Long-term test review: Skoda Kodiaq SE L 2.0 TDI
Final report: off-road excursion shows Skoda Kodiaq SUV really can do everything as it leaves fleet
The Skoda Kodiaq is an easy car to love and a difficult car to fault. We’re really going to miss its driving experience, looks and practicality.
Mileage: 8,610Economy: 40.2mpg
Like most SUV owners, I’ve just dabbled around the edges of the Kodiaq’s off-road ability. The occasional muddy track and snowy road have been about the sum of it, but even that was enough to show that, despite the Skoda’s tremendous talent on the road, the car’s ground clearance and four-wheel-drive system were more than up to the job.
Which is why I found myself on a green lane, with the Kodiaq in its off-road mode, and a slight twang of concern as to whether the Pirelli Scorpion tyres would be able to cope.
I shouldn’t have worried, though. The car’s ground clearance meant there was no bottoming out, and the off-road drive mode managed the power perfectly. It was far from the Camel Trophy – a run of good weather put paid to any soft mud during our photo shoot – but it was also the kind of track you’d think twice about tackling in a less capable SUV.
With the exception of one hairy moment where the soft edges of the byway had slid into a ditch, there was no hint that the Kodiaq was out of its depth. Despite the 19-inch alloy wheels, the 50-section tyres offered enough flex to cushion me from the worst of the ruts on our Byway Open to All Traffic, to use the correct green-laning lingo.
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After running this Kodiaq SE L for nine months, I’ve found the honeymoon period still isn’t over because of its depth of talent. When Skoda finally comes to collect the car, I’m not ashamed to admit I may well be reaching for the black armband. It really is that capable.
It didn’t come as any real surprise to discover the Kodiaq was good to drive, but what impressed me most was the mix of ride and handling, even off road.
The DSG transmission shifts sweetly, but the lack of gearshift paddles was disappointing when I wanted to drive in manual mode in the snow earlier this year. And if you leave it in auto in Sport mode, it will hang on to the last few hundred rpm a bit too long, right where the engine starts to run out of puff.
In a world of softer SUV styling, I love the Kodiaq’s rugged Tonka toy looks. Its square-jawed face bears a passing resemblance to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and those butch wheelarches aren’t all that much different, either. Yet, to the credit of Skoda’s designers, there’s no mistaking the Kodiaq for anything else. Kerb appeal? It’s got loads, and it’s been a car park conversation-starter more times than I can count.
It’s a similar story inside. The design isn’t radical, but it’s attractive and its ergonomics and usability are first rate.
And that’s where the Kodiaq lands its first killer blow: it’s just so comfortable and easy to live with. It doesn’t reinvent interior storage, but there’s loads of it, and much of it is hidden, such as the two-part glovebox and under-seat drawers. There’s additional stowage in the boot, around the third row of seats, and the removable, magnetic bootlight, umbrellas in the doors and fuel filler cap-mounted ice scraper surprise and delight in equal measure.
The car’s tech is well judged, too. In this mid-spec SE L model, Skoda’s excellent Columbus infotainment system is fitted as standard. It boasts many functions including what’s now a must-have feature for me: Android Auto.
I find this clearer than pretty much any ‘native’ navigation system, and the traffic alerts are up-to-the-second accurate. It was the on-board tech that was the sole frustration during my time running the Kodiaq, but even losing radio presets a couple of times was minor in the grand scheme of things.
The overall fuel economy on test of 40.2mpg was impressively close to Skoda’s official figure, despite so much of my driving being around town. At 70mph, I occasionally saw more than 50mpg, a return that was again very similar to the brand’s own claims. For such a big car driven normally, those economy stats are pretty remarkable.
Update: Skoda Kodiaq
The Skoda Kodiaq SUV is proving to be a practical addition to our long term fleet
Mileage: 6,755Economy: 42.2mpg
Our Kodiaq has really come into its own this year, taking on the worst of Britain’s snow, rain and mud. And now the sun has started to emerge, I’ve had time to make use of the Skoda’s impressive practicality.
The fuel flap-mounted ice scraper shouldn’t be needed in this weather, and neither should the umbrellas stored in the doors (fingers crossed). But the magnetic, removable LED boot light and torch proved useful when my daughter dropped a toy under the car one night, and the reversible storage unit that sits under the armrest provides a handy home for the key and 12-volt socket bung.
The lure of the centre console-mounted Off-Road button is strong in our seven-seater SUV as well, although I’ve yet to take the Kodiaq on anything more challenging than a very muddy, rutted track.
Tapping the button changes the infotainment screen to a reassuring range of configurable displays, including front wheel angle, elevation above sea level and a compass. It proves rough-terrain prowess is still a consideration in cars like the Skoda, even if it’s not a priority for most buyers. What’s more useful is the function’s hill-hold control, hill descent and braking assistance, and it also deactivates the car’s ESP.
The Off-Road switch is fitted as standard on four-wheel-drive versions of SE L and Scout models, and gives an extra layer of confidence – even if the furthest you’ll venture off the road is down a slippery farm track or into a country park. I’m sure the hardcore off-road fraternity would sniff at the 19-inch wheels and relatively low-profile, road-biased tyres, however.
Second report: Skoda Kodiaq
SUV has really made itself at home and quickly become part of the family
Mileage: 5,923Economy: 42.4mpg
One benchmark of whether a family car really fulfils its remit is whether it feels like it’s part of the family. Looking back on holidays past, the car that took you all there is often as much a part of the break as the trip itself.
This was brought to mind readily during a recent family visit to Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire. The kids’ reactions as a lion passed by and a macaque jumped on to the door mirror, licked rainwater off the bonnet and leapt about on the roof is one that none of us will forget in a hurry: the Kodiaq has become an integral part of our lives.
Over the past few months, the SUV has been pressed into service to transport furniture, remove rubbish and as a commuter hack. But it’s the moments when the Skoda becomes part of those treasured family trips that are the most memorable.
It can swallow bicycles, scooters and buggies, plus the fact it doesn’t have a boot lip makes it a convenient place to sit while changing muddy wellies.
The Kodiaq also kept us moving while other cars ground to a halt in the recent snow and swallowed a sleigh’s worth of Christmas presents. It’s now the yardstick by which my four-year-old daughter measures cars, although the omission of a panoramic glass sunroof is her biggest complaint. And with seven seats, it’s able to carry three generations of family – just – and still has a decent amount of luggage room.
Despite all this, the Kodiaq isn’t a car that screams ‘family’ at you, like a large seven-seat MPV would. It’s comfortable and fun to drive, and as the bulk of my driving has been around town, fuel economy of 42.4mpg is acceptable.
Perhaps its biggest positive is that while it’s a fairly large car, it rarely feels like it. That means it’s easy to place on the road, whether that be on country lanes or in towns. It’s just a shame there are no front parking sensors on our model, because it’s only during low-speed manoeuvres that its size is felt.
After a couple of false starts, I’ve finally got to grips with the Skoda’s wide range of connectivity features. It took several attempts to get everything up and running, but now I’m ‘in’, it’s proving to be very useful.
The main focus is the Skoda Connect system, which uses a smartphone app to provide a range of information, including driving data, the level of fuel in the tank and a precise location should you struggle to find the SUV in a car park. Should that be the case, the app can flash the lights or honk the horn to make its whereabouts known.
The functions operated through the model’s Columbus infotainment system are no less impressive. I haven’t yet found the need to read news through the configurable service, but the live petrol prices that can be displayed alongside a list of the nearest forecourts and local car park charges are very useful.
Other neat features are the ability to import destinations into the sat-nav and display real-time traffic information.
The MySkoda smartphone app has more straightforward functions, such as a calendar, Parking Assistance, contact details for your nearest Skoda dealers and Skoda Assistance. It’s just a shame these features are spread across three apps, rather than combined into one.
When you’re connected to Android Auto, Google’s voice-control system lets you safely and easily search for music via online services, or enter a destination into the sat-nav. If you’ve got the correct kit at home, you can even activate your smart heating and lighting systems.
Being able to turn my living room light on and change my central heating thermostat while safely driving is one of the most impressive, if rather prosaic, instances of ‘smart’ tech I’ve encountered.
Skoda Kodiaq: update
Skoda Kodiaq’s infotainment system takes the shine off an otherwise exceptional experience
Mileage: 3,262Economy: 44.7mpg
Our Skoda Kodiaq is proving to be an exceptionally easy car to live with, but the Columbus infotainment system has been a slightly more hit and miss affair. While I’ve found the set-up brilliant for the most part, some frustrations have taken the edge off the experience over the past couple of months.
The Columbus system is fitted as standard to SE L models and above, and centres around a very responsive 9.2-inch glossy touchscreen.
The home screen shows a mix of navigation, audio and phone information, and allows access to the next level of menus for each. Other functions are accessible through the main menu, something which can be navigated by swiping or by gesture control.
That only allows you to swipe through the menu screens using a flick of the wrist, before having to tap the screen to perform the next operation, so it’s a bit gimmicky. It’s one of the system’s few shortcomings; another being the fingerprint-prone screen and the way it loses its radio presets periodically. My local dealer has been unable to find out why it does that.
Like many modern infotainment set-ups, the Kodiaq’s Columbus system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. My phone’s sat-nav app is able to detect congestion in real time, and only once has it led me into a jam. I love the Voice Enhancer, which broadcasts the driver and front passenger’s voices into the rear of the car. It makes things far easier for occupants who are hard of hearing.
My biggest frustration with the Kodiaq is the Skoda Connect system. I’ve been unable to link via my smartphone, and posts on the owners’ forum suggest I’m not alone.
First report: Skoda Kodiaq
We’ve taken delivery of award-winning seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq SUV
Mileage: 2,325Economy: 47.9mpg
It’s not just that it’s a well thought-out car – Skodas usually are – but like the Octavia and Superb, the Kodiaq’s fundamentals are expertly judged. That means the driving experience is on the comfortable side of engaging, the engines are pretty efficient and the interior offers a simply staggering amount of space. As a practical, usable family car, it’s just about unbeatable.
It’s jam-packed with storage spaces in all the places you’d expect, plus a few you won’t, such as the double-stacked glovebox and under-seat drawers. Space in the front is first rate, but thanks to the 60/40 sliding rear seats, so is legroom in the back. The boot is huge, too, and easily capable of swallowing all the detritus of family life.
Space in the third row of seats is just about enough for a sub-six-footer, just as long as the second row of seats is slid forward by a few inches. Pulling the rearmost seats out of the floor is easy, and climbing in requires no more acrobatic ability than in any other seven-seater.
SE L models come with LED lighting front and rear, seven Alcantara-trimmed seats which heat in the front, keyless entry and an electrically-operated boot. Skoda’s brilliant Columbus infotainment system is also fitted, bringing with it a large 9.2-inch touchscreen boasting crisp colours and a responsive interface. It also packs a WiFi hotspot and Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink technology. All clever stuff, and helpful on a long journey.
I collected the car from Motorline Skoda, a brand new showroom in the shadow of the Dartford crossing in Kent. Adding a bit of drama to the proceedings, transaction manager Adam Corby led me to the handover bay where we pulled the covers off. It’s a popular family photo opportunity and allows customers to look over and learn about their car in the warm and dry.
After presenting me with a goody bag containing a couple of teddy bears for the kids – a nice touch that Motorline provides – Adam explained some of the finer points of the Kodiaq’s £980 optional Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers, which make a marked difference to how the car behaves. He also showed me the car’s WiFi connectivity, MySkoda smartphone app and the (complicated) gesture control system.
In addition, Adam took the time to highlight some of the car’s more novel features, like the removable boot light that doubles as a torch and the umbrellas hidden in the front doors, as well as more prosaic features such as the car’s child locks and passenger airbag deactivation switch.
Dynamic Chassis Control aside, only a few options were specified, and none is particularly extravagant. The rear seat backrest release is a £90 option, although given the Kodiaq’s general convenience, I’d have expected this to be standard. It allows the second row of seats to fold with a simple pull of a lever in the boot. The £175 silver roof rails set off the £555 Petrol Blue metallic paint nicely. To my eyes, this is the Skoda’s best colour: most of the other finishes on offer are variations of white, black or silver.
It’s early days, but the Kodiaq is shaping up to be a difficult car to find fault with.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old living in Banbury, Oxon, with three penalty points.