An SUV that does the hard yards without hogging the limelight - 4th April 2018
To Belgium and Ypres for a history lesson with my 10-year-old, in an effort to mark 100 years since the end of World War I and learn some lessons on perspective.
What car to take? A father-and-son weekend in a sports car would have been perfect if the goal had been to make myself look better and earn some bragging rights, but the decision to take the Kodiaq ticked every box for practicality, comfort, economy and peace of mind, as regards to driving on unfamiliar country lanes and parking in unknown car parks overnight.
The journey itself was simple; so simple, in fact, that it makes me wonder why we don’t do it more often. When you can book a ferry or the Chunnel for £30 and drive just a few hours the other side to end up in somewhere as interesting as Ypres, it seems madness not to. Yes, there’s waiting in passport queues and a bit of hassle, but there are no traffic jams on the M40, no rotten motorway food and – generally – an ease about life that doesn’t entirely correlate with my experiences back in the UK.
Covering 180 miles or so took about four hours all in, at an extremely leisurely pace, so I could have got to deepest Wales or Sheffield in around the same time – but without a plate of frites and mayonnaise at the end of it.
Of note, but predictable, was the ease that the Kodiaq brought to the journey. Comfortable, refined, spacious, economical – all the rational reasons for choosing the car in the first place. Our weekend bags barely dented the boot space and the cubbies held more than enough Haribo to keep the both of us happy.
Even the most broken of roads (of which there seemed to be many) didn’t unduly unsettle the car, and it unflinchingly took on the country lanes to some of the more remote locations around Passchendaele and Poperinge without ever feeling too large. And when we left such emotive sites as the Tyne Cot cemetery, the cabin was quiet and open enough to allow for thoughtful conversation.
Tellingly, given some people choose to criticise it, the infotainment touchscreen was put to the test to change the sat-nav to Europe and automatically dip the beams for driving on the right. I managed both, first time and without reference to the gargantuan instruction manual, because the language and menus are entirely logical.
I’m not a huge fan of touchscreens, as often they require more concentration than dials and buttons, but this one is as good as I’ve found, giving me enough confidence to set destinations while focusing on driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. The Kodiaq was the perfect companion, then, doing everything that could be asked of it without forcing itself (or intruding) on the occasion.
I don’t suppose it will ever be a car to set pulses racing, or to turn heads and drop mouths into a gawp, but nor do I think buyers will expect it to. Autocar readers would likely want a second car in the garage to appease their enthusiast leanings, but I’d bet that they’d take the Skoda nine times out of ten.
In fact, I dare say that if I asked my son which car we were in, he’d struggle to remember – but given the trip’s nature, there’s probably no higher accolade I could give it.
CABIN CONVENIENCE The imperious seating position opens the world up, by letting you see over things.