The best family SUV you won't buy? Skoda's Kodiaq revealed
TIME to catch up Australia: we as a nation should be buying more Skodas.
Take a trip to Europe and you'll notice the VW Group-owned Czech brand's offerings are ubiquitous, our Euro cousins embracing Skodas despite the name being the butt of every unreliable car joke a mere 20 years ago.
When VW bought Skoda, brand perception soon changed. The cars were good value, quality was high and owner satisfaction topped numerous lists. Quite rightly, sales and market share rose in response to reach the rather lofty heights Skoda enjoys in Europe today.
It's still a brand on the periphery Down Under however, partly due to it only arriving here under VW ownership in 2007. Even so, despite how often we motoring journos try to tell you its cars are (for the most part) bloody brilliant, a mere 3000 have been sold in Australia in 2016 so far: we've bought more Porsches this year for heaven's sake.
Let's look globally. In the UK Skoda is the 14th best-selling brand with a 3% market share - more than both Mazda and Mitsubishi.
In Europe as a whole Skoda comes in 10th with a 4.3% market share, outselling the Aussie top three of Mazda, Hyundai and even Toyota.
And in Germany - a country renowned for its love of build quality - Skoda's the seventh biggest brand (behind only German marques and Ford) with a healthy 5.6% market share. The Germans buy three times as many Skodas as they do Toyotas. Wow.
One final fun statistic, China is on course to buy 300,000 Skodas in 2016, a massively important market where the Czech battler outsells both Mazda and BMW.
So what can Skoda do to win over Australian hearts and minds (and wallets), to better its current position of 0.4% market share and 20th on our list of top sellers?
More SUVs of course, and the just revealed seven-seat Kodiaq is the first of many set to arrive here in coming years. Skoda only has the small Yeti in its current Aussie SUV line-up (excluding the Octavia Scout which is basically an AWD slightly raised wagon) so reinforcements can't come quickly enough.
Skodas are typically very sharply priced in Australia - we get 'em a lot cheaper than Europeans do - and we can expect the Kodiaq to start around the $40k mark here to target Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento shoppers when it arrives in the middle of 2017.
Skoda says the 4.7m long Kodiaq will follow the brand's Simply Clever packaging mantra by offering a spacious interior, largest boot in its class and cargo space of 2065 litres with rear seats folded - that's 200 litres more than a Toyota Kluger.
The third row of seats is optional in the Kodiaq but is a must for our market, while towing capacity will be up to 2500kg.
We're also promised "pioneering driver assistance systems," optional drive mode select and modern infotainment which will include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Engines and transmissions on offer to Australia aren't confirmed, but Europe will receive two diesel four-cylinders and three petrols.
The 2.0-litre diesels will be 110kW/340Nm and 140kW/400Nm, and the 1.4-litre turbo petrols 94kW/200Nm, 110kW/250Nm and 132kW/320Nm.
Two-wheel-drive and AWD versions will be available, as will a six-speed manual transmission and 6- and 7-speed DSG autos.
Before the "Strong as a bear" Kodiaq arrives, Skoda is offering us its light Fabia hatch and wagon in Monte Carlo guise once more.
The turbocharged 81kW/175Nm cars score 7-speed DSG transmission, sports suspension, black front grille frame, side skirts, door mirrors, front spoiler, rear diffuser and 17-inch alloys.
There's a Monte Carlo stamp on the B-pillar, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, sports pedals, sports seats and panoramic glass sunroof.
All MY17 Skoda Fabias now get rear view cameras as standard, with driveaway prices starting at $16,490 the 66kW hatch, $17,990 the 66kW wagon (auto gearbox and 81kW engine adds $3000).
The Monte Carlo versions come with the 81kW engine and auto gearbox and cost $24,990 (Hatch) and $26,490 (Wagon) driveaway.