Is Singapore's most expensive Skoda too costly - or just right?

Is Singapore's most expensive Skoda too costly - or just right?
PHOTO: CarBuyer

SINGAPORE - A brand’s most expensive car is usually not relevant to the mainstream buyer, or, in simpler terms – it’s not worth the money for the Average Joe. But is this true even for Skoda, the Czech brand that’s known for the cost-effectiveness of its cars?

Skoda’s Kodiaq RS is two seemingly contradictory things at once: It’s the Czech brand’s most expensive model available here, but it’s also the cheapest large performance SUV on the market. 

Currently, the Kodiaq RS goes for $295,400 with COE. The car launched here earlier this year – read our news coverage, first impressions drive in Malaysia, and review on Singapore’s roads for all the details. 

Singaporean Skoda owners well-love the brand’s bang-for-buck ratio, with the brand’s best-seller the Octavia sedan a key example of this, even in go-faster RS form. But the big question for the Kodiaq RS here is : $300k just too much for a Skoda? 

I first thought the $300k price tag would be a bridge too far for the average Skoda buyer, but having tested it and compared it to most of its potential rivals, there remain multiple, clear reasons why this car is relevant to Singapore. 

The Goldilocks Zone

In driving and ‘living with it’ terms, Ben got it right with his review of the car. The 2.0-litre turbo with 245hp, adaptive suspension, and seven-seat SUV practicality is “A combination of family-friendly practicality and sense of speed effectively puts it in a class of its own.”

It’s in a class of its own because if you’re 1. a parent who 2. has to ferry around six other people 3. have a need for speed and 4. Don’t want to spend more than $300k, this is pretty much your only choice. 

Here’s another thing we found out: While it’s badged an RS model, it actually has a modest amount of power.

Normally for fast car fans that’s a minus, but for the family man/woman who just wants to go a little faster, it’s just right in power terms. 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds is quick but not spouse-scaringly, uncompromisingly fast – and that’s important for keeping the peace.

The Kodiaq doesn’t have an overpowering appetite, despite its ursine moniker

Even better, drive the Kodiaq RS in ‘non snarl’ mode and it’s actually not too much of a guzzler. Our drive spanned more than 200km, with some paw action in between, but the Kodiaq still delivered a decent 9.5L/100km. Incomparable to a hybrid, but still not bad for a big, gasoline-only SUV. 

Taking a swipe at the competition

When it comes to seven-seat SUVs, the Germans have quite a few to offer, but all of them are more expensive. The likes of the Audi Q7BMW X5, and Mercedes-Benz GLE all top $400k now. 

A ‘classic’ example of a high-performance seven-seater is Audi’s excellent SQ7. But it has a 4.0-litre V8 and costs half-a-million bucks – or 40 per cent more than the Skoda. 

Arguably the closest European competitor is the Mercedes-Benz GLB, which is a tad smaller and less spacious. The GLB 250 AMG Line, with 221hp, comes close to the Kodiaq in straight-line speed, but it costs $317,888 with COE. The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is faster and nicer to drive than the Kodiaq, but it’s $337,888 with COE. 

In other words, good luck finding a semi-hot European SUV with a 200-plus horsepower turbo engine, all-wheel drive, and adaptive suspension, for a similar price. 

In the mainstream world, there are seven-seat SUVs like the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander, all of which are cheaper.

The two Koreans stand out with fuel-saving hybrid versions, though none of them have performance variants. Along mainstream lines, the rest of the non-RS Kodiaqs compete well with these cars on price at the $200+k price point. 

Quite bear-able 

Another thing that contributes to the cost of the Kodiaq RS is its spec. If you look at the Kodiaq lineup’s equipment list/brochure, you’ll see that the Kodiaq RS is the best-equipped version in the whole lineup. It means the price tag is bigger, but you’ll likely never want for more features. 

What stood out to us in our drive with the car were touches like the perforated leather steering wheel, the electrically-adjustable sport seats (with heating and cooling), and the faux carbon fibre trim panels.

But it’s also the additional stuff that we like, such as the active safety systems, and the adaptive cruise control that makes driving in heavy highway traffic less of a chore. Not all cars at the S$300k price point include this, mind you. 

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

While you get a lot of car for more money, but the Kodiaq RS isn’t perfect.

Skoda’s presentation isn’t the most luxurious nor the most polished – the infotainment interface is a bit fiddly (there’s no back button), and the graphics could be better.

Dynamically, the car is a great all-rounder, but the synthetic engine noise is a bit tiresome, although you can tweak all the settings to your liking in the Individual drive mode. 

While high COE prices have made all cars more expensive than ever, that doesn’t mean they’re all still equally worth the dosh. If anything, competition is fiercer than ever, but it’s cars that bring something unique to the party that will stand out.

For example, a $300k price tag on a Toyota doesn’t seem to be a problem, at least as the Toyota Alphard Hybrid shows, and it’s also one of the most expensive Toyotas around. In the case of that car, and the Skoda Kodiaq RS, it shows that what seem to be high price tags shouldn’t discourage you from seriously considering a car if it ticks all your boxes. 

This article was first published in CarBuyer.

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