As the Kodiaq barrels across the North Yorkshire Moors, it dawns on me that Skoda’s 4×4 shares traits with the stereotypical resident of God’s own county: blunt, obdurate, thrifty. The Kodiaq is signing off with more than 500 miles of McNamara family staycation, and plenty of time to ponder our seven months with the car.
But first there’s a chance to pass a dawdling Jazz on the A169, which bisects the dramatic landscape between Pickering and Whitby. The VW Group’s 2.0-litre is one of the better turbodiesels: punchy for overtakes and joining traffic, smooth at the top end, muted on a motorway cruise.
The drive up is in Eco mode, where lifting off triggers the engine to cruise at idle revs, helping us muster 39mpg for the tank.
But the lumbering Skoda is less engaging to drive. The A169 is blessed with some wicked downhill hairpins, which I approach using the Kodiaq’s trusted cornering playbook. Hard press of the robust brake pedal, because going in slow helps tuck in a nose which might otherwise succumb to understeer. Once in, you can amp up the power because the Kodiaq sticks like dried Weetabix to a bowl. And the steering is like Shredded Wheat: gets the job done but with zero flair.
The first leg up to York is painless: there’s a bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, though the Scorpion Verde tyres only groan over badly scarred tarmac. The ride is composed but firm, which makes potholes jarring but cornering calm. But with all-wheel drive, a diesel lump and seven seats, this Kodiaq is a heavy beast, lacking the agility and sparkle of other cars using the MEB architecture. A dull-witted throttle unless in Sport mode hampers responsiveness, too.
Many will be lured by the Kodiaq’s practicality. The big boot swallows luggage for five, and the sliding middle bench lets you tweak the cargo space, but it’s frustrating that in a seven-seat car there are only two Isofix brackets.
Annoyances? A hysterical parking sensor, a window that wouldn’t close automatically, the blindspot monitor packed up, and I found the powered tailgate open a couple of times. As for the £325 Sleep Package (winged rear headrests) – why does the front passenger seat not get one?
My inner Yorkshireman admired its no-nonsense focus on practicality, and optional all-wheel drive qualifies it for rural life. Reasonable fuel economy and a £4k saving over a Discovery Sport ensures it’ll appeal to the thrifty – and not just in Yorkshire.
Month 6 living with a Skoda Kodiaq: all aboard!
Your eyes do not deceive you: that is seven adults vacuum-packed into the Kodiaq, chugging into Peterborough for designer Becca Wilshere’s leaving do. There’s a six-foot-plus long ’un in each row, showing that with a little give and take and the sliding middle row, the Skoda can make like an airport taxi – for short trips anyway. The underfloor boot cavity swallows the tonneau cover and keeps laptops safely hidden.
Then with the rear five seats folded flat a couple of days later, the Kodiaq hauls a chest of drawers and two enormous bags of tree cuttings to the recycling centre. It’s a week like this that hammers home the Kodiaq’s very practical benefits.
Month 5 living with a Skoda Kodiaq: inspiring young minds
1. And they’re off!
The kids need an airing and the Kodiaq to stretch its legs, so it’s time for a 24-mile trip to the Roald Dahl Story Centre on a rich mix of roads. Highway cruising, fast twisties, scarred B-roads – it’ll put the lumbering Skoda to the test.
2. The cruising bit
Brief stints on the M25 and the A41 past Hemel show the Kodiaq in its typical habitat. In normal mode, the light steering feels a bit sloppy and gentle throttle struggles to rouse the turbodiesel. Wind noise is noticeable but there’s minimal tyre roar.
3. At last! Corners…
At Bovingdon, the road narrows and climbs through a tube of entangled trees: time for Sport mode. After a couple of quick corners, there’s a long downhill sweeper, and the weightier Sport steering allows me to better select my line, then keep accelerating through the curve. You really drive the Kodiaq on the front end, which grips maniacally.
4. Attack of the potholes
These craggy country roads ask a lot of the 1720kg Kodiaq. It’s quite firmly sprung, keeping bodyroll progressive and everything composed in corners. But the ride is lumpy – maybe 18s would be more forgiving, but they’d look even sorrier in the huge arches than these 19s.
5. The home not-so-straight
Sport mode makes the Kodiaq feel much more responsive: holding higher revs avoids the sub-2000rpm bog that can afflict Normal mode, and the more eager kickdown enables me to surge past a dawdling Mini. In corners, the slow in/fast out axiom rigidly applies.
6. The BFG arrives
We draw up outside the home where Roald Dahl wrote his children’s masterpieces, and the Kodiaq’s connection to the Big Friendly Giant is clear. Its sizeable frame includes plenty of crowd-pleasing space for the kids.
By Phil McNamara
Month 4 with a Skoda Kodaiq: poring over the details
Time to take a look at our Skoda Kodiaq crossover in four bitesize chunks: the little things making a big difference.
1. Simply Clever: the finer details
Skoda does little things to make owners all gooey. The Kodiaq Edition has hidden umbrellas, a boot light you can use as a torch and swing-out door protectors to avoid car-park dings. Blankets are nice, but even with winged head restraints you can’t justify £325 on a ‘sleep pack’.
2. A nervous parker
The rear parking sensors are nervous wrecks, freaking out about adjacent cars when you park perpendicularly. One morning it bleeped code red at the rear left side, so I got out to look and there was a metre of space behind! It must have feared I was going to shunt that Mini. Annoying.
3. Super screen
The 9.2-inch sat-nav touchscreen is a thing of utter beauty (named Columbus after the Mrs Doubtfire movie director Chris no doubt). Big screens offer no hiding place for poor graphics and bad colour/typeface choices, but Volkswagen Group never misses a beat on this stuff.
4. Need a tow?
No surprises that a rear-wheel-drive BMW on skinny tyres struggles in a snowdome. Kodiaq, an award-winning tow car, to the rescue! All-wheel drive and oodles of grunt effortlessly tugged out the 530e during an unusual winter testing photoshoot.
Month 3 of our Skoda Kodaiq long-term test: this or a Peugeot 5008?
This Peugeot 5008 was the warm-up act before the Kodiaq took centre stage. Both are mid-size SUVs harbouring seven seats and about 7000 miles on the clock, both run the punchiest 2.0-litre diesels in their ranges. One car stands out for its design flair and practicality, the other feels better engineered, with superior refinement and dynamics.
No prizes for guessing which is which. The 5008 enlivened every journey with its stylish cockpit – concave dashboard panels trimmed with cloth, tasteful blue lighting ringing the cupholders and glass roof, sumptuous quilted leather seats – and top-notch digital driver’s binnacle. Aside from impressive animations and being able to call up a smart 3D map, the Skoda can match the 5008’s functionality – but without such flair and personalisation, cosmetic but important differentiators (especially for younger customers). As such, Skodas still feel like the work of the aged VW Group engineers who kept an iron grip on product development pre-Dieselgate.
They would have harangued their teams into delivering on mechanical refinement and dynamics. The Peugeot thumps through bumps and potholes, making the child seats shake and rattle, and the body takes a while to settle afterwards. The Kodiaq’s ride feels silken by comparison, and it rolls less in corners. Not that the Peugeot is a dynamic dud: its steering feels pretty direct and there’s plenty of front-end grip, but families will prefer the Skoda’s superior comfort. And its smoother, less voluble, punchier engine – though both cars can suffer from that scourge of diesels, momentum-sapping turbo lag at low revs. With the Skoda you can split that torque between both axles – an option that’s denied Peugeot customers.
But the Peugeot has a massive ace up its sleeve for my family: its second-row bench is made up of three individual seats, all with Isofix attachments. That enabled me to fix three child seats abreast, keeping the boot space intact. There’s no reason why Skoda couldn’t have done the same – the Kodiaq is wider than the 5008. So for me the ideal mid-size SUV is a mash-up of Peugeot and Skoda, inconveniently.
Month 2 living with a Skoda Kodaiq: mode switching
The Kodiaq loves a cruise, its composed ride and calm aura shining through despite a gentle drone of diesel combustion and some whistling from the big mirrors. But this cushiness is its default dynamic mode: editor Miller borrowed it and noted its Bambi-on-ice understeer attacking wet, cold roundabouts. Putting the steering in Sport heightens responsiveness, but the throttle has an obstructive stepped feel whatever the drive mode.
Introduction to the CAR magazine fleet
There’s a running joke in the office that editor Ben Miller won’t leave HQ without 400bhp at his disposal. It’s not strictly true, and it only makes one person chuckle: me. But there’s an inexorable truth behind it: we all have our niche but immutable car criteria, and mine is space for three children under six years old.
So welcome Skoda Kodiaq, naturally with seven seats (a £980 premium over the standard five-seater). We’ve gone for the Edition trim level, which at £31,650 sits slap bang in the middle of the big Skoda SUV range.
Unfortunately a third child seat won’t fit slap bang in the middle of the second row, because the car doesn’t have three individual seats with Isofix brackets – unlike Peugeot’s narrower 5008. Which means I have to halve the generous boot space with a sixth perch permanently erect. And then there’s the challenge of forcing a daughter’s head through the crack behind the middle row: she’s going to end up with cauliflower ears like a rugby hooker. Not to forget the sheer awkwardness of then fastening her belts, in a seat which isn’t secured by Isofix because there aren’t any back there. Hmmmph.
But let’s not get off on the wrong foot. There’s much to admire about this Skodiaq, such as its blue-chip drivetrain combining smooth but torquey 2.0-litre diesel, seven-speed dual-clutch ’box and all-wheel drive. That bumps the list price up to £37,620.
The Edition might be mid-range, but it’s got more goodies than Santa’s warehouse on 23 December. Metallic paint – cheekily a cost-option on so many cars these days – is standard on every Skodiaq: we’ve selected Business Grey, to blend in with the Great British Winter.
Edition trim bundles in blind spot mirror monitoring – typically an option on premium cars – along with LED lamps, keyless entry, privacy glass and rear parking sensors. You also get a vast and crystal-clear 9.2in touchscreen with SmartLink to mirror your cellphone’s screen, plus leather upholstery (and electrically adjustable, heated front seats) and 19-inch Triglav polished alloys.
With so much included, I only needed to add a measly £1615 of options. The £180 Children’s Pack involves rear sunblinds and a button behind the driver’s window-switch pack to child-lock the rear doors. I only discovered this after Florence yanked her door handle on the M25 – for once I was thankful for motorway gridlock.
An electrically folding towbar is the costliest item at £860, floor mats and boot-mounted seat release the cheapest at £85 and £95 respectively. And given my hideously bad luck with tyres (four blow-outs in four years), a space-saver wheel looks £110 well spent. Business Class-style winged restraints come in the £325 Sleep Package, though not for the front passenger, weirdly. Appropriately the driver goes without.
Over the next few months we’ll find out if the Skodiaq is a total snooze, or something much more impressive…