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Skoda jumps into the SUV market with both feet — and seven seats, but can the Kodiaq win the people's hearts in an already congested SUV market?

It’s so typical of Skoda, while the car industry as a whole is rushing to build new 4x4s, not to launch just another typical modern compact SUV but instead to give us something a bit more useful: the new Skoda Kodiaq.

This car gives us the perfect opportunity to take stock of the complexity that phenomenal sales growth has now brought to the SUV market and the remarkable choice that a British consumer with about £30,000 to spend now enjoys.

If you want to trade outright practicality for style, a zesty drive and a premium brand, you can do it (BMW X1, Audi Q2, Range Rover Evoque).

If you need the opposite – a big SUV with lots of space and maximum towing ability, from a value brand – you can also have it (Kia Sorento, Ssangyong Rexton).

If you want what we might call a ‘normal’ modern, volume-brand compact SUV (Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Ford Kuga), a more traditional 4x4 done small (Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester) or even an oversized crossover (Ford Edge), you can have it.

Among all of which, you’d imagine it impossible for a firm new to the segment (but for the loveable warm-up act that is the Skoda Yeti) to carve out a clear bit of territory to call its own.

And yet this one damned near has. The Skoda Kodiaq is a compact SUV with a twist of extra space and functionality: a car, in prospect, that’s as modern and close to as fuel efficient as any other 4x4 on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform but approaches the size and usefulness of the Kia Sorento’s seven-seat sub-breed.

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And we can take its blend of simple functionality, space and value for money as a preview of what to expect from the new Yeti, due in 2018, and the smaller Skoda crossover that will follow it by the end of the decade. Beyond, being the new corporate face of Skoda SUVs, the Kodiaq may also spark adventures into pastures new for the Czech manufacturer.

Following the standard SUV is the Skoda Kodiaq Scout, which brings genuine off-roading ability and underbody protection, while bosses are toying with the prospect of launching a Skoda Kodiaq vRS version as well as a coupé version of the Kodiaq in the same ilk as the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé.

The Kodiaq also brings new driver assistance systems, new infotainment options and other luxury and convenience features to Skoda showrooms, forming a key part of the firm’s effort to move upmarket.

Time for its first major hurdle, then: how will it fare against the oldest benchmark car test in the business?


Skoda Kodiaq First drives