The Skoda Kodiaq is fuss-free and easy to pilot
Skoda Kodiaq has lots of 'Volkswagen-ness' - fuss-free and easy to drive though a little unexciting When the doors of the Skoda Kodiaq open, plastic strips snap out to protect the edges and prevent doors from denting cars parked beside it. PHOTO: SKODA CENTRE SINGAPORE, TOH YONG CHUAN

The Skoda Kodiaq is named after the Kodiak - a large brown bear found in Alaska. Skoda calls the car "a bear at your command".

But size-wise, it does not quite qualify as a Kodiak. It is, in fact, slightly smaller than a compact sport utility vehicle like the popular Toyota Harrier, but has a longer wheelbase.

Skoda Singapore said it had arranged for the seven-seat Kodiaq 2.0TSI - the only version currently available for sale here - to be tested, but a 1.4TSI five-seat variant showed up instead.

While Skoda says the Kodiaq is a seven-seater, it is actually a 5+2, going by a demo car in the Skoda showroom in Singapore.

The opening to the third row is small, so is the space. Knee and shoulder room are tight for adults. The seats provide little thigh support and are best for smaller children.

On the move, the car has a high degree of "Volkswagen-ness" - fuss-free and easy to pilot, although a little unexciting.

This is not surprising because the Kodiaq shares the same platform as the Volkswagen Tiguan, as well as engines and gearboxes found in other Volkswagen cars.

The 1.4-litre engine has to be worked hard to get the five-seater moving. It feels slower than the declared 9.7 seconds for the 0-to-100kmh dash.

But once it is up to a gallop, it has no problem keeping up with the 130kmh traffic on the Czech expressways.

Inside the cabin, the Kodiaq is more functional than plush. It has an easy-to-use touchscreen that comes with functions like smartphone pairing and navigation.

Outside, it has frills such as LED headlights, rear lights and cornering lights.

On the safety front, it has blindspot detection and a proximity warning, which goes off if you get too close to the vehicle in front of you.

Some other small details are impressive. When you open the doors, plastic strips about 20cm long automatically snap out to protect the edges and prevent the doors from denting cars parked next to it.

And the front doors come with built-in umbrella slots - a feature Skoda shares with Rolls-Royce. The slots even come with holes to drain water.

Less impressive traits on the test-car include a tailgate that does not shut completely unless you give it a big shove.

Both the 1.4-litre and 2-litre cars have their own appeal.

An advantage of the less powerful engine is that it consumes less fuel (6.3litres/100km versus 7.4 litres/100km), although it has a slower century sprint (9.7 seconds versus 8.2 seconds), a lower top speed (197kmh versus 205kmh) and one less gear. These deficits make little difference to daily city driving.

The 1.4TSI is powered by its front wheels, while the 2-litre variant is an all-wheel-drive - something that is good to have but not really necessary in Singapore.

Skoda Singapore has started delivering the Kodiaq 2.0TSI this month, while the Kodiaq 1.4TSI is expected to arrive later this year.

Both versions will have seven seats.

Those who are not in a hurry ought to wait for the 1.4-litre car and weigh the pros and cons before deciding which variant best suits them.

If Singaporeans warm to the Kodiaq, it will be a shot in the arm not just for the car but also for the brand, which has come and gone numerous times since the 1990s.