Skoda to launch large SUV in 2016: first pictures

10 Mar, 2015 12:00pm Graham Hope Lawrence Allan

Spy shots show test mule for Skoda's new seven-seat SUV, set to go on sale in late 2016 to rival the Kia Sorento

Skoda's long-awaited large SUV was confirmed to be under development last year, but these spy shots are the first time we've seen the seven-seat model out testing – with the body of a stretched Yeti. Senior Skoda sources previously told us the SUV will be ready towards the end of 2016.

The firm's bosses claim the SUV will have a key role to play in the company’s bid to achieve 1.5 million global sales by 2018. Although production has not yet been signed off, we’ve been told it is “very close, if not yet finalised”.

It will be available with a choice of five or seven seats, and will compete with the likes of the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa FeIt will be a true off-roader, too, with capability that insiders insist will match that of a Land Rover.

Known internally as the 'A-Plus SUV', it's likely to borrow many design elements from the firm's smaller (and soon to be replaced) Yeti, namely the purposeful profile and rugged style. 

The new model is likely to borrow tech from sister cars in the VW Group, which has some pedigree with big off-roaders such as the VW Touareg. It forms part of a concerted assault on showrooms from Skoda, as it plans to launch a new or heavily revised model every six months in a bid to reach its sales target. 

Skoda boss Dr Winfried Vahland has pledged his company’s new seven-seat SUV will not take the company into expensive new pricing territory, and will likely be available for less than £25,000 in the UK.

The company admits that the new car will be a rival to the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, but won’t reach the near-£40,000 price of flagship versions of the latter.

“That range is too high. If I judge the price range of the Superb, that is the highest price range Skoda can work in,” Vahland told Auto Express. “Our customers accept Superb prices and that will fit also for the SUV.”

The 2015 Superb large saloon, unveiled at this year's Geneva Motor Show, starts from a highly competitive £18,640 for the 1.6-litre diesel. But it's unlikely that this smaller unit will carry over, and the seven-seat flexibility offered by the SUV will bump the price up.

It's also expected to borrow its platform, chassis and range of four-cylinder turbo engines from the new Superb, and won't feature larger units as, according to Dr Vahland, "six cylinders are out". 

Skoda Superb - front

The model will not be called Snowman, as reported widely on the Internet. “It’s a nice name but a fantasy name that’s been invented,” said Dr Vahland.

A third SUV could be on the cards, too, as Dr Vahland also admitted that his company is watching the explosion of the supermini-SUV market with interest.

However, he stressed that the model – which would sit below the Yeti in the company’s line-up – has less global potential than the big SUV so is lower on the priority list.

“For a small SUV, Europe would work, China would not work, Russia would not work,” he said. “But we are looking at the trends and studying them. We are open.

“If we go in that direction, it will not be 4x4 but it will keep the genes of a Skoda – a high seating position, roominess. But it must be affordable.”

Dr Winfried Vahland: exclusive Q&A at the Paris Motor Show 2014

Skoda boss Winfried Vahland

What inspired the design of the new Fabia?

I was pretty much amazed by the design of the Fabia vRS racing car – the proportions were so strong. It was flat, it was wide, it was powerful. So I said to Jozef Kaban (Skoda chief designer), I want a very sporty looking Fabia, a car that attracts young people and keeping our elder customers as well. For me it is a complete Skoda – functionality, practicality, roominess and a good design.

Will we see plug-in hybrids in Skodas?

For sure. But how do we convince Skoda buyers to buy a plug-in hybrid? Take a Superb with the biggest engine, add a hybrid and you add £8,000. That takes us into a price range where we don’t find customers. If you take a regular petrol engine and add only £3,000 you have the key. Our first priority is to take the CO2 down of regular engines. VW is introducing plug-ins into the Golf and Passat. The technology is ready for Octavia and Superb. But I see it rationally. The prices have to be reduced. Whether that is 2017 or 2018 I cannot judge. But Skoda will not meet the emissions regulations of 2020 without hybrids.

Will Skoda ever make a sports car?

We will not make anything that does not bring feasible volume. Skoda will not bring a cabriolet as long as I am in the driving seat! We have the Octavia RS - that is our sporty car. But emotions are important for us. I could imagine a sporty line for the Octavia, Superb and A Plus SUV – more expressive design and features.

There is an electric VW up! Could we see an electric Citigo?

Again it is down to cost, but if I could make an electric car it would be the Citigo. That has to come somewhere along the road. But we have to make it affordable. And maybe the range has to stretch so you could take it into work for two consecutive days [without charging] – maybe 120 km. That could work.

How important is Britain to you?

We are very pleased with and proud of the development of Skoda in the UK. I have some priority markets and UK is definitely one. We want to and will reach 100,000 sales, however long it takes.

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"Five stars," says Auto Express. What do you mean, no one's driven it yet?

Looks like a crossbreed of minivan and hearse. They should have an option for half-white half-black paint.

It's only a test mule you P******.

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