Emotive times for Skoda
It's named after a bear and the Kodiaq will be the manufacturer's big beast flagship. Campbell Spray is impressed
Driving the latest version of the Hyundai Santa Fe you could not but be struck by the quality of the seven-seater SUV and it is easy to see why the company has soared to first place in the sales table this year.
Much of this success had been built initially on models like the Santa Fe and the ix35 but now it is the latter's replacement and the former's little sister that is making all the running. Of course, the Tucson is by far the country's top-selling car this year and massively important to Hyundai with sales of 7,229 nearly equal to the combined efforts of all the rest of its products (mainly - in order - the very popular i30, i20, i10 and i40). In 2007 the Santa Fe would have accounted for about 35pc of Hyundai's sales, now the Tucson has close to 48pc and the big seven-seater just 3.5pc
By accident I picked up the Santa Fe the day after I returned from Prague where I had an exclusive preview of the Kodiaq, Skoda's first big SUV, which with its seven seats will be a direct competitor for the Hyundai offering. Although the expected 1,000 sales next year should see the whole sector further expand rather than taking sales from either the Santa Fe or the very tasty Sorento offering from Kia, its Korean sister marque.
The Kodiaq was given its public unveiling in Berlin last Thursday evening in front of some 1,000 people. Two weeks ago in a brightly lit studio in a high-security complex outside Prague, video reporter Sinead McCann and I were able to crawl all over the car and came away impressed by its quality, feel and size. There's probably little surprise there as pricing, heritage and specification are totally linked to that of the Superb, Skoda's massively popular large saloon. The Kodiaq will be the new flagship model for the brand with new technologies available such as Skoda Connect mobile online services.
Jozef Kaban, Skoda's Head of Design, says that the new car is an "impressive combination of powerful design and generous space".
"It is a pioneer for our brand in two respects. We are entering a new segment with our first large SUV above the Yeti. The Kodiaq is the first model with the new Skoda SUV design language. It is powerful and emotive, but also timeless," says Mr Kaban, emphasising that the company itself is becoming "more emotive".
"The Skoda Kodiaq is extremely versatile. It is exceptionally spacious and with compact external dimensions, it delivers the best overall package in its class. It is also robust, suits all types of terrain and offers the best flexibility and functionality. We aspire to combine the highest degree of aesthetics with maximum functionality so that one no longer speaks of different criteria. We are searching for beauty in simplicity, without disregarding functionality or ergonomics. Every detail tells a story, that is the emotive power of the brand." That word again.
Incidentally the name refers to the Kodiak bear from an island off Alaska and the spelling is derived from the language of the indigenous people - the Alutiiq.
It is one thing to be impressed with a static viewing, getting behind the wheel will tell more. Yet as the Yeti and Superb are already two of my favourites it is promising. Skoda is to be reckoned with.
For a real feel of the car watch Sinead McCann's video review: www.carsireland.ie/kodiaq