Tuesday December 12, 2017
By Richard Bosselman
ONE of Skoda’s smallest and farthest-flung markets has just awarded a prize rarely meted the Volkswagen Group marque – a national car of the year title.
The Kodiaq, the first full-sized sports utility vehicle the Czech marque has created, has scooped the New Zealand Car of the Year.
The highly sought-after accolade is thought to be the first national COTY to go to the model, which released here earlier this year.
In taking the annual award, meted by the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild, the big soft-roader faced down nine other top contenders, including last year’s European Car of the Year, a BMW on the verge of autonomy and the first fully electric car delivered by South Korea’s biggest brand.
Launched in seven-seater format but since also made available as a five-seater, the Kodiaq avails in front and four-wheel-drive, with diesel and petrol powertrains. The brand is planning to add more editions, including one with focus on performance pep.
The Guild prize, received by Skoda NZ general manager Greg Leet, is New Zealand’s sole national motoring award and has a proud history dating back several decades.
Cars under consideration this year were from a pool of new models released between October 1, 2016, and September 30 this year.
Selection is rigorous and the shortlist of 10 candidate cars each made the cut in part on strength of having been carefully road tested by 75 percent or more of the Guild’s voting members. This year that was around two dozen judges.
Guild president Robert Barry said the Kodiaq more than lived up to the brand's tag line of being ‘Simply Clever.’
“The Kodiaq is more refined than many luxury SUVs with great design ideas, excellent packaging and competitive price points.
“It has made the Skoda brand come of age in New Zealand and reach critical mass.
The nine other finalists were the BMW Five Series, Holden Astra, Honda Civic hatch, Hyundai Ioniq, Land Rover Discovery, Mazda CX-5, Subaru XV and two Suzuki models, the Swift and the Ignis.
This writer is among COTY voters, and was also on the top 10 selection committee. The Kodiaq was my top choice. I appreciated that it was a great design at great value, offering brilliant storage and driver assist touches. The only points against came from the diesel only arriving with the highest specification at time of test – that situation has since been remedied – and that the third row seats were really designed for occasional rather than regular use.
Coming second and third respectively with me were the Ioniq (For: Hugely practical, excellent urban car and okay on open road, NZ’s best new EV choice. Against: Small boot, an update to 300kms’ or more range would make a huge difference) and the XV (For: Engaging chassis, attractive specification, roomy, massive value. Against: Could do with more verve, hard to fully warm to CVT, no air vents for rear of cabin).
The award was given out in Auckland tonight at an industry gathering, annually run by the Guild’s partner in the COTY process, the New Zealand Automobile Association.
The NZAA also announced a selection of 13 category winners, some of which were vehicles from the Guild top 10, all but two – the people’s choice and safest car – being selected with Guild members’ assistance.
These ‘best in class’ winners were: Swift (micro/light); Astra (small/compact); VW Arteon (medium/large); Five Series (luxury); Mazda MX-5 (sports car); Toyota CH-R (small SUV); Kodiaq (medium SUV); Mazda CX-9 (Large SUV); Discovery (luxury SUV) and Ford Ranger (utility); Ioniq (EV/plug-in hybrid). The Mercedes-Benz C-Class cabriolet took the safety award and the Swift was considered the peoples’ choice.