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  1. Analysis
June 7, 2017

ANALYSIS – Kodiaq and future Škoda SUVs

Škoda is making big money and ever more vehicles, while extra models - including more SUVs - are on the way. There is no doubting the steady rise in sales and ROI, but the question needs to be asked: does the new Kodiaq offer the value for money which has hitherto been one of the main reasons for the company's success?

Škoda is making big money and ever more vehicles, while extra models – including more SUVs – are on the way. There is no doubting the steady rise in sales and ROI, but the question needs to be asked: does the new Kodiaq offer the value for money which has hitherto been one of the main reasons for the company’s success?

Towards 1.5 million annual sales

The first quarter of CY2017 saw Škoda Auto’s operating profit increase by 32 per cent to 415 million euro. That followed a record 2016, in which profit after tax was 951m euro, a gain of 34 per cent. Impressive stuff. The trick is now to make sure the firm doesn’t commit the classic error of failing to take its loyal customers along for the ride as it expands. The advertising tagline remains Simply Clever, and it accurately sums up the cars and the brand.

People think of Škodas as offering a lot of car for an average amount of money, each model having some handy touches such as the clear plastic Pay & Display ticket holder by the driver’s A pillar. Even if people know that Volvo had the same thing years earlier, that only seems to reinforce the beat-the-system feeling.

The 2.0-litre TDI has just 150PS. Why doesn’t the Kodiaq get the 184PS unit which less expensive VW models come with?

How then to reconcile a new Škoda SUV, a vehicle which can easily cost upwards of GBP30,000, with a model that has none too generous a level of standard spec? The as-tested Kodiaq Edition, which is the top trim level, is priced at GBP34,050. It has a DSG gearbox and standard all-wheel drive. But its 2.0-litre TDI engine is the low-power 150PS version. Why not the 184PS unit which other, less expensive VW models come with?

We know getting weight out of cars can mean the difference between a good and bad CO2 number. Yet should it really cost someone GBP100 to have a (space saver) spare tyre in their new car?

The UK importer also fails to give the Edition a rear-view camera. Instead, it’s a noisy-beeping alternative and you have to guess just how close to a wall those segments which change colour on the monitor’s car-diagram are. Park Assist is an extra cost option, as is a sunroof and gesture opening for the boot.

Škoda UK needs to be vigilant of what the competition is up to: these sorts of things don’t cost extra on a Kia, Hyundai or other non-premium brands, especially on their models’ top trim levels. You can’t blame the vehicle line product managers for aiming to maximise income, and on the Edition, there is certainly some welcome equipment, such as standard wireless phone charging, blind spot detection, lane assist, heated front seats and an electric tailgate.

Enough then with the observations of how the brand might just be getting a little greedy – if Škoda sees lots of abandoned configurations on its website at the pricing stage, then it can certainly act to adjust standard equipment levels. For now though, UK sales are strong and unlike most brands, the overall number went up in May. Year to date, the total is 35,046 versus 33,198 for the five months to the end of May 2016. With 6,713 registrations, it was ahead of Kia last month. The Korean make delivered 6,682 vehicles but remains ahead of Škoda as at the end of May (42,678).

The Kodiaq itself is certainly one of the best vehicles in its segment. In seven-seat form, there isn’t a lot of space for legs in the third row, but boot space is generous even when the far-most backrests are in the raised position. Better to think of this SUV as the roomy five-seater which it is, but know that it can serve as an occasional hauler of six passengers, as long as the additional two are on the small side.

Cars for Europe are made in the Czech Republic, while production in Changsha commenced in March.

This D segment SUV was revealed to the media in September 2016, with its public debut following soon after at the Paris motor show. The first examples were delivered to customers in LHD European countries from February.

Cars for Europe are made in the Czech Republic, while China’s SAIC Volkswagen JV commenced production at a plant in Changsha during March. While numbers for May are yet to be announced, SVW sold 913 units of the Kodiaq in April, which was its first month on the market. There should also be CKD assembly in Russia and India from 2018.

Buyers may choose to have five or seven seats. Boot capacity is 720 litres or 2,065 with the second row folded, which is simplicity itself via a one-touch manual system.

The Kodiaq Scout, which has model-specific front and rear ends, 19-inch alloy wheels and standard all-wheel drive, is another variant. This had its world premiere at the Geneva motor show in March. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder biturbo diesel Kodiaq RS (vRS in the UK) is due out in 2018, to be followed by a plug-in hybrid.

The angular styling theme which has defined Škodas for some years seems to be on the way out. You can see this in the details of not only the Kodiaq but also the Superb: that distinctive triangle, like an origami fold in the metal, is absent from the rear ends of these two cars. It was meant to remind you of a section of the Czech flag but like the phasing out of the Yeti model name, Škoda is increasingly making changes in accordance with what works best in China, its number one market.

Maybe I’ve been admiring various Škodas for too many years but I immediately noticed some familiar details on the Kodiaq: triangular shapes within the tail lamps, and as part of the alloy wheel pattern, in this case 19-inch ‘Triglav’ polished rims. They’re big in diameter and don’t seem to harm the quality of ride comfort.

Some bits of intelligent design include a special slot below the boot floor where you can store the roll-up blind/parcel shelf.

Some bits of intelligent design which deserve praise are a special slot below the boot floor where you can store the roll-up blind/parcel shelf, umbrellas in the front doors, an ice scraper inside the AdBlue and fuel filler flap, plus some beautiful horizontally striped wood on the door trims and across the dashboard. The other great idea is the same system which Ford fits to the Focus: door edge protection. This is a pop-out plastic strip which covers the painted metal and helps to prevent dents to other cars you might have to park too close to.

As much as I liked the press car, the thought kept coming to me that the best versions of the Kodiaq are yet to launched; in particular, a more powerful diesel. Having said that, the 150PS 2.0-litre does a good if not great job of hauling the car’s weight, while delivering economy of 46mpg (the official Combined average is 49.6mpg). Top speed is 119mph and 0-62mph takes 10.2 seconds, and that’s with a standard seven-speed DSG, which is one of the Volkswagen Group’s own gearboxes. CO2 is 149g/km in the Edition 2.0 TDI 150PS 4×4 DSG variant.

Future SUVs

The recently announced Karoq is closely related to the SEAT Ateca and VW Tiguan and will serve as the replacement for the eight-year old Yeti. Škoda stated this model’s dimensions in April 2017: 4,382mm long, 1,841mm wide, and 1,605mm high, putting it firmly in the C segment against the Nissan Qashqai. The vehicle was shown to the media at an event in Stockholm in May. Production is due to start at Kvasiny – the same Czech plant which builds the Kodiaq – in August.

The SAIC Volkswagen joint venture is expected to reveal its locally made version of the Karoq at November’s Guangzhou motor show. This should be a stretched model which will go into production during 2018. While the Karoq is a five-seater, the LWB version might be a seven-seater.

The brand’s SUV range is eventually expected to consist of four, or perhaps even five, vehicles.

The brand’s SUV range is eventually expected to consist of four, or perhaps even five, vehicles:

  • 4.1-4.2m long B segment SUV, a de facto replacement for the discontinued Roomster MPV
  • 4.4m long Karoq (plus LWB Karoq for China)
  • 4.6m long Kodiaq Coupé
  • 4.7m long Kodiaq

The Kodiaq Coupé forms a part of Skoda’s ambitious goal to be building and selling 1,500,000 vehicles a year by 2020. The Volkswagen Group division has confirmed that SAIC Volkswagen will build a second Kodiaq bodystyle but this car is not yet a definite for Europe. That’s more to do with a lack of capacity at Kvasiny than anything else.

The Vision E, an electric concept which debuted at the 2017 Shanghai motor show, offered a rough outline of how the Kodiaq Coupé might look.

There is a chance that another SUV, close to 5m long, will be added to the range. This would share its architecture with SVW’s Volkswagen Teramont. It could only be for China, though. The Teramont is the Chinese market version of the model built and sold in the USA as the VW Atlas.

Škoda issued a media release in December 2016 marking the 50th anniversary of the start of production of an obscure model called Trekka, leading to speculation that a future SUV might revive this model name. As of now, the names of the potential B and E segment models are not known. They might instead commence with a K. We mustn’t also forget that the firm has previously hinted at its plans to add an electric SUV in 2020. Whether that will be a stand-alone model or a derivative of an existing one isn’t yet known.

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