The high-resolution 9.2" display screen upgrade swipes with pinch and zoom functionality, even when operated by gloved fingers

The high-resolution 9.2" display screen upgrade swipes with pinch and zoom functionality, even when operated by gloved fingers

This month in our Hands-On-Tech (HOT) reporting series, we put the Skoda Connect system to the test*. Taking you through the top-spec connectivity features offered by manufacturers in detail, this HOT report series looks to benchmark the connectivity functionality of each manufacturer based on various test criteria. Skoda's J-segment crossover impresses with a stylish design and responsive features.

Entry-level Skoda Kodiaq S trim levels come with a standard 6.5" screen, with 800x480 pixel resolution. Keenly responsive, the high-resolution 9.2" upgrade, however, swipes, with pinch and zoom functionality, even when operated by gloved fingers. This superior Kodiaq display is slick, particularly using finder on the navigation, where there is no apparent lag. The larger-sized display also helps with safety on the road, as well as being incredibly stylish. 

Skoda has also integrated Mirrorlink, CarPlay and Auto mirroring apps so the display can imitate the user's handset if that is preferable. The system detects which handset is being used and offers the corresponding button to initiate the mirroring. 

The Skoda Kodiaq has nine media options, including DAB radio and an AUX cable port—the most audio options offered in any one model, of those we've tested. On the Edition level trim, the CD player comes as standard. The premium sound system is the result of a now long-standing partnership between Harman and Canton, a German manufacturer of high end speakers and raises the bar for VAG models. On par with the Volvo XC90, the system comprises ten speakers offering crystal clear fidelity, a sharp sound experience, which is carefully balanced with two subs. It's all rather dazzling. The controls for the audio experience are disappointingly standard though. Skoda has enabled rear passengers to control the audio system, via a remote control app on a connected tablet. 

The switchgear of the Skoda Kodiaq seems to be relatively well designed, offering physical and digital control options where appropriate, e.g. Climate Control. The only disappointment was that volume wasn't a dial but an electronic button hidden in the slick display surround. Since the scroll wheel on the steering was of such good quality, this was less of an issue than it has been in other models we've tested with a similar design. However, there was no immediate 'mute' option, which would have been helpful when travelling with passengers. 

Voice Control
As with the Volkswagen T-Roc, the voice used for this control option is a bit weird. In trying to sound more natural, it ends up sounding less so. It responds best when the pre-programmed commands are used, of which there are some 44. There is no option to control climate via voice, but music, telephony and navigation can be voice controlled. For natural use, across 12 commands, we score it two out of five, where two meant the system understood basic commands through unnatural syntax. For accuracy, the system scored four out of five, where the correct action followed the command most of the time. 

As with other brands, there is no voice response facility on the Skoda Kodiaq. This means that when you speak, what you have said doesn't appear anywhere. This particular function has been proved by other OEMs to improve the accuracy of the voice control system, since users can better understand what the system is hearing and adjust commands accordingly. 

We were very impressed with the handsfree telephony. The clarity of the call was one of the best on test, scoring a full five out of five. The voice control, as mentioned, was very easy, scoring another five of five, giving a useability score of five out of five too. The system imported the contacts from our handsets without any issue, though the default is Surname, First Name, which can be adjusted in the settings. This is advisable, as the voice control does not automatically invert the command if the driver uses the first name to instruct the system to call the recipient.

Networking and Companion Apps
Since 2016, Skoda's partnership with Vodafone has enabled data connection for Care Connect through an integrated SIM card in the car. Skoda enables the vehicle to call the emergency services, should the car be involved in an accident, as soon as the pre-inspection delivery is complete. 

Connecting to Infotainment Online or enabling a mobile Wifi hotspot, however, requires a tethered device, or purchase of a second SIM, which one inserts into the glove box. This offers more flexibility in the future for customers to shop around for a good deal.

Though Infotainment Online offers an improved navigation experience through the Columbus navigation, integrating real-time traffic information (RTTI), fuel prices, news, weather and parking information, drivers must pre-register, as with the VW Connect system. Once registered, an activation code is sent via email and once input into the car's system, the app connects with the phone and enables Skoda Connect. This whole process was very easy—a veritable first in our tests.

Skoda has created more than one app, so Skoda Connect will help you enable vehicle information features in the car, where MySkoda will offer a retail directory and 'locate my vehicle' services. The Skoda Connect app also allows drivers to toggle privacy settings too. In order to enable a Wifi hotspot in the vehicle, drivers require a third app called Smartgate. The reviews were poor and perhaps as a result of our press vehicle being pre-registered, we couldn't get this app to work. 

Though one could create a case that separation of these apps is a security measure, it would be less confusing and arguably more secure (since there would be only one app to maintain) if Skoda consolidated these applications.

The Columbus navigation system is impressively slick. With mapping provided by Navteq, there's a great level of detail, the voice control can determine the destination easily and accurately. The route is highlighted red which works here, though really should be standardised to blue now. Google Earth can be selected and the highly responsive capacitive display allows the user to move around the selected area easily. 

It takes some eight steps to set a destination or add a waypoint and two steps to toggle back to the radio—higher than is completely intuitive but not arduous. The system also requires both the street name and the postcode, since it only takes the first half of the latter (thus, there is no automatically splitting of a postcode.) Columbus developers only update the system once or twice a year, making this a contrary design for a seamless user experience. 

POIs are limited to restaurants, fuel and car parks unless you are connected to Infotainment Online, which opens the Online POI feature. Users can then search for shopping and sights to see or places to visit.

We scored the Columbus system three out of five for intuitive design, where three offered good presentation, acceptable nesting but a mixed user experience. We scored it three out of three for route accuracy, where the system found the destination and the ETA was accurate.

The Skoda Kodiaq runs into a few icon issues when assessing the ADAS offering. The park assist icon exists, but is only for use with a trailer, which some users might find a little frustrating. Similarly, the steering wheel shows a button that indicates the distance marker for the adaptive cruise control, but in the Skoda this is actually the menu for the instrument cluster display screen. 

These niggles aside, the 360-degree reversing camera is split screen with rear view and comes with an range of augmented reality assistance. For drivers that would regularly tow, this selection of camera angles is probably far more helpful though for a non-towing user they could be distracting.

Overall, the Skoda Kodiaq technology offering was impressive, boasting a selection of the most desirable features, with intelligent design and good useability. With each feature, there are niggles and areas of improvement as detailed. While Skoda will be able to iron many of these out in future iterations, if it hopes to continue scoring well, the brand, not unlike others, will need to put simplicity first. It would also be great for Skoda to widen the number of available apps integrated into the proprietary system, such as Audible, Deezer and Glympse.

*This article is an extract from a report that first appeared in our QUBE service. The QUBE article is accompanied by a comprehensive data sheet with our full evaluation of the Skoda's connectivity and HMI. 

Other summary articles published on just-auto in the 'Hands-On Tech' series