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Skoda Kodiaq review: Bear necessities

Offering German technology at a lower price, there's plenty about the Kodiaq to get fuzzy about.

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SKODA KODIAQ 2.0 4X4 STYLE

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SKODA KODIAQ 2.0 4X4 STYLE

Singapore

HAVE you ever looked at someone in the eye and thought to yourself, "I'm sure I've seen this mug before."

The Skoda Kodiaq is a bit like that, and there's a reason for it. I once asked Klaus Bischoff, the head honcho of Volkswagen Design, why the cars in a German brand's stable tend to look so similar, like one sausage pinched off at different lengths.

"It's better to copy yourself than to copy others," he answered. Squint really, really hard and it's easy to see elements of the Volkswagen Tiguan in the Kodiaq, since the two cars are mechanical sisters.

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Both even have names derived from the animal kingdom. "Tiguan" is a portmanteau of the German words for tiger and iguana, and "Kodiaq" is a stylised allusion to kodiaks, which are apparently the largest species of bear.

VW-owned Skoda of course has its own approach to car design, and while it's not super trend-setting or exciting, it is still relatively unique, judging from the number of queries we received while driving the Kodiaq.

Mind you, Skoda returned to Singapore only in March this year, so its cars inevitably enjoy a bit of novelty value here.

The brand represents the mainstream, affordable side of VW's sprawling 12-brand empire, with Bugatti sitting at the extreme luxury end. With that many nameplates, there is bound to be some overlap, and in Singapore Skoda competes almost head-on with VW's Spanish brand Seat and, to a lesser extent, Volkswagen itself.

Like Seat, Skoda's tack is offering its cars with VW tech, but lots of features and a lower price. But somehow Skoda is making it work. Up until June 2018, it had sold exactly half as many cars as Seat (31 to 62) in a third of the time (Skoda has had only two full months of sales so far).

Cars like the Kodiaq are probably the reason behind what is looking like a successful comeback.

Its similarity to the Volkswagen Tiguan no doubt helps. It's based on the same VW Group MQB platform, has the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, and a similar gearbox. It's marginally less powerful and a little less refined, but drives in an almost identical fashion.

That is to say, it's competent, slick, and good at everything, from slow urban crawls to fast highway travel. Despite its near 5 metre length, it's surprisingly agile and quite at home in the urban jungle.

But it's not really a direct competitor to the Tiguan. It has a whole lot more space, two extra seats and bonus features, and it has the virtue of being cheaper, which actually makes it a competitor for the likes of the Korean seven-seat SUVs, Kia's Sorento and Hyundai's Santa Fe.

For something named after a creature that would likely think of you as a snack, the Kodiaq is actually pretty cuddly and supportive to its occupants.

When challenges appear, the car helps you out. For instance, a 5 metre-long car in an HDB carpark can be tricky, but the 360-degree camera and automatic parking ease that trouble.

The ride can be thumpy at times, but you can switch the adaptive suspension (as well as the steering, drivetrain and other parameters) to suit the conditions.

Adaptive cruise control gives you less to do during slow commutes, while blind spot indicators, autonomous forward collision avoidance, and nine airbags bolster the safety front.

For the passengers, there's plenty of space in the adjustable second row seats - lit by a panoramic sunroof - plus fold-up tray tables, and a USB charging port, too. The third row is decent, and will fit adults for intra-Singapore journeys, though it lacks its own air con vents.

On the plus side, the Kodiaq can still carry 270 litres of cargo with all seats in play. If you choose not to stow people there, there's a generous 630 litres of boot space, and the added convenience of an automatic tailgate with a kick-to-open feature.

Other clever touches include plastic guards that fold out automatically when you open the doors, to prevent grinding your paintwork away on pillars or other cars. There's also an umbrella compartment in the door, which is a clever idea. The only other car I've seen with one is a Rolls-Royce.

If this story feels like a litany of equipment, that's because the Kodiaq is loaded for bear.

In fact, it's vaguely astounding how Skoda has managed to pack this many features into car like this, while keeping the price tag to S$161,900 with Certificate Of Entitlement.

For those looking for a less expensive option, there's also the 150hp 1.4-litre model, which makes do with fewer features, but is priced at S$138,400 with COE.

Issues that might give buyers pause are minor. The lack of badge recognition is one, while the door handles are a hard plastic of the sort you wouldn't find in a Volkswagen, but nowhere else is cost-cutting obvious.

If nothing else, the Kodiaq shows how Skoda is very much its own animal within the VW menagerie, with its own take on what a family-friendly car should be. The one thing it's not is a VW copycat.


SKODA KODIAQ 2.0
4X4 STYLE

Engine 1,984cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 180hp at 3900-6000rpm
Torque 320Nm at 1350-3940rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Top Speed 204km/h
0-100km/h 8.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.4L/100km
Price S$161,900 with COE
Agent Skoda Singapore
Available Now