Kodiaq - small heart, big promise

Skoda’s first SUV will definitely be special K.

POINTS of difference presenting here with Skoda’s first big sports utility will include the smallest engine in the large category, an extra-rich specification – including Wi Fi connectivity – and a price span peaking below where some cited rivals start.

In addition to confirming that a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder will be the entry engine for the Kodiaq, Skoda New Zealand boss Greg Leet has also hinted the entire family might price in the $45,000 to $65,000 zone – comfortably below rivals such as its dimensional ringer and category big gun, the Hyundai Santa Fe – even though it will be especially well provisioned here.

An April start is still planned for a range of seven-seaters that will span several trim lines, front- and four-wheel-drive and three other engines - the 138kW/320Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and a turbodiesel in two performance formats, 110kW/340Nm and 140kW/400Nm.

That launch schedule is early enough, Leet believes, for the model to achieve 500 sales next year, a count that will equal that of the current most popular Skoda, the Octavia.

“Kodiaq is another opportunity to reinforce our brand in the market as another mainstream vehicle player.”

The price span suggests that a close relation, the new-generation Volkswagen Tiguan that officially launches here next week, is also in Skoda’s sights.

Leet doesn’t see it that way: “Not at all. While the Tiguan is in the market, so is the Santa Fe, so is the (Hyundai) Tucson, so is the Ford Kuga …”

His comment comes in the wake of the Kodiaq’s global unveil, at which head office outlined a swathe of technical details reported by MotoringNetwork (‘NZ-bound Kodiaq breaks cover’).

 Even though many makers are downsizing under the bonnet, the announcement of a 1.4-litre does seem ambitious – all the moreso in this country, where nothing in the big boy category runs anything smaller than a 2.0-litre.

Leet, though, is upbeat about this engine’s potential and doesn’t agree that it’s an example of extreme down-sizing.

“That engine goes really well in other body styles we have, and Tiguan has that engine as well, so there’s no reason to think it won’t go well in Kodaiq.

“It’s 110kW coupled to an incredible transmission and it (the Kodiaq) is lighter … significantly lighter … than the competitors because it is based on the MQB architecture.”

How light? Skoda cites the 1.4 as clocking just 1452kg in front-wheel-drive format and 1540kg as an all-wheel-drive, and though those figures are thought to apply to the five-seater, the seven –pew car will still be exceptionally light by class standards.

While not as large as the just-landed Mazda CX-9, aonother rival, at 4697mm long this model stretches 40mm longer than an Octavia and is promised by Skoda to provide “a larger-than-average interior” for the large-SUV segment.

Depending on the specification, the model runs between 17- and 19-inch alloy wheels with LED headlights and an electric tailgate, the front seats offer electric adjustability with heating or ventilation functions, between 6.5- and 8.0-inch colour touchscreens adorn the centre stack with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and a surround-view camera will be available.

Further technology includes wireless phone charging, Skoda Connect Wi-Fi hot-spot connectivity, adaptive cruise control, adaptive chassis control, and Canton audio of up to 575-watts and 10 speakers. Active safety technology extends to lane keep assistance, traffic sign recognition and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

Price is still being resolved with the factory, but Leet is confident he can achieve stickers that will surprise, if not outright stun, the opposition.

“We’re in a situation with this car where we have a great opportunity … if we get it right, if I have my way, we will have a compelling offer in the large SUV segment that is spanning the price range of low 40s through to mid 60s.

“No other manufacturer has that opportunity – they just cannot do it. So, if we can tick that box, even it starts with that 110kW engine, it won’t be that much more to go up to the 132kW and so on.”

While New Zealand was not one of the countries specifically listed by Skoda in Berlin last week as being a top priority for expansion, Leet says the factory is keen to make huge global impact.

“The thing is that this vehicle has us competing in the largest segment, one that is showing significant growth, a place we have not been in before.

“Kodiaq obviously gives us an opportunity to show an incredible product and compete in a very busy segment, but it also enables us to take that next step change with the brand, as we try to drive more awareness of Skoda.

“The Kodiaq will be another lever in pushing Skoda forward in front of a lot more eyeballs.”

It’s a win-win, he says, even if it draws customers away from the four-wheel-drive medium Octavia and large Superb wagons that have done well with the adventure-loving, soft-roading crowd.

“It will inevitably take some sales from them,” Leet says. “But I’m not forecasting a significant drop in sales of the other cars, as we’ll be growing awareness of the brand anyway.”