Kodiaq set to claw apart large SUV sector?

Skoda’s first big sports utility is an XL model set to go large against smaller fare, including an incoming Volkswagen.

FACTORY intent to position a vital new Skoda arriving next April-May as a potential rival for an equally key, but smaller, incoming car from its parent seems also set to occur in New Zealand.

The proposal for Skoda’s first large sports utility, the Kodiaq, to place just above the new-generation Volkswagen Tiguan on the price ladder was aired by brand high-ups during a briefing to European motoring press last week.

Now Skoda New Zealand’s boss, Greg Leet, has confirmed that he also wants to effect the same strategy here with the landmark model though he stresses the policy will not be so single-minded as to specify the soon-to-land VW as the sole barometer.

“We are in the early stages of this,” he told MotoringNetwork.

“My feeling is that we will achieve a slightly better value proposition than the new Tiguan. As you can see in the total range this is the case when compared to the equivalent Volkswagen competitor.

“However the important note here is that when we price with the factory it is not the Volkswagen (or) Tiguan that influences the price, our competitor sets in the segment are Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Ford, Mitsubishi and Holden.”  

As we translate it that means the Santa Fe, Sorrento, Highlander (Fortuner and perhaps Prado), the Everest (and, if it comes, Edge), the Pajero Sport and the Colorado 7, which by then will have updated into to the Trailblazer.

Tiguan also might well slot against those, though size-wise it is more akin to the Tucson, Sportage, RAV4, Kuga and Captiva. Mitsubishi’s ASX is more compact again. Another obvious rival would be Land Rover’s Discovery Sport.

Skoda’s value position has steadily strengthened in New Zealand and has especially come to the fore with the medium Octavia and large Superb models – which conceivably are Golf and Passat rivals but generally undercut both, sometimes considerably.

The Tiguan-Kodiaq stand-off could provide an even bolder statement of independence, however, because the VW is a medium model whereas Kodiaq – notwithstanding that it appears to run the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines - is essentially Skoda’s closest equivalent to VW’s largest dirt-tuned wagon, the Touareg.

The next-gen Touareg, the Kodiaq, the Audi Q7 and the new Porsche Cayenne all use a common platform.

Any inter-family disturbance as result of such aggressive position will be felt especially keenly in New Zealand, as all the VW Group brands are in the hands of a common distributor, European Motor Distributors, and operate from the same office building, albeit all as separate divisions.

The previous Tiguan spanned in price from $41,490 to $59,940. The new model’s prices have yet to be announced even though it is expected to be on sale within eight weeks and VW NZ already has a display model touring the country to rev up interest.

Kodiaq – named after the giant variety of grizzly bear that comes from Alaska’s Kodiak Island - is not yet at that stage; in fact the final production version of what began in concept form as the VisionS won’t be unveiled until next month. Last week European motoring media were allowed to drive pre-production examples in heavily-disguised state.

Nonethless, Skoda has been very open about what kind of vehicle is coming.

Kodiaq comes out in five and seven-seater format, in rear and four-wheel-drive and with four engine choices. Tiguan seems set to have a similar engine and drivetrain selection, but will initially front in five-chair form, though a seven-seater is set to arrive at the end of 2018.

Leet recognizes that some customers will be happy to have the SUV look alone, so NZ will have both drive formats. “We will look to offer both. Not everyone that is after an SUV sized vehicle needs or wants 4x4 so no need to pay for it.”

When it comes to seat count, though, he thinks more makes most sense.

“My thoughts at the moment are seven seat only as the room is very generous even with the rear seats up. Then the two back rows can fold down into the floor for a cavernous rear interior if required.

“I think people would prefer a seven seat option if the option price was minimal just for the comfort of knowing they have it even if not a primary concern.”

The seven seats are arranged in the standard two-three-two formation, with the rear five all folding flat, but even with them all in place there's 270 litres of luggage space; drop all the chairs and this grows to an impressive 2065 litres. The second row seats are adjustable with the ability to slide fore and aft and the backrest can be tilted.

An overseas’ assessor says: “There’s space for adults in all three rows, even if six-footers will feel a little cramped when sitting at the very back of the car.”

The engine lineup here will comprise two TSi petrols, creating 110kW and 132kW, and two diesels, with 110kW and 140kW. All are four-cylinder. 2.0-litre units, married to six-speed direct shift automatics. All are also familiar.

“We offer these engines (excluding the 110TSI petrol) in the Superb and some Octavias.”

“Each price point will have an engine and the appropriate spec to match. The technology and safety features available are incredible and we will not be compromising on any of these for all models.”

Four-wheel-drive versions feature hill descent control, an off-road mode that adjusts the engine management system and ABS and stability control to suit off-road conditions. 

The higher-end models are potentially set to take fitted with Dynamic Chassis Control, which lets you switch between Normal, Comfort and Sport settings.

The Kodiaq will debut, for Skoda, new elements like door edge protectors that automatically deploy when the door is opened and keep the rear edge of the door from being bumped against garage walls, or from marking other cars in tight carparks. 

The Kodiaq will also see a number of safety firsts for a Skoda, including Area View cameras, which display the car’s immediate surroundings on the monitor. When hitching up to a trailer the Tow Assist system takes over manoeuvring when reversing slowly. The predictive pedestrian protection function compliments Front Assist. Parking Distance Control with braking function, also new, provides support with parking manoeuvres – the Kodiaq brakes automatically as soon as it detects an obstacle.

Other clever touches include umbrellas in both front doors, and a magnetic boot light that can be removed and affixed to the car’s bodywork should you need to change a tyre at night.

With connectivity becoming ever more important to some consumers, car companies are moving quickly to keep their vehicles at the cutting edge. The Kodiaq will run Skoda’s second-generation Modular Infotainment Matrix; all will get touch capacitive screens while the top systems come with a WiFi hotspot. 

The SmartLink platform also offer Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, MirrorLink and SmartGate connectivity. A Phonebox with inductive charging connects the smartphone to the roof aerial and charges it wirelessly.