Skoda Kodiaq: a week at the wheel
Quality-wise, it’s right at the top of its class.
First impressions are positive. The Kodiaq seems to be a very smart vehicle. The colour is great, the high position works really well. The shape is sleek and the interior presentation is modern and tidy. Perhaps the only question mark concerns the front grille, which seems a bit plasticky.
Inside, we detect a contemporary and upmarket feel. There’s a partially leather covered steering wheel with a sporty flat bottom. On its left side are the radio infotainment controls, while on the right there are buttons to access the vehicle data, lap timer, driving information and assistance systems.
There’s a big screen for infotainment, and this includes radio, media, the Skoda Connect Smartlink system, telephone, vehicle, navigation, traffic, sound and air conditioning, among others. It seems strange that my mobile phone connects well enough through USB, but then everything turns inexplicably into French. Qu’est-ce que ça signifie, uh?
To Dumbarton we go. The Kodiaq’s starter button is located where you might have expected to put the key in, and there is a chunky automatic gear stick. Behind it sit a couple of none-too-robust-feeling cup holders, with a handy little recess to put the key. The arm rest is a bit temperamental; the ratchet sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Under it is a reasonable sized cubby hole, perfect for concealing sweeties from small fry in the rear seats.
Economy is not brilliant over the country lanes of the Welsh and border country lanes, but the route is a good one. One thing I notice is that it’s quite hard to see what speed I’m doing. I can’t find a digital read-out so I am reliant on the rather old-school dial, which shows light grey letters on a white background. Also, the graduations are only 20/40/60, and we would be much happier to see 30 and 70 there as well. The km/h markings are clearer, but not much use in the UK.
We fill up at Crewe; motorway economy up to Scotland is much better, and the fuel needle barely seems to move for hours. A brief stop at Tebay Services allows a cup of tea and swap of driver. Today is a hot day, and flies accumulate on the screen which is angled just a bit too vertical and doesn’t let the bugs get carried over the top. Co-driver David stubbornly won’t wash the windscreen, as he says it will make visibility worse, not better. I am left with some washing once we reach Dumbarton. Thanks, Dave.
To Freya and Rory’s wedding at Duntrune Castle we go. There’s fantastic scenery up the A82, around Loch Fyne, Lochgilphead and towards Crinan. We get in one or two frisky overtakes, but both David and I moan about a delay when starting to accelerate, as well as that annoying pause that leaves you wondering if you’ll quite make the gaps at junctions and roundabouts that you wouldn’t even think to question if driving a manual car. “It’s lazy, it’s slow, it does not inspire confidence in me for overtaking unless there’s a long, straight and empty stretch ahead of us, I’m afraid,” David suggests. Otherwise, the claimed 8.8-second time for 0 to 62mph works for us. Later we return to Dumbarton, and perform some more fly-clearances, ready for the drive south tomorrow.
The journey from Dumbarton via Crewe back to home gives us time to become a bit more familiar with the interior. What’s more, the weather is a little cooler so we are not plagued by insects on this stretch. The seats are comfy, with loads of movement (electric for the driver, manual for the front-seat passenger), and the black ceiling adds to the sophisticated interior feel. And the space is excellent. Even with seven seats in use, there’s still a bit of boot room. There’s a slightly strange glove box arrangement, with two cubby holes instead of one. The higher one opens only when you realise that there’s a button set on the lower one, which flips it open. And the space inside each is unhelpfully lacking.
A quiet day with a journey into Brecon, then a short hop over to Hay-on-Wye where we have tickets for Canadian superstar author Margaret Atwood. The Literary Festival has certainly put Hay on the map, yet we are always pleasantly surprised at how everyone copes with the surge in traffic volumes. Parking is close to the Festival site, and reasonably priced. The Kodiaq looks very smart amid the cars and camper vans parked close to it, and even attracts positive comments from visitors on their way to enjoy the event, the authors and the books.
A quick whizz to Swansea takes in a variety of roads and traffic conditions on the 20-inch Vega Anthracite alloy wheels. The journey is reasonably quiet and smooth, even on some of the poorest surfaces, but with wheels of this size you need to expect certain levels of road noise, as well as a ride that’s firmer than you may like in this type of vehicle.
Sportline is the current top-spec version of the Kodiaq, though there is a vRS performance variant due along soon. But is it worth having, when there are many less expensive versions? In our opinion, the answer is a resolute yes. OK, so it’s the most expensive Kodiaq you can get at the moment, but it really is a capable car – one of the best we have driven in a long time. OK, so it won’t have quite the same status as an Audi Q7 or a BMW X3, but it’s superbly equipped for the price, and those tempting sporty add-ons you get with Sportline spec – including deeper front and rear sport bumpers, bigger wheels and roof rails – really helps it to stand out from the crowd.
The week is over and it’s time to say goodbye to a car we have enjoyed immensely. Quality-wise it’s right at the top of its class. As a family car it’s hard to fault. In terms of the driving experience, it’s good, it’s comfortable (the seats get 10 out of 10) but if it just had a more responsive gearbox then it would dispel any doubts we might have about offering an unqualified recommendation. After all, at nearly £40,000 on the road, it will take some thought before getting the cheque book out….
Road test by James Luckhurst, August 2018
WE SAY Quality-wise, it’s right at the top of its class.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62 in 8.8 seconds
Tax: £830/£140 annually
Figures for the 2.0-litre 190PS DSG 4×4