┼áKODA Kodiaq Ready To Bear Arms

Czech brand Skoda is preparing to launch a raft of new vehicles including a large SUV. Based on the Audi and VW versions of the same car, the Kodiaq as it will be called, will be a compact big car and will start at a decent $42990 plus ORC. When I say it’s a compact big car, overall length will be 4697 mm, and will roll on a 2791 mm wheelbase. That’s still shorter than the Audi Q5 at 2807 mm. Height is 1676 mm, including roof rails, which makes it the same height.

At the entry level, Skoda have specified their 1.4L TSFI engine, which is an interesting choice, until you read that the dry weight is under 1500 kilos. The Skoda Octavia AWD wagon is just 1250 kg or so, so there will be a noticeable if not huge difference between the two in performance. There will be five engines on offer; two 1.4L petrol, one 2.0L petrol, and two diesels with differing power and torque at 110 kW/340 Nm and 140 kW/400 Nm.

At the Australian launch we’ll see just one variant, being the 132TSI 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine as standard, developing 132kW of power (as its name suggests) plus 320Nm of torque. The 140 kW diesel will arrive later in 2017. There’ll be three option packs available: Tech ($2500), Luxury ($4900), and Launch, with the first offering Adaptable Chassis Control, auto park assist, an extra off road mode plus more. Luxury gives up ventilated electrically adjustable seats at the front, leather, surround camera system and more. A limited-run Launch Pack will be available for $5900, including all features of the Tech Pack plus blind spot and lane assist, reverse camera, traffic jam and emergency assist, side mirrors with auto dim, plus rear cross traffic alert. Additionally, the Launch Pack adds Triglav alloys at 19 inch diameter.

Outside it’s a set of updated Skoda design cues, with narrower and edgier headlights reflected in a similar design at the rear, said to be inspired by traditional Czech crystal glass art. There’s an improved grille design that flows equally as well with the headlights and the whole body is based on the family group’s modular transverse matrix which builds in hot stamped metal sheeting for a high rigidity factor with improved safety implications.

Check out http://www.skoda.com.au and register your interest there.


2015 Skoda Yeti Active: Car Review

Some years ago, here in Australia, we could buy an icecream called a Yeti. The catchphrase in the advertising was “Did you get a Yeti yet?”. Sure, it’s an odd way to introduce the Skoda Yeti but appropriate. Why? Barring a couple of things, it’s a pretty decent car for what it is.Skoda Yeti profile

The Yeti provided is the entry level version; there’s a 1.2L, petrol fuelled, TSI engine from Skoda’s owners, Volkswagen, a six speed manual, 77 kW and two wheel drive. There’s a 1.4L (petrol) and 2.0L diesel with a 4×4 Skoda Yeti enginevariant. Torque is 175 Nm, from 1550 to 4100 rpm. Skoda quotes zero to one hundred as 11.4 seconds. Economy is quoted as (manual) 6.0L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle from the 55 litre tank. It’s a figure very much in line with what A Wheel Thing achieved.

The Suit.
It’s certainly less funky and somewhat divisive that the original design. The nose is almost pure Skoda Yeti frontVW Polo with Skoda’s trademark inverse moustache grille, a more refined, four door, profile without the quirky window line design and a straightforward looking liftback rear. The Yeti featured clover leaf style 17 inch alloys with 225/50 Pirelli tyres.
From the rear, there’s a hint of (don’t laugh) Great Wall’s X240, with the hightower style tail lights, capped with two roof rails. A full length glass roof can be fitted as well.Skoda Yeti rear

On The Inside.
It’s a mix of blandness, some average ergonomics and design engineering, comfortable seats and Skoda Yeti front seatsgood viewing. Being a manual, there’s the forward throw of the gear lever, a smooth and non notchy one at that. The problem here is where the top of the lever ends in the throw; with hand on top it’s right next to the rotary dials that Skoda has chosen for the Yeti, which allowed, all too often, the hand to brush against those dials (air direction, fan speed, temperature) and move them. All. Too. Easily.Skoda Yeti console
The Yeti’s main claim to fame is the rear seat row being configurable. That may be the case but I had trouble moving one and couldn’t move another. The cushioning itself was finely balanced between support and comfort. It’s surprisingly spacious as well, with a decent sized cargo area of 377L with the seats up and over 1200L folded.Skoda Yeti cargo

The dash layout is generic, with a small LCD screen displaying an unusual look to the radio stations in the console; it also appears that this car’s GPS wasn’t either enabled or configured for Australia. Maps brought up a blank screen while Navigation was in all languages and areas bar Australia. The aforementioned issue with the dials is easily addressed by using buttons, it would certainly alleviate the inadvertent moving.
The dash screen itself is, not unusually, pure VW as well.

On The Road.
It takes a bit of time to get going but once spinning at around 2500 the Yeti moves along smoothly and without fuss. Overtaking needs a change of gear (or two, or three) as does climbing the two roads at the base of the Blue Mountains, in Sydney’s west.
Ridewise it’s well proportioned, in that the front and rear feel equally sprung and the tyres add a good measure of compliance for a somewhat plush feel, given its basic orientation. It’s also well weighted in the steering, given a feeling of confidence and not overly assisted. There’s a small measure of tyre squeal whel pushed into certain roundabouts but the Yeti never feels as if it will lose traction. Overall, it’s a confident chassis to drive.

The Wrap.
Compared to the VW Polo tested the week before, the manual Yeti seemed a bit less powerful but made up for it with a better suspension setup. It’s “new tech” by having a keyless start and “old school” in some basic ergonomic failures.
It’s roomier, both for humans and cargo and will be ideal for a small family and sole business owner.
For more details and pricing head to http://www.skoda.com.au.

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2015 Skoda Octavia RS Wagon review.

Octavia profileThere’s something to be said for being the “little” brother or sister, in that unused and brand nwe stuff comes your way. With Skoda becoming part of the VW Group in 2000, the door was opened to taking advantage of the family lineage and sourcing from the parts bin, both brand new and “hand me downs” that are virtually brand new. Skoda’s undergone a resurgence, as a result and one of the key parts to that has been the Octavia. It’s a been a delightful week with the top of the range RS wagon, now in its third iteration. A Wheel Thing goes one on one with the Skoda Octavia RS wagon to find out of RS really does means rapid shifting

Turbos and four cylinder engines go together like whisky and ice. Skoda’s married a turbo to a 2.0L powerplant to get a 162kW/350Nm belter, with pull from 3000 rpm like a shuttle launch. There’s a six speed double clutch automatic transmission attached and is programmed for Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual settings, accessible via a Octavia enginebutton in the centre console and shown on the touch screen in the dash.

It’s an immensely usable combination, moves quickly and quietly through the gears in normal mode however the DSG’s mechanism does make shifting into Drive from Reverse a “wait for it” proposition. In Sports mode it opens the aural taps, allowing a growl from the engine to complement a more immediate response. However, even on a straight and long back road to allow a good clip, it required a manual shift from fourth into fifth and sixth only to have the computer to bring it back to fourth. Economy suffers, as a result. Skoda claims 6.6L per 100 km and that’s not unachievable if driven in Eco mode.

The Suit.
It’s an evolution of the previous design, with a somehow more integrated look. It’s a more tapered roll off for the roof Octavia frontOctavia rearon this RS wagon, looking less slab sided than the previous model, thanks to a creaseline along the flanks and in the lower doors, folding slightly inwards.

The wagon looks sleek, sitting low at just 1465mm and it’s 4659mm long and 1814mm wide, providing a huge amount of cargo andOctavia wheelarm/leg space thanks to the 2686mm wheelbase, maximising internal room. The reverse moustache grille sits nicely between the edgy headlights, themselves supported by thin lines of LEDs. It’s angular, handsome and in a Stormtrooper combination of black and white, carries a subtle air of menace. Panel and shut lines are tight and there’s a reassuring “thunk” when closing the door. Roof rails complete the picture, one that would look well suited to your garage.
Alloys are unusual and a matter of personal choice, with brake dust quickly dulling the sheen. Rubber is Bridgestone 225/40/18s.

On The Inside.
588L of cargo room sit nicely within the wagon’s shapely rear with seats up. The lower stance of the wagon makes loading it up a breeze, along with the high opening tailgate. There’s a plastic strap hanging down, a surprisingly Octavia cargo hatchuseful item yet looks oddly out of place as well. The passenger side part of the cargo space has the subwoofer unit for the excellent Canton audio system; it’s clear, punchy and well defined in its quality.

Seating is fantastic; driver and passenger get sports bucket seats, with a red highlight and RSOctavia rear seats embossing, Octavia driver seatwhich are immensely supportive and not once felt uncomfortable. The black leather is enhanced with red stiching; it looks great and of a good quality.

Getting into the right seat position to drive was easy; once done the driver is greeted by the classy looking monochrome info screen, a nicely sculpted steering wheel and the presence sensing touch screen forOctavia front seats navigation, sound and the RS options. It’s a beautiful workspace and roomy enough given the Octavia’s dimensions.

There’s plenty of tech to play with; the RS button glows red when pressed, there’s parking assistance and collision avoidance noises as well. It’s also, naturally, loaded with plenty of safety features such as airbags (almost, it seems) in every corner and electronic driving aids.

The Drive.
Suspension wise, it’s a ripper. There’s enough sportiness with a dash of compliance to suit most drivers that would buy the RS, it’s wonderfully damped and handled all speed bumps and off camber corners equally. It’s deft, adept and fun to drive. Torque steer is minimal but you can feel the front wheels loading up at times, mostly when coming Octavia dashinto a tight turn but there’s never a feeling of breaking away underneath. It’s a confidence inspiring chassis, as are the engine and transmission.

It’s an almost perfectly balanced Octavia bootcombination, bar the turbo lag in normal mode and the schizoid desire to hang on to fourth in Sports. When wound up, especially in the Sports mode, the Octavia RS wagon, hoists its skirts, changes them magically into a red cape and flies. That metallic roar from the front excites and titilates, adding to the presence of the Octavia when used in anger.

However, that delay, sometimes, in selecting Drive when moving from Reverse, can spook the computer, especially when rushed and it’s an uneasy sensation, not one you want to experience when you’re in a hurry thanks to oncoming traffic. Economy was decent, ending up at around 7.5L per 100 kilometres.

The Wrap.
At just under $44K, with great luggage space, easy to access fun and a spirited engine/gearbox to motorvate you. Fit and finish is high, it’s a comfortable workspace and isn’t too hard on the eye as well. Skoda is on a clear winner here, thanks to big brother (or sister) Volkswagen.
For information on the Octavia and other great Skoda cars, head to http://www.skoda.com.au and for A Wheel Thing TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6krT9Q_8_tg&feature=em-upload_owner

The Car: Skoda Octavia RS wagon.
Engine: 2.0L petrol, tubrocharged.
Transmission: DSG, double clutch automatic.
Power/Torque: 162kW/350Nm, @ 6400/1500-4400rpm.
Fuel: 98RON unleaded.
Tank: 50L.
Dimensions in mm (L x W x H): 4685 x 1814 (excl. mirrors) x 1452.
Weight: 1458kg (dry).
Economy (claimed), combined/urban/highway, litres per 100 km: 6.6, 8.3, 5.6.
Tyres, wheels: 225/40, 18 inch.
Cargo: 588L/1716L (seats up/down).
Price: $43940 (auto).

Czech Mate: Skoda’s Octavia Ambition Plus.

Octavia frontOctavia: younger sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. Skoda: younger sister of the automotive giant, Volkswagen. Together they’ve come up with a surprisingly capable vehicle with a definite Ambition to be seen. A Wheel Thing says hello to the Czech based manufacturer for the first time and likes the first impressions of the Ambition Plus sedan.

Physically it is a decent sized vehicle, it’s just shy of 4.7 metres in length with a 1.8m width and stands just under a metre and a half tall. Octavia engineUnder the test car’s bonnet is a seemingly small 1.4L turbocharged petrol engine, Octavia consolewith 103kW and 250 Newton metres of torque. It’s this figure that comes into play with a weight of just 1340 kilos (dry) to move. Putting that grunt down to the front wheels (225/45/17) is the job of a seven speed DSG; the close ratios have the Octavia motivating quickly, especially once the stutters of first and second are out of the way. A good prod of the go pedal sees the numbers change quicker than a blink, with the DSG ‘box sliding home gear after gear seamlessly, providing a wave of get up and go, belying the size of the engine. It’s that torque, available from 1500 revs through to 3500, with the tacho flicking up then down on changes, through to the peak power point of 5000rpm keeping things bubbling. Being front wheel drivem it’s partial to the occasional snort of the tyres when provoked yet torque steer is noticeably absent.

Octavia rearThe exterior is familiar yet new, with Skoda’s design team stamping their own mark on the VW based chassis. Audi-esque tail lights bookend a smart looking front end, with a chin mounted grille framed by driving lightsOctavia wheel underneath the moustachioed main intake grille and slimline, slef adjusting headlights. There’s (in the case of the Ambition Plus) a radar sensor smack bang in the lower middle grille; get too close to a vehicle in front without you using your brakes and wham! the Ambition Plus will take you by surprise and brakes itself. Hard. It’s a smooth, clean sheetmetal with the Octavia, with a well balanced profile and a single crease line at the bottom of the doors. There’s a kickup on the rear seat passenger windows whilst the wheels are trim and tidy looking five spoke alloys.

Octavia dashThe interior mix is an oddity; it’s a feeling of mod-tech and 1970s hotel; Octavia seatingthere’s the presence sensing touchscreen for entertainment and engine/gearbox setting changes, parking assistance and sensors butting up against a somewhat dated plastics look on the dash and door trims (piano black and dull, lustreless very dark grey) with the dash itself the old style block design, with no real amalgamation into the doors and a “beige” look to the seat trimmings, being a mix of black and patterned cloth. The seats themselves were comfortable without being spectacular, fully manual in adjustment and had the odd feeling of being seated higher than they looked. The position certainly provides good all round vision, except the wing mirrors are too small for true safety. Cargo space is huge, with the liftback providing both easy access and a cavernous amount of room at well over 500 litres.Octavia left rearOctavia cargo spaceOctavia rear

There’s a neutral feel through the tiller, with enough subtle feedback to provide road information to the driver, with the steering ratio just a couple of turns or so lock to lock. On the road the suspension is initially compliant, absorbing most smaller ripples and undulations and there’s a definite sensation of tautness underneath, allowing the Octavia to be thrown around without feeling perturbed. On tarmac it feels planted but did seem somewhat twitchy in a cross breeze and coming into an unsealed surface road it understeered dramatically and braking did not really help. The brakes themselves have a good bite, early in pedal travel without feeling grabby and provided a good level of confidence. In profile the Ambition seems to sit high with the 17 inch wheels not looking as if the wheelarches are filled but there’s little noticeable body roll regardless. Acceleration, as mentioned, is rapid once the turbo has spooled up bhowever the DSG ‘box did tend to hold fourth in certain driving conditions and was somewhat buzzy while doing so. Economy is quoted at around 5.9L/100km and A Wheel Thing saw little that would dispute that claim.

Skoda offers capped price servicing, with service intervals 12 months or 15000 kilometres, whichever comes first, complementing the sharp pricing. The range starts at just under $23000 with the Ambition Plus kicking off at $26790 driveaway (at the time of writing) plus $475 for metallic paint. The supplied car came with the optional Tech Pack (push button stop/start, cruise control and more) taking the price to a lick over $31K.
It’s a good car but suffers from being largely unseen on Aussie roads; that’s a shame because it’s roomy enough for the average family, drives well enough for the average punter and is keenly priced with a decent amount of equipment. Go here for more information: http://www.skoda.com.au/models/octavia/


Polo’s game is not horsing around.

Volkswagen’s turnaround from being solely a small car and a hippie’s traveller are well documented, with the group Polo left frontliterally having a car to suit every occasion. The recent launch of the Up! adds another arrow to the light car sector quiver, with the Polo a well established contender in this segment. A Wheel Thing had the pleasure of the $21K Polo TSI 77 Comfortline for a week, complete with DSG auto transmission and the potent little firecracker 1.2L turbo petrol engine. What seems like small numbers (77kW @ 5000rpm and 175Nm from 1550-4100rpm) bely the performance and driveability of this 1088kg rocket.

Yes, the Polo is a small car and, nominally, a five seater. There seems to be, in this case, a discrepancy as to what constitutes a normal size human being, with interior width barely 1.6 metres allowing, well, not a lot of breathing space. With the front sePolo dashats back to accomodate anyone around the 180cm size, rear seat pasengers would need detachable legs to fit. Yes, small cars do that….. The seats are themselves quite comfortable, with a good measure of support under thigh. The tiller is adjustable for height AND reach, unusual enough nowadays and moreso in this class. The dash is clean, simple, easy to read, as you’d expect, whilst the general look and feel again belies the size. The centre console has a dual layer drawer setup and the glove box can be used as a cooler bin plus the now ubiquitous Bluetooth and outside temperature display. Radio and aircon switching was logically laid out and a snip to use.

Polo right rearThe exterior is well in keeping with VW’s current design philosophy, with a smooth, flowing exterior linked to either end by somewhat angular clusters for the headlight and tail lights. A nifty touch is the rear hatch release being the rear hatch badge. It’s a clean look all around, matching well with the TSI’s 15 inch alloys on 195/55 tyres. A Wheel Thing’s test car was clad in Pepper Grey, a subtle colour requiring the lights on when overcast as it’s a shade guaranteed to blend into the road.

For the uninitiated, the double clutch auto in the Volkswagen range can take a little getting used to. Foot on the brake, press the lock lever and move backwards; a slight and barely audible thunk for reverse….back again through neutral to Drive and there’s a momentary hesitation as the car rolls backward and the dual clutches disengage and reengage for the first of seven forward driven gears. Given a right foot full, the Polo leaps ahead like a horse swatted on the bum, whilst the tacho needles flies around, the engine gives a hornet buzz and the display shows D1, D2, D3 and so on in rapid succession. Volkswagen’s own figures quote 9.7 seconds to 100 kmh….the seat of the pants say it feels faster; but such is the engine’s worth it’s available in the upcoming range of Skoda Octavia. The chassis is well developed, taking corners in its stride, minimal torque steer under load whilst the rear end can be controlled by a deft dab on the brake while cornering, with the proven torsion beam rear and MacPherson strut front doing the job. Along the way the DSG box Volkswagen Pologives that manual blip on the upchange and it’s even more noticeable on the way back up through the gears, especially at lowering speeds. It’s an interesting sensation and sound but a great demonstration of technology. There’s plenty of tech behind the scenes, with the expected plethora of passive and active safety items, such as curtain airbags and traction control.

Although it’s the size of a pony, the Polo is a horse amongst its competitors. Although the tallish and therefore rear seat passengers would find the interior, as comfortable as it is, somewhat cramped, the 1.2L turbo firecracker makes up for it.