfly grille gets a slightly more upright orientation with matte black slats and a thicker chrome surround. The clamshell hood is set almost parallel to the ground and sports the familiar centre twin crease culminating in the Skoda logo at the cleft in the grille. The headlamps are sleek units sporting LED projectors and daytime running lights at the bottom edge. Fog lamps are set high on the front fender and together with the main lamps they perform various adaptive beam functions and the system is speed sensitive too.

Viewed from the side, the Kodiaq’s length is striking. Subtle body-side cladding with squared-off wheel arches and strong character lines including the sharply creased waistline amplify the interplay of light and shadow. Chrome side window frames highlight the green house including the large glass for the third row; all pointing to the possibility of a well-lit cabin. From the side, the Kodiaq also seems less like an upright SUV, since its length and sloping roofline gives it a mild crossover/ family van flavour. At the rear, the triangular, wrap-around tail-lamps sport LEDs and a configuration that is said to refer to Czech cubism and crystal-making traditions. The powered tail-gate is a large unit and offers a fairly low loading lip. The rear fender is a simple one sporting an elegant dual-tone finish. The wide rear glass is topped by an integrated spoiler and washer-wiper. Rear parking camera has a helpful dedicated washer.

Cabin

The interior of the Kodiaq is predictably well-lit, also thanks to the panoramic sunroof. There is an air of quality to the cabin overall. In fact, the vertical orientation of the dashboard, the rectangular aircon vents and the vault-like centre console almost mimic a Range Rover’s cabin. There are a number of chrome trim elements around the cabin, including the door sill trims. Since the Kodiaq is being offered in only one trim level, what you see here in these pictures is what you will get. The beige and grey dual-tone theme is also used to full effect for highlighting the build quality of the cabin. The most interesting bits in the cabin are the 10-speaker Canton music system, the audio player with eight-inch touchscreen controls, the digital instrument cluster, ambient lighting and the subtle premium features like roll-up sunvisors for rear windows, two umbrellas tucked away into the door panel, the boot light that also doubles up as a flashlight and the temperature control on the rear centre console.

The seats clad in stone beige leather upholstery were another highlight offering excellent support not only for front passengers, but also for the second row passengers. The third may be a bit cramped for adults, but will still be quite comfortable for kids. The second row can also be moved forward by 180 mm. Entry to the third row is a bit tight with the second row seats folding down but not flipping up completely, and getting in and out is not that cumbersome given the Kodiaq’s reasonable 188 mm ground clearance and low set seats. The boot volume is just 270 litres with all seats being used and can be increased to 630 litres with the third row folded down.

Performance

The Kodiaq is being offered with only one powertrain, but thankfully that is the two-litre, four-cylinder diesel and the seven-speed DSG gearbox — a unit which feels like a good fit for this vehicle. This turbocharged, 1,968 cc engine delivers 150 PS of peak power in the 3,500-4,000 rpm band and peak torque of 340 Nm between 1,750-3,000 rpm. This is an extremely refined engine and from inside the cabin, with the typical diesel clatter missing, it almost sounds like a petrol mill. Power delivery is very linear with a strong mid-range. The DSG gearbox makes short work of choosing the right gear based on driver demand. Shifts are quick and urgent in the normal and eco modes, and quick and delayed all the way to the redline at about 5,000 rpm in Sport and manual modes. There is also an individual and snow mode that can be chosen by scrolling through the options after activating the button on the centre console.

Though its 188 mm ground clearance (unladen) and its long wheelbase may not lead you into thinking that this could be a capable off-roader, Skoda has still gone ahead and endowed the Kodiaq with a Haldex all-wheel drive system, which is said to be capable of sending as much as 50 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels if the driving situation demands.

Bottomline

The Kodiaq is not too heavy a vehicle with a kerb weight of about 1,800 kg. One of the best features of this Skoda SUV is the way it falls into you when you are driving. I didn’t quite feel its weight or feel intimidated by its size while driving through the narrow roads of Kerala in and around Kovalam. But, that doesn’t mean that it feels light either, from behind the wheel you do get an impression of solidity. The suspension of the Kodiaq is a tad bit firm and so it thuds through potholes at slow speeds. But highway cruising and patchy tarmac is easily trumped by the 235/55 R18 tyres and the suspension set-up. Driving dynamics get more impressive thanks to the nicely weighted, precise steering with excellent feedback too.

The Kodiaq 2.0 TDI AT 4X4 with its one powertrain and one trim option is being priced at ₹34.5 lakh (ex-showroom). That price seems a little overambitious, but it still is well-equipped and will take on with gusto the likes of the Ford Endeavour, Volkswagen Tiguan, Toyota Fortuner and the Hyundai Tucson.

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Published on October 05, 2017
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