Skoda’s new range-topping SUV shows where the manufacturer’s heading, and I’m all over it
You’re standing at the roadside after a few sherbets in town, holding a tray of chips in one hand and flagging a taxi down with the other. Or if you’re not in London, wielding a kebab wrap and using your free hand to sort an Uber.
Odds are that the first car to show will be a black cab, or a Skoda Octavia. At one time, you’d have been forgiven for thinking Skoda’s target buyer was the taxi driver.
But the Czech carmaker’s turned a corner. Certain models will never look out of place on the taxi rank – which is no diss, considering the sheer solidity of Skoda – but the newer units are looking just as good on the driveway.
If the standard Kodiaq smiles, the Sportline grits its teeth
One that might fit that ethos is the Skoda Kodiaq Sportline. Building on what’s already an appealing motor, the Sportline trim comes with a few bits and pieces that give extra boast-ability.
The demand for SUVs is one of the most obvious trends in the market at the minute, and the want for even sportier sports utility vehicles is spearheading that.
In supplying that demand, manufacturers can often just hoy some flashy alloys and exhaust tips on to warrant a sportier (and pricier) trim. But the Sportline really does look a different beast to the standard version.
The 20in alloys are the motoring equivalent of Air Max
The bumpers have been upgraded – with black detailing and a stockier appearance, making the 7-seater look even more imposing.
It’s also got a decent set of cleats. The straight-cut alloys suit the Skoda, and the huge 20in size only adds to the intimidating appearance. True, the styling won’t appeal to everyone, but there’s definitely no shortage of potential buyers for tricked up SUVs.
And the ‘extra’ feel carries on inside, with carbon fibre-effect panels and Alcantara bucket seats. Lovely.
Little additions that show Skoda are going beyond the usual big-alloys-exhaust-tips approach, and doing it quite well. When it comes to higher spec motors, however, there’s an expectation that they not only look the part, but back it up in performance as well.
DSG explained (briefly)
The model I drove had the top-spec 2.0-litre diesel with the automatic DSG gearbox, that you can also get in some of the more sensible Kodiaq trims. It also has a 4×4 setup, but with these rims and extra body kit you’re probably sticking with tarmac.
In a nutshell, the DSG ‘box gives quicker and more efficient gear changing thanks to a dual clutch system managed by an onboard computer. It’s all fancy kit.
Unless you’re incredibly adept with a stopwatch you might not notice that, though. What you will notice, is a difference in the way it sets off.
In traditional automatics, power is sent to the wheels via a set of fans which spin when the engine’s running – that’s why automatics tend to creep forward when you ease off the brakes.
But the Kodiaq needs a press of the accelerator before it gets underway. Right, before sounding like a Wikipedia page, we’ll move on.
Up the creek, with two paddles
And with the 2.0-litre hitting 190bhp, it’ll get off pretty briskly. Although the automatic function managed itself without any qualms, I went for the manual mode to get the most out of the Kodiaq – operated using the stick or flappy paddles behind the wheel.
In the stick’s +/- mode, gearchanges are sorted by flicking it forwards or backwards – a bit like the arcade driving machines my mam forked out £2 a go for. For those who prefer the feel of a manual motor, it’ll appeal.
Perhaps more impressive, though, is how it carries itself. You’re never in any doubt that you’re driving a 7-seater – and a sizeable one at that, with the ridiculously spacious cabin – but it doesn’t move like you’d expect it to.
The steering might be light but takes you where you want it to. And with solid body control, it doesn’t rock about like a bigger car when thrown headfirst into a bend.
A Skoda at heart, but one that shows the carmaker’s new direction
After coming to terms with the fact it corners like something a lot smaller than a people carrier with nearly 200bhp, and testing it out a fair few times, you might be ready to start paying attention to what’s going on inside.
That’s where its value really comes to the fore. The driver’s seat comes with full electric controls, and memory function for up to three separate setups – handy in a car that’ll most likely be the envy of family members.
But the winner has to be the 9.2in touchscreen, that’s easy to work with clear icons and enough space between each to avoid accidentally skipping past Suspicious Minds when thumbing for the audio settings.
And when listening to tunes, the music controls expand as you move a hand towards the screen, making it even easier to operate.
Despite being one of the pricier models, it’s Skoda’s new ethos in play. Affordability and value for money are still here, but you get a motor that’s nice to drive, too. And in Sportline trim, it gives the athletic looks you want in a top-spec SUV.
If that’s what you’re after for your next purchase, this motor has to feature on your shortlist.
For more on the Skoda Kodiaq, head to www.lookers.co.uk/skoda/new-cars/skoda-kodiaq/