The Skoda Kodiaq, Skoda's first large SUV model, has entered production in the brand's home, the Czech Republic.
Skoda invested heavily in the Kvasiny plant ahead of the model's production launch, which also produces the Superb and the Yeti. The plant currently employs 5900 people, but this is likely to increase, given Skoda's ambition to almost double its output in the coming years.
The Kodiaq, which was revealed ahead of the Paris motor show earlier this year, will cost from £21,495 when it goes on sale in the UK in November. The plant's opening confirms Skoda's expected first delivery dates in April. UK order books open in November.
Entry-level S trim will kick off the range with a 123bhp 1.4 TSI engine, the only engine available for now in that trim until the lower-powered 2.0 diesel becomes available.
Standard equipment includes 17in alloy wheels, a leather multifunction steering wheel, a touchscreen infotainment system and DAB radio. Cruise control and rear parking sensors are reserved for the £22,945 SE spec and above. They're available as options on the base-spec car, but Skoda hasn't finalised the price of options on the Kodiaq yet.
The most expensive car in the current lineup is the Edition trim, which costs from £30,695 with the 148bhp 1.4-litre TSI engine and DSG gearbox, and rises to £34,895 when fitted with the 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 187bhp.
Four trims in total are offered on the Kodiaq for now – S, SE, SE-L and Edition. SE-L and Edition spec cars get seven seats as standard, while on SE-spec cars it's a £1000 option. Entry-level S trim cars are only available with five seats.
There are five engine options at launch; three petrol and three diesel, ranging in power from 123bhp in the entry-level petrol to 187bhp in the range-topping 2.0-litre diesel. A lower-powered 113bhp diesel will come later.
The Kodiaq’s entry-level price undercuts its large SUV rivals, such as the £22,395 Nissan X-Trail, by £900, and the £28,795 Kia Sorento by £7300. The best-selling Kodiaq is expected to be the SE-L car, and the most popular engine is likely to be the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI, fitted with a manual gearbox.
Skoda also says that 'new levels of connectivity' are available on the Kodiaq, which includes a post-accident emergency call system, as well as a minor accident notification and breakdown call system. Following the industry trend for remotely controlling car functions, the driver can access functions of the Kodiaq with Skoda's connect app. These all come with a free subscription for the first year of ownership, although the cost of subsequent subscription hasn't yet been signed off.
Other technology on the Kodiaq includes automatic emergency braking as standard, adaptive cruise control, and other driver aids like lane assist and rear traffic alert. A driver alertness monitor is also available.
Order books for the Kodiaq open this November, and first deliveries are expected in April 2017.
Skoda sources say they have had more interest in the car ahead of its launch than any Skoda in history, so it’s safe to assume that it’ll be among the best-sellers in the large SUV segment.