SKODA can do no wrong it seems. From the Citigo to the Superb, the Czech outpost of the Volkswagen empire has a range of cars to be proud of.

No wonder Skoda execs were bullish when they took the wraps off the Kodiaq - the company’s first full-size SUV.

Despite entering a new market segment overflowing with good cars the Kodiaq has made an immediate impact. That’s because it has all the attributes you want in a Skoda: good looks, excellent refinement, a roomy well-made interior, a massive boot and serious value for money.

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Skoda bosses reckon the Kodiaq’s success is key to their hopes of doubling European sales within five years.

If it proves a hit more crossovers and SUVs - including a Kodiaq coupe and a smaller Juke rival - are on the cards.

So the pressure’s on...

ON THE ROAD: Skoda went to great lengths to get the “look” of the Kodiaq right. In fact, it took almost three years - during which Skoda’s styling teams battled each other via a hard-fought internal competition - before Karl Neuhold, the company’s head of exterior design, was satisfied.

The result is an undeniably masculine shape full of interesting detail. The side profile looks unusually dynamic, thanks to the bold sweep of the windows, and the designers sweated blood to create a sloping hatchback despite an engineering headache over what to do with the hatchback door hinges.

The headlights and intelligent cornering fog lights have been moved closer together for better performance (and to protect the fogs from damage if you venture off road) and the Skoda grille is double ribbed to differentiate the Kodiaq’s ‘face’ from Skoda’s other cars.

Combined with a wider than usual track the Kodiaq looks every inch the SUV thoroughbred. Everyone who laid eyes on it agreed the exterior was a damn good effort.

As you’d expect of a vehicle Skoda hopes will become a best-seller, buyers can choose from a wide range of engines. The smallest, a 1.4-litre petrol, hits the road with either 123 and 148 bhp. If that isn’t enough there’s a more powerful 187 bhp 2.0-litre version available.

However, the 2.0-litre TDI - available with 113, 148 or 187 bhp - is expected to be the most popular choice and it’s easy to see why. The four-cylinder powerplant is super smooth and very quiet. Skoda has done a terrific job of insulating the cabin from the usual diesel clatter and, at times, it is impossible to tell by ear what’s hiding beneath the Kodiaq’s sculpted bonnet.

The test vehicle was fitted with a DSG gearbox and progress is best described as serene. The Kodiaq is a very comfortable car - but there’s enough low-down torque and power to get a move on when you need to.

And despite the Skoda’s size it’s no top-heavy wobbly SUV. It has plenty of grip from the tyres, accurate steering and well-designed suspension which doesn’t make the chassis bob about like a cork in a bath when you press on.

ON THE INSIDE: Although the Kodiaq sits on the same modular MQB platform as SEAT’s Ateca and the VW Tiguan, Skoda bagged first dibs on the stretched version so you’ll find lots more room in the Czech’s cabin compared to either of its cousins. In fact, the Kodiaq is one of the roomiest vehicles in its class - comfortably out-punching the X-Trail, Kia Sportage and even the Mitsubishi Outlander.

In fact, the Kodiaq’s wheelbase - the distance between the front and rear wheels - is the same as a Volkswagen Passat.

The front seats are very welcoming and a wide range of adjustment makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The middle seat backrests can be individually adjusted for more passenger comfort. The third row fold neatly into the boot floor and are best left to children and shorter adults.

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WHAT DO YOU GET: As you’d expect, the SE-L model wants for very little. Standard equipment includes Alcantara faux suede upholstery, cornering LED front fog lamps, dual zone air climate control with humidity sensor, electric remote boot opening, cruise control, electric windows, full LED headlights (and head lamp washers), light and rain sensors, parking sensors and sunset glass which keeps the interior cool in hot weather.

The 8-inch touchscreen (6.5-inch on cheaper models) looks great with high resolution graphics and an intuitive interface. It’s fully integrated with your smartphone (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and offers a Wi-Fi hotspot facility to keep kids with tablets quiet on long journeys.

Best of all, Skoda has carried on its tradition of hidden ‘surprise and delight’ features such as the umbrellas concealed in the front doors and the ice-scraper you’ll find in the petrol cap.

The active crash systems - which monitor the road and slam on the anchors if they think you’re about to crash - do their job but are occasionally overzealous. Twice - once reversing out of my drive and the other occasion braking in town traffic - the system took over and performed an emergency stop when I had the situation under control leaving me flustered and embarrassed. No doubt you’ll forgive it the odd mistake if the electronic intervention helps avoid a costly bump.

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HOW PRACTICAL IS IT?

One of the features of nearly all modern Skodas is the big boot. The Kodiaq doesn’t disappoint. In five-seater configuration you can stash 720-litres of luggage - that’s nearly 50 per cent more than you’ll squeeze into a Mitsubishi Outlander or the SEAT Ateca and comfortably more than the X-Trail (550 litres) and the Santa Fe (585 litres). Fold the seats down and the Kodiaq can swallow a very impressive 2,005 litres.

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RUNNING COSTS: The 2.0 TDI returned just over 50mpg covering more than 700 miles. That result, which is slightly better than the official combined figure, gives the TDI Kodiaq a genuine touring range of more than 600 miles between forecourt fill-ups.

VW uses selective catalytic reduction to meet the EU’s latest Euro IV emissions regulations. This utilises AdBlue - a water/urea mix - which is injected into the exhaust to remove harmful emissions.

Ad Blue is carried in a tank which needs replenishing occasionally. The Kodiaq flashes a warning when the range is less than 1,500 miles. Be warned: if you ignore the warnings and let the AdBlue fall dangerously low the engine will shut down and refuse to restart to prevent damage to the exhaust emissions system.

VERDICT: The Kodiaq isn’t Skoda’s first 4x4. It was building rugged vehicles for the Czech army almost 70 years ago. It isn’t even Skoda’s first crossover - that honour fell to the much-admired Yeti. But it is the company’s best SUV to date - and by a country mile. If the Kodiaq is any indicator, Skoda’s plan to double sales could very well be rather conservative.

Price: £37,895

SPEC:

Engine: 2.0-litre/four-cyl/TDI

Power: 190PS

Torque: 236 lb/ft

Top speed: 129 mph

0-62mph: 9.1 seconds

Fuel cons:49.6 mpg (Official combined)

CO2: 151g/km