It has been pretty obvious for some time now — to me anyway — that the VW ‘dieselgate’ scandal was going to have a massive and very positive effect on two companies within the Volkswagen Group.
VW, of course, owns subsidiaries such as Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley which operate at the stratospheric end of the market, and others such as Audi, Seat, and Škoda, which don’t.
Given that the German automotive giant’s prime profit source came from the Volkswagen brand itself, the fall-out from the cheating ‘defeat device’ which disguised emission levels was always going to affect the parent company more than the others.
That being so, VW was always going to look to Audi, Seat and Škoda to make up any profit deficits which emerged from this potential crippling scandal.
And, with The New York Times reporting in the past few days how VW went out of its way to hide its guilt and also covered up the critical ‘who-knew-what-and-when’ questions, it is obvious the company still has a very long way to go before it clambers its way out of this mess.
The VW Group has already admitted that both Seat and Škoda have been instructed they will play a critical role in shoring up profit levels and told that they better get a move on in doing so.
Both are ready to step up to the plate with a raft of new models on the horizon and some, which have just hit the streets, already impacting on sales levels and customer satisfaction surveys. We test one such model this week.
When we first heard about the Škoda Kodiaq SUV, we just somehow knew that it was going to be a cracker. The Czech outfit has been growing in confidence annually since VW took it over back in 2000, and its current range of models is testament to a company bristling with self-belief.
It is not simply that it has had access to the Wolfsburg parts bin and dipped in when necessary.
No, Škoda has done much more than that and the massive successes of such as the Fabia, Octavia, Yeti and Superb underline the fact.
The company’s very obvious ‘more for less’ policy with its cars had made it a huge hit with the buying public, something which is very much reflected in its buoyant sales figures and profit margins in recent times.
Škoda’s first confident step into the massively popular SUV segment underlines the company’s growing assurance about its’ own abilities.
The Kodiaq is going to be a huge success for Škoda and I have no problem about making such a lofty claim about this car. It looks fantastic, comes in either five or seven seat versions, has a great selection of engines, is very well specified and, most importantly, is priced to sell.
I had my first Irish experience of the Kodiaq recently and it confirmed everything good about this big car that I had originally seen at the European launch at the tail-end of last year. This is a cracking machine and one that will sell in large numbers.
Such a prophecy has less to do with any expertise I may have, rather than the fact that dealers are already reporting demand is outstripping supply and strongly recommending people order their 181 Kodiaq now to avoid disappointment.
So what’s everyone getting so excited about? Well, the Kodiaq is an all-things-to-all sort of a car and it is one which will fulfil many and varied duties.
It will farm; it will school run; it will holiday; it will sport; it will shop; it will ford rivers; it will ascend ravines; it will party; and, on top of all that, it is cool.
Looked at from varying angles, it will remind people variously of the BMW, X5, the Audi Q7, the Merc GLS. Its styling is sharp and appealing, but appears to be an amalgam of many other designs. They key here is though that the Škoda designers have taken all the good bits from elsewhere and moulded them into something quite special.
That said, I would not recommend the candy white colour of the tester. There are plenty of other appealing choices, however, that complement the design and make what is such a big car very easy on the eye — which is not always the case with large SUVs.
We drove the top-end Kodiaq Style with standard 4x4 and the range-topping two litre 190 bhp turbodiesel, and I have to say that the only flaws I could find were non-mechanical. This thing drives like it means it and will tackle any sort of road with considerable élan — dreadful ones with composure and tenacity, and good ones with poise and precision.
Comfort levels for passengers on good or terrible surfaces are excellent and you will not get punch-drunk getting flung around the cabin as is the case in lesser machines. The engine, too, is punchy enough in standard mode and a surprisingly good companion when the sport function is engaged.
The DSG seven speed auto ‘box is a pleasure to live with and the assurance of the ride and handling are a treat, as is the weighting of the steering.
The performance figures — 205 kph to speed, 8.8 seconds 0-100 kph, 5.6 l/100 km (nearly 50 mpg) and 150 g/km CO2 — merely shower the package with a glittering cover.
Picky, I know, but the two things that stood out to me as flaws were the interior dash and door inlays which were in a sort of faux piano black which looked like they had been mauled by a wild animal, and the relatively flimsy centre console controls which lowered the overall tone of the Kodiaq.
The specification levels are pretty spectacular — even on lesser models — and the overall practicality is hard to match anywhere in this segment.
With a price ranging from €28,000 through to the €46,000 being asked for the range-topper we tried, the Kodiaq is ridiculously well priced. When you consider that you’ll pay nearly €50,000 such as a well-specced Audi Q2, it is easy to see where the value lies.
This, with one or two minor flaws, is a triumph for Škoda and once the public has got wind of how good this thing is, it is easy to see why VW Group executives are again sleeping easy as night. Their future is in very good hands indeed.
COLLEY’S VERDICT: ****
The Cost: from €28,795 - €46,545 as tested.
The Engine: a familiar and well sorted package.
The Specification: very good at entry level and stellar at the top end.
The Overall Verdict: A game changer.
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