What is it?
The VisionS is a preview of a new medium-sized Skoda SUV called the Kodiaq, which will be revealed in production form at the Paris motor show this September. The VisionS also signals Skoda’s plug-in hybrid intent, besides showcasing the brand’s thoughts on how a car interior might look in tomorrow’s era of autonomous driving.
The more immediate reality of the Kodiaq is that first UK deliveries will begin at the end of March next year. It will sit above Skoda’s Yeti to compete with the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Nissan X-Trail and will be priced from around £20,000.
For this, customers will get a spacious SUV that is 4.79 metres long and provides five seats as standard, and seven as an option, the latter versions starting at around £23,000. Front-wheel drive is standard and a Haldex-controlled four-wheel drive system is optional.
The Skoda Kodiaq has been officially revealed – get the full story here
The production Kodiaq is “about 80% the same as the concept”, says Skoda. To imagine the real thing, downsize the wheels from 21in to 17 or 18in, add conventional door handles, remove the strips of Czech crystal decorating the grille, air intake and nose badge, add less sharp-edged door mirrors, shrink the exhausts and reconfigure the interior.
On this concept, the cabin is notable for its six seats and multiple screens. The front-seat passenger faces a generously wide, tablet-like display and the driver a set of flat-screen instruments and readouts, while middle and rear-row passengers get a pair of modest displays in the headrests.
A smartphone is mounted on the armrest of each of the four doors; together with the two devices on the centre console, the quartet of phones takes the total screen count to 12. Skoda’s thinking is that aboard an autonomous car, everyone will want to get connected. Interior designer Marwan Khiat says the company is currently working on individual door-mounted smartphone docking stations, although these won’t be included at launch.
What we will see is a series of interior and exterior signatures designed to distinguish what will eventually become a range of Skoda SUVs. The exterior features are intended to suggest a more robust demeanour. They include a double-bar grille with its more vertical orientation, a smaller set of extra lights beneath the main headlight clusters, squared-off wheel arches, a shallower side window set and a slight clamshell effect to the bonnet.
There are distinct themes for the interior, too. The VisionS cabin is striking for the extensive array of screens, not least that panel forward of the front-seat passenger. This won’t make the production version, says Khiat, but there will be a novel feature in its place inspired by Skoda’s ‘Simply Clever’ theme.
The twin-binnacle dashboard will make the showroom, though, and this architecture will characterise all Skoda SUVs from now on. Exceptional roominess, convenience and the idea of a personal space – or ‘bubble’, as Khiat puts it – complete the list of Skoda SUV interior themes. The bubble is provided by each occupant’s smartphone, a set of headphones and sockets allowing them to enter their own world.
The VisionS propulsion system is configured for the world of tomorrow, the concept being fitted with a plug-in petrol hybrid system that will appear first in the Superb in 2019-2020. A four-wheel-drive plug-in Kodiaq will follow.
As fitted to the VisionS, the hybrid drivetrain consists of a 154bhp 1.4 TSI petrol engine, a 40kW electric motor sitting between this and the six-speed DSG transmission and a rear axle-mounted 85kW motor, producing a combined power output of 222bhp and a hefty (but as yet unspecified) slug of torque. Much of the hardware has previously been seen in other VW Group products using the MQB architecture shared by the Kodiaq, which should offer this option by 2020.
What’s it like?
Our very short experience means it’s impossible to tell much, but the two reasons why buyers love SUVs – space and a command driving position – are very evident aboard the VisionS. The feeling that you’re in charge of this sizeable machine is reinforced by the fact that you can see much of its bonnet.
You’re left in no doubt that this car has a sizeable cabin when you look behind, too, the rear screen being a distant object. The good news is that it pretty much marks the tail end of the car to ease the parking task, especially with the aids that will no doubt be available. Skoda says the Kodiaq will have more assistance systems than the well-kitted Superb, along with some novel ‘Simply Clever’ features not evident on the VisionS.
Like most modern concepts, this Skoda is electrically powered for convenience, an arrangement that happens to mimic the behaviour of a plug-in hybrid at low speeds, when it will most likely proceed on volts alone. Combined with the cabin’s tasteful pale leather, the result is a restful experience, even if a Kodiaq carrying seven is less likely to be as calm.
Should I buy one?
You can’t just yet, but it will be a surprise if the production version of this car doesn’t strike a major chord with British buyers. It’s handsome, roomy, convenient, keenly priced and will come with the usual MQB suite of cost-efficient 1.4 and 2.0 petrol, and 1.6 and 2.0 diesels.
Couple all this to Skoda’s continually rising prominence and the fact that the Kodiaq is an SUV – the UK’s fastest-growing vehicle type by some margin – and you can expect to see plenty of these Czech family wagons on the road.
Location Mlada Boleslav, Prague; On Sale March 2017; Price £20,000 (est); Engine 4 cyls, 1395cc, turbo, petrol, plus electric motors in unit with transmission and in rear axle; Power 222bhp; Torque na; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight na; 0-62mph 7.4sec; Top speed Over 120mph; Economy 148.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 45g/km, 7%
What is it?