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ROAD TEST t’s so typical of Skoda, while the car industry as a whole is rushing to build new 4x4s, not to launch just another typical modern compact SUV but instead to give us something a bit more useful in this week’s road test subject: the new Kodiaq. This car gives us the perfect opportunity to take stock of the complexity that phenomenal sales growth has now brought to the SUV market and the remarkable choice that a British consumer with about £30,000 to spend now enjoys. If you want to trade outright practicality for style, a zesty drive and a premium

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brand, you can do it (BMW X1, Audi Q2, Range Rover Evoque). If you need the opposite – a big SUV with lots of space and maximum towing ability, from a value brand – you can also have it (Kia Sorento, Ssangyong Rexton). If you want what we might call a ‘normal’ modern, volume-brand compact SUV (Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Ford Kuga), a more traditional 4x4 done small (Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester) or even an oversized crossover (Ford Edge), you can have it. Among all of which, you’d imagine it impossible for a firm new to the segment (but for the loveable warm-up act that is the Yeti) to carve out a clear bit of territory to call its own. And yet this one damned near has. The Kodiaq is a compact SUV with a twist of extra space and functionality: a car, in prospect, that’s as modern and close to as fuel efficient as any other 4x4 on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform but approaches the size and usefulness of the Sorento’s seven-seat sub-breed. And we can take its blend of simple functionality, space and value for money as a preview of what to expect from the new Yeti, due in 2018, and the smaller crossover that will follow it by the end of the decade. The Kodiaq also brings new driver assistance systems, new infotainment options and other luxury and convenience features to Skoda showrooms, forming a key part of the firm’s effort to move upmarket. Time for its first major hurdle, then: how will it fare against the oldest benchmark car test in the business?

DESIGN AND ENGINEERING

AAAAB Cleverly packaged size will be a key part of the Kodiaq’s appeal. This is a five/seven-seat SUV measuring less than 4.7 metres at the kerb – and therefore only 40mm longer than an Octavia hatchback and shorter than a Superb saloon. It’s very marginally longer than a Mitsubishi Outlander and a Nissan X-Trail – the cars whose market position the Kodiaq most closely threatens – but considerably shorter and smaller than the decidedly less European-feeling Sorento. To those who want an SUV that delivers large on interior space without looking so large outwardly, that may be a strong selling point. As a result of being comparatively compact and using the advanced MQB platform as its basis, the Kodiaq is relatively light. Entry-level models, powered by a 123bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine and driven exclusively by their front wheels, weigh less ◊

VisionS concept gave an early preview

WE LIKE

Efficient seven-seat packaging  Strong value for money of the mid-range cars  Efficient, flexible diesel engine WE DON’T LIKE

Slightly misjudged handling and ride compromise Some of the attempts to add richness to the cabin

 Full-LED double-lens headlights (standard on SE L trim and above) are styled to look like traditional Czech crystal cut glass, according to Skoda. A bit fussy, perhaps, but pretty enough.

 Retracting door edge protectors are allegedly a ‘simply clever’ convenience feature. Convenient they may be — but new they ain’t. At least they work more quietly than the ones on the Ford Focus.

 This is the first Skoda with optional Area View cameras that create a plan view of your surroundings when parking. The cameras are located under the mirrors and on the bumpers.

 These 18in Elbrus alloy wheels are a quirk of our early test car, an Edition-spec Kodiaq that should have been on 19s. Cheapest models get 17s as standard.

 Skoda went for extra-rugged-looking squared-off wheel arches for the Kodiaq. The Seat Ateca sister car has similar ones, but the more ‘premium’ Audi Q2 and VW Tiguan have rounded arches.

 Pronounced shoulder crease running rearwards and lining up with the rear light clusters looks neat but is very reminiscent of the VW Tiguan sister car.

 Long back doors and a tapering rear disguise the seven-seat capacity nicely, but you can see this isn’t a stadiumseated car like the original Discovery.

 Chrome roof rails are standard on the range-topping Edition model.

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