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The Skoda Kodiaq review. Has Skoda gone further upmarket, then?

Yes, this is the first test of the Skoda Kodiaq, the seven-seat crossover that’ll bring another load of buyers into the Czech firm’s dealers.

True crossover or tall estate?

Well, you can have it with 4x4 and there’s decent ground clearance, 2.5-tonne towing capacity and an off-road mode. But it looks more like an estate car.

It’ll do pretty much the same family duty as a Nissan X-Trail or Kia Sorento. A Land Rover Discovery Sport is in the frame and is the most desirable, if expensive rival, and has more off-road chops.

But will it fit a suburban life?

It looks big, but that’s a deception. A lowish roof stretches it visually. It’s actually only 4cm longer than an Octavia estate. So it isn’t intimidatingly bulky for urban school-run work or multi-storey car parks.

OK, that’s the outside, but I need to get real people inside.

When a car is carrying seven bodies, it’s unlikely they’re all the same size. The Kodiaq seats slide, so everyone should be able to get what they need.

If the third-row people are small, the second row slides back. If the sixth or seventh passengers’ legs won’t fit, they can negotiate with the middle row to go forward (in a 60:40 split) and set the backrest more upright.

Even so, seats six and seven aren’t really for anyone older than than early teenagers. This sort of seven-seater is a car that’ll take three kids and two grandparents, or kids and friends, on a day trip.

There will still be room for the picnic behind seats six and seven. If you fold seat seven, the boot gets to be quite useful. If you fold seats seven and six into the floor, a massive boot reveals itself.

Right, so my family and friends can be wedged in. But will they be happy?

USB, inductive-plate and 12-volt chargers take care their gadget needs, and on-board wifi is an option. There are air con outlets all around the cabin too, which might help offset the car-sickness caused by fixating on screens. For actual human interaction, your voice is picked up via the handsfree phone mic and sent to the rear speakers.

The practical touches aren’t only electronic. The boot has an underfloor recess to store the luggage blind when you’ve folded the seats. Umbrellas are tucked inside the front doors, a rechargeable torch docks in the boot and a windscreen ice scraper nestles inside the fuel flap. Open a door and a little plastic protector strips pops out and wraps around the edge, saving the paintwork from small bashes.

You’ve selflessly accounted for the needs of your passengers. Is it any good to drive?

It’s the VW Group MQB platform, on a VW Passat wheelbase. It’s a bit taller than the Passat. And it drives very much according to that pedigree.

The steering reacts thoughtfully rather than flightily to your inputs, the chassis and brakes finding a well-ordered cohesion. It rolls in corners, so as to tell you what loads you’re putting it under, but that action is so progressive that you can steer smooth, neat lines. It’s satisfying, but not much fun. But, then, do all those people sitting behind want you to have fun?

The ride is a little joggly travelling solo, but add some weight and it levels out. Adaptive dampers are on the options list.

You’ve not mentioned the engines…

Well, the one we tested was hardly memorable. Little better than plucky, actually. It’s a 150bhp two-litre diesel and is a bit noisy, and not very quick even with just a driver on board. I’d be temped by the newly developed 180bhp petrol option, which uses early-closing of the inlet valves under light load, so there’s less mixture to squish, for better economy. It comes with DSG for little more money than the manual diesel.

There are some lower-power petrol and diesel options too. But this is a car for hauling a significant mass of human flesh, so it’ll need power.

Still, if you can manage with FWD only, that reduces the weight of mechanicals by about one-and-a-half-adults’ worth. And actually, for a seven-seater, the Kodiaq is commendably light, at under 1,500kg for a FWD 150bhp petrol.

Light eh? So does it feel flimsy?

Nope, the bodyshell is reassuringly rigid and the cabin fittings seem tough as a Czech winter. Not only tough, but plush too. Much of the plastic is soft-surfaced, and nicely embellished with tightly-fitted metallic trim rings and glossy decor.

What about the tech?

Skoda no longer has to get by on the sloppy seconds from the VW Group. As well as early-adopting that new 2.0 engine, the top version of the Kodiaq wears the Group’s latest capacitive-touch tablet screen in the centre dash. Well, the latest until the facelift Golf hits the road, anyway.

Because base prices are good value and upper models have lots of kit as standard, a high proportion of Kodiaqs will have lots of driver aids. That includes semi-autonomous speed and steering control in multi-lane roads up to 40mph. Traffic jams, essentially.

So does it hit the sweet spot between family estate, MPV and SUV?

You expect Top Gear to tell you that? Everyone has a different idea. When the current Audi Q7 launched, people said it looks too estate-y. And the Kodiaq is a scaled-down version of that – lowish roof, few of the aggressive design touches of an SUV.

But it avoids the blob-like stylings of a family MPV, and still manages nearly all of the versatile cabin space. Plus if you get a 4x4 version, the Skoda will let you haul a trailer out of a well-manured field. And that’s no BS.

What do you think?

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