Motors

Seven-seat Skoda SUV big on space and value

Driving through shallow streams is easy work for the Skoda Kodiaq - persuading families out of their Nissan Qashqais and Hyundai Santa Fes may be a tougher challenge

SKODA already has a long track record of building roomy, reliable and ever-so-sensible family cars but it's about to launch its biggest yet, writes William Scholes.

Having enjoyed success with the Yeti crossover, Skoda is entering new territory with the seven-seater Kodiaq, the company's first so-called full-size SUV.

Order books open this month and it will be amazing if the Kodiaq isn't an instant hit once the first cars arrive on Northern Ireland's roads next April.

SUVs and crossovers are where it's at in the new car business these days - from almost nowhere just a few years ago, these cars, typified by models like the Renault Captur, Kia Sportage and Nissan X-Trail, now represent a quarter of the European market.

But even in a crowded sector, the Kodiaq has all the on-paper promise to make a big impact.

It is only a few centimetres longer than a Skoda Octavia, yet it will be available with seven seats, arranged in three rows.

It also follows the traditional Skoda template of offering the largest boot space in its class - a maximum of 2,065 litres with all the seats folded, or 720 litres in five-seat mode.

But price is where the Kodiaq looks likely to really compete. The cheapest Kodiaq costs £21,495, with sensible mid-range seven-seaters starting at £28,000. Go daft, and the top-of-the-range models starts just below £35,000.

For comparison, the cheapest Kia Sorento is £28,795 and five-seat Hyundai Santa Fe models start at £31,610. Nissan's X-Trail is available with seven-seats but does not carry off the 'full-size' SUV role as convincingly as either the Kia or Hyundai, feeling more like a stretched Qashqai. The Land Rover Discovery Sport's cheapest seven-seat version costs £32,795.

Bolstering the Skoda's credentials will be the typically wide range of engines, gearboxes and transmissions that we've come to expect from VW Group products.

That means, to start with, two diesels and three petrol engine choices, front- or four-wheel-drive and six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic units with either six or seven ratios.

Styling is in the restrained, slightly bland manner familiar from other Skoda products; the Kodiaq looks exactly how you might imagine an SUV-ified Octavia or Superb would appear.

Skoda has earned itself an enviable reputation for selling sensible cars at reasonable prices to people who appreciate how easily they fit into their lives.

With the Kodiaq, the company looks set to build on that reputation and appeal to larger families. On paper, it seems as close to a sure thing as you are likely to find in the car business.

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