The entry level Kodiaq shines particularly bright, opines Damien O’Carroll.
The Skoda Kodiaq has been something of a wake up call for manufacturers who have a large SUV in their line-up (which is pretty much all of them) – you really don’t need a massive engine powering them, just a powerful one.
While the Mazda CX-9 impresses in the segment by getting a lot out of its 2.5-litre petrol engine when most of the opposition have big diesels of petrol V6s, the Kodiaq goes even further with a choice of either a 2.0-litre petrol or diesel in upper spec models, while the entry level car comes with a comparatively tiny 1.4-litre inline four-cylinder petrol turbo.
The Kodiaq Ambition you see before you is that very entry level vehicle and packs that 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre engine, driving the front wheels through a six-speed dual clutch transmission.
And it is that torque that is the key to Skoda getting the most out of the small engine, hitting its peak, as it does, at just 1,500rpm.
The healthy chunk of torque plays a big part in the way the Kodiaq drives, powering it off the line with little effort and even a little drama; if you are heavy-footed you can easily evoke a surprised squawk from the front tyres.
Acceleration is smooth and strong throughout the torque curve, which tops out at 3,500rpm, by which time the 110kW of power is approaching its peak (5,000 to 6,000rpm), and the six-speed dual clutch transmission is nimble and quick-witted enough to keep the revs exactly where they need to be.
There is the traditional downside with the DSG transmission, however, and that is; while it is super slick and fast when you are up to speed, it they can get a bit confused and sluggish at very low speeds, such as parking or taking off from a standing start.
This, allied with the ever-present stop/start functions of modern VAG product, does translate into the occasional slow response from a standing start. Not ideal, but certainly not down to any shortcoming on the engine’s part.
Minimal body roll and fantastically responsive steering (although it doesn’t offer much in the way of feel) also help to make the Kodiaq entertaining and surprisingly satisfying on a winding back road, while its ride is deeply impressive as well – beautifully resolved and superbly confident in all conditions, the Kodiaq rides like a large vehicle, but handles like a far smaller one.
Then you get to the price and that, along with the engine, is one of the Kodiaq’s most impressive feats – the FWD Ambition costs just $39,990.
And this isn’t a stripped out base model either, as the Ambition comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, taillights, corner function fog lights and daytime running lights, electric folding and heated exterior mirrors, half leather/cloth upholstery, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, climate control air conditioning, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, an electric tailgate, rain sensing wipers, a tyre pressure monitoring system, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink and seven seats.
Deeply impressive, remarkably well equipped and damn handsome to boot, the Skoda Kodiaq shines particularly bright in its entry level Ambition guise.