The unusual aspect is that though served by 22 sub-$60,000 medium SUVs in the same category, its size also puts it borderline with the sub-$70,000 large SUV cohort.
The Kodiaq – Skoda is going through an Alaskan phase – is priced at $42,990 plus on-road costs and can be compared with an upsized Volkswagen Tiguan. In fact, it shares a near-identical platform with the upcoming Tiguan Allspace seven-seater and has the same engine and transmission.
That indicates its seven-seat layout, substantial cabin room with a generous boot area, small-capacity turbocharged engines and – at least initially – a permanent all-wheel drive system will attract a big audience.
At Kodiaq’s launch in the Hunter Valley this month, Skoda Australia director Michael Irmer said the brand’s website recorded had more than 4100 expressions of interest from potential buyers.
He expects Kodiaq to become one of the brand’s best sellers and because of the “unprecedented demand” would lead to levels of demand “we have never seen before”.
Skoda sales in its current six-model range are led by the Octavia for volume while the Superb and Fabia are showing the most growth. The small Yeti SUV is sliding in sales and reflects its upcoming replacement with the Tiguan-based Karoq.
Skoda sales are up two per cent in year-to-date (YTD) figures to the end of May in a total market that is down 0.9 per cent.
Importantly, the new Kodiaq is entering the mid-size SUV sector that has shown a YTD increase of 15.6 per cent, which can partially be attributed to the high level of choice.
Kodiaq will come up against the large SUV sector leaders, the Toyota Prado, with 13.9 per cent of sales, followed by the Subaru Outback (10.5 per cent); Toyota Kluger (9.4 per cent); and Holden Captiva (8.8 per cent), as well as other seven-seat mid-size SUVs including the Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander and upcoming Honda CR-V.
Some indication for the Australian market potential comes from Mr Irmer’s comments that some European markets had already sold their entire 2017 allocation only months after launch.
That may dent supply in Australia and be responsible for Kodiaq being offered initially in one model grade, the AWD 132TSI turbo-petrol priced from $42,990 plus on-road costs. Skoda will add a diesel model later this year.
Will one variant curtail sales? Full marks to Skoda’s product planner here for ignoring an entry-level version and speccing the Kodiaq almost to the max. That makes life a lot easier for sales staff at dealerships and expedites delivery of the vehicle to the customer.
It also allowed Skoda to fast-track the SUV to Australia by a strategic nine months, lobbing it into first-half sales results.
What does it offer? The single model is $42,990 (plus on-road costs) and is loaded with standard features including seven seats, all-wheel drive, electric tailgate, rear window blinds, 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker audio, Alcantara upholstery, and Skoda signature touches – the removable LED torch in the boot and two umbrellas stowed in the front doors.
Options are minimal, including metallic or pearl effect paint ($700), panoramic sunroof ($1900) and 19-inch alloy wheels from $1650.
Buyers can fine-tune and bundle options and features with option packs. These are:
Tech Pack ($2500) – including adaptive chassis control with three-mode drive select; hands-free tailgate; auto steering for self parking; and a premium stereo.
Luxury Pack ($4900) – including blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, front and rear heated seats, leather upholstery and electric front seat adjustment.
Launch Pack ($5900) – everything from Tech Pack, selections from Luxury Pack, plus 19-inch alloy wheels.
How does it rate for safety? The Kodiaq has this week been given the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, making it the seventh model from Skoda to receive the highest rating.
In its report, Euro NCAP gave it a rating of 92 per cent for adult occupant protection and full marks in the side barrier collision test.
Standard safety equipment includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), nine airbags, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED fog lights with cornering function, driver fatigue detection and tyre pressure monitor.
What is the ownership program? The SUV will carry Skoda’s impressive five-year, unlimited distance warranty and one-year roadside assist program.
The service schedule is annual or 15,000km. Skoda is offering a three-year, 45,000km service pack from $1399 or a five-year, 75,000 pack from $2999.
How does it compare with rivals? Skoda claims the Kodiaq is roomier than most competitors. It has a boot space – with all seats up – of a generous 270 litres. When the third row is folded flat, space rises to 630 litres and when the second row is also collapsed, to 2005 litres.
This compares with the litres of luggage space of the Hyundai Santa Fe (120/516/1615L); Kia Sorento (142/605/1662L); Mazda CX-9 (230/810/1641L); seven-seat Nissan X-Trail (135/550/1982L); and Toyota Kluger (195/529/1872L).
The Kodiaq is in the sweet spot for size at 4697mm long, almost identical to the Santa Fe (4700mm), fractionally longer than the Nissan (4690mm), and shorter than the Mazda (5075mm).
It is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine from the Volkswagen Group EA888 series, with 132kW/320Nm driving through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to all wheels. Skoda claims 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres.
This compares with the fuel consumption of the bigger-engined Santa Fe (7.8 L/100km); Kia Sorento (9.9 L/100km); Mazda CX-9 (8.8 L/100km); X-Trail (8.1 L/100km); and Kluger (9.5 L/100km).
The Kodiaq diesel, here later this year, has 140kW/400Nm and a fuel use of 5.0 L/100km (UK tests).
By Neil Dowling