Skoda Kodiaq SUV can do tricks, but that's not its real talent
The Skoda Kodiaq is a vehicle that has the power to distract you from some very important issues.
It's brimming with clever family-friendly features, for a start. Some of it is familiar Skoda/Volkswagen Group stuff, like umbrellas in the doors, an ice scraper on the fuel flap and bottle grips in the cupholders (so you can twist a top one-handed). Some of it is more special, like the automated protectors that pop out when you open the doors (shared with brand-buddy Bentley).
There's also the frequent conversation-point of Kodiaq being Skoda's first SUV. Which it's not actually, because there's a boxy little thing called the Yeti. But Kodiaq is indeed Skoda's first full-size seven-seater.
Anyway, we could spend all day and certainly all of this story delving into these things without the car actually turning a wheel. And then we wouldn't actually know whether it's any good as an actual vehicle, as opposed to a rolling showcase of consumer design prowess.
Well, turns out that clever stuff is not just smoke and mirrors. The Kodiaq is a great SUV to drive as well, albeit in a very Skoda way. The Czech brand doesn't necessarily fall into the trap of trying to make all of its cars sporty (although there is a Kodiaq RS coming), so this big fella impresses with its relaxed demeanour, comfort and especially refinement.
That's easy to say when we're driving the flagship Style TDI, of course. Would love to spend some time in the fascinating, entry-level sub-$40k Ambition 1.4-litre 110kW model, but you get the feeling these qualities are fundamental to the Kodiaq rather than a quirk of the most expensive variant.
It's a real feel-good car, this: distinctive without being overdone, great driving position, smart cabin (the styling is still simple but the quality has moved up a notch from other Skoda stuff) and failsafe driving dynamics.
Even in 140kW guise the TDI is no ball of fire: it's only 0.6sec quicker to 100kmh than that entry-level model with the tiny engine. Or nearly a second slower than the 132kW petrol-powered Style (which is also $4000 cheaper).
But with 400Nm of torque the TDI certainly lopes along in linear fashion. If you so choose, you can tweak the handling with the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), which is standard on the Style and a $2500 option on the Ambition+.
With DCC comes an off-road setting. As if.
Luxury is not necessarily a core Skoda thing, but the premium paid for the Style does bring quite a lot of extra kit. Exactly what that premium is becomes hard to quantify, because both petrol and diesel Style models have standalone 2.0-litre engines that are not shared with the lower-spec Ambition versions.
However, Style goodies include that DCC, heated steering wheel, heated/vented/power-operated front seats, upgraded audio, colour multi-function display, net partition, tinted glass and 19-inch wheels.
We love this thing: it's a superb SUV (see what we did there?).
But there's just one thing: you don't really get it from the photographs because it's so well proportioned, but it's also a really large SUV: 4.7 metres long and really quite substantial. So it won't be for everybody.
But the good news is that there's a smaller model called Karoq on the way, which looks like a scaled-down Kodiaq and will have the added practicality of completely removeable rear seats - just like the current Yeti does and the new Kodiaq doesn't.
So that'll be Skoda's second SUV. Or third, depending on who you ask.