Skoda Kodiaq with owner Brendan Pawsey and his family.
Skoda Kodiaq with owner Brendan Pawsey and his family. Chris Benny Imaging

Road test: 2017 Skoda Kodiaq review

SKODA'S new Kodiaq SUV is named after the largest carnivorous mammal on earth, the Kodiak bear, but as seven- seaters go it's light, manoeuvrable and compact. More like a koala.

VALUE

You may not know the what, where and why of Skoda, so let's deal with that first. It's one of the world's oldest car makers, from the Czech Republic. Owned by Volkswagen since 1991, it began selling cars here in 2007.

The Kodiaq, like other Skodas, is basically a rebadged VW - in this case the long-wheelbase, seven-seater Tiguan Allspace due in 2018 - differentiated by Czech sheet metal, interior design and specification.

There's only one Kodiaq model for now, at $42,990 plus on-road costs.

The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.
The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq. Chris Benny Imaging

When you're carrying kids around, you want a wagon that makes life easy and stress-free. The Kodiaq does just that with a power-operated tailgate, keyless entry and start, a big boot that can be extended to almost two metres long with the 60-40 split middle seats folded flat, rear window sunblinds, parking sensors, rear camera with moving guidelines, electric safety locks for the rear doors and seat belt indicators for all positions.

You can never have too much storage, either, and Kodiaq has compartments all over the place, including two gloveboxes (one chilled) and a drawer under the driver's seat.

Then there's the genius stuff, which you don't know you want until you've got it. How about an umbrella and a small rubbish bag holder in each front door pocket, plastic protectors that pop out from the edge of each door when it's opened (preventing dings to adjacent cars), an LED torch in the boot and two tablet holders for rear passengers?

The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.
The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq. Chris Benny Imaging

The people who designed Kodiaq's cabin obviously have young families, because you don't get this level of kid-and-parent-friendly thoughtfulness in most other SUVs.

Infotainment includes a big, bright eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, voice control that works, a USB port and two SD card slots.

COMFORT

You sit high, with clear vision in all directions, in a firm, comfortable leather/Alcantara upholstered chair.

The elevated middle row has adjustable legroom on each side and adjustable backrests too. Kids won't feel entombed and there's plenty of space for adults. Restraints are secured via two Isofix mounts or three anchors.

The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.
The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.

Two third row seats fold up from the floor. They're fine for young kids but very tight for teens and adults. Folding and sliding the middle seat forward for access requires two hands and a bit of effort.

Our test car was fitted with the $2500 Tech Pack option, which includes adaptive suspension. On Comfort and Normal modes, the ride is supple and quiet, even on rough country roads.

The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.
The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq. Chris Benny Imaging

SAFETY

Speaking of options, if you want the full safety worksburger, you need to tick the $5900 Launch Pack box, which includes the Tech Pack. It adds blind spot monitoring, surround and bird's-eye view cameras, lane keeping and rear cross traffic alert to the standard safety kit, which includes radar cruise, nine airbags and automatic emergency braking, though only from below 30km/h.

If you have a higher speed prang and lose control, the brakes are automatically applied to stop you as quickly as possible, hopefully preventing secondary impacts.

The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.
The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq. Chris Benny Imaging

DRIVING

The Kodiaq is one of the best drives in the class. Performance is solid rather than spectacular but its turbocharged engine is tuned to operate almost like a diesel, with deceptively strong shove available from low revs, using a light right foot.

It works efficiently with the seven-speed transmission, too, while automatic stop-start can help deliver single figure fuel returns in town.

The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.
The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.

With a weight advantage of at least 200kg, plus all-wheel drive, precise steering and quality Pirelli tyres, Kodiaq feels much more agile, well balanced and car-like than other seven-seater SUVs.

It will tackle a dirt road with confidence and the Tech Pack includes an off-road mode to maximise traction on slippery surfaces and steep climbs.

HEART SAYS

Somebody just like you, with a few young kids, designed this car.

HEAD SAYS

Intelligent design, good value, the best drive in the class ... but is it big enough?

The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.
The 2017 Skoda Kodiaq.

ALTERNATIVES

Mazda CX-9 Sport, from $42,490: A larger wagon, with front-wheel drive and more standard safety features.

Hyundai Santa Fe Active, from $42,350: This is for the turbo diesel seven-seater, the pick of the Santa Fe range.

VERDICT

If you don't need six or seven seats every day, but just want to carry a couple of extra cubs from time to time, the Skoda Kodiaq could be what you're looking for. It certainly bears consideration ...

Brendan Pawsey's family puts the Kodiaq to the test.
Brendan Pawsey's family puts the Kodiaq to the test. Chris Benny Imaging

SIZE, SAFETY AND SEVEN SEATS

BRENDAN Pawsey admits his love of cycling may have had a subliminal influence on his decision to buy a new Skoda Kodiaq. The Czech brand is a big supporter of cycling and Pawsey says he often saw Skoda vehicles at Tour Down Under events. "You'd always see the station wagons around the place,” he says.

He was more drawn to the Kodiaq as a new model brimming with the latest tech, such as active cruise control and automated emergency braking. "The airbags go all the way to the third row,” he says. He traded a Honda CR-V for the Kodiaq because it had seven seats but wasn't as bulky or expensive as a Toyota Kluger or Nissan Pathfinder. The car arrived in time for school holidays.



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