THE KODIAK bear is one of the largest of any kind of bear in the world and no doubt Skoda had this in mind when it called it's biggest SUV to date, the Kodiaq.

To mix the metaphors a bit, this bear is really a wolf in sheep's clothing! Just like its Superb saloons and estates, Skoda has managed to make the Kodiaq look nothing much above average on the outside in terms of size, but carve out hunners of room inside.

It's like some kind of weird conjuring trick, as this is built on the same platform as the VW Tiguan and Seat Ateca – and both of them feel more cramped than the Czech-built version.

How so? Well, seat planning is the main way of freeing up space in what is now Skoda's only seven-seater and it is a bit longer than some of the other VW-sourced family members. That said, the middle row is where the space is most felt and I wouldn't particularly like being in the third row of seats for a long journey if I was anything above 12 (age that is!).

As three-quarters of expected buyers will opt for the two top specs in the range, it was appropriate that the test model came in SE L configuration and with the well-proven Vee-Dub 2.0-litre TDI engine rated at 148bhp under the bonnet.

The entry level and fairly basic S model kicks off the range, has no seven-seater option and the only engine available is the 1.4 TSI 123bhp petrol with a six-speed manual

The SEs have more choice – the 1.4 TSI in 123bhp and 148bhp guises, or the 2.0 TDI 148bh diesel as tested. You can also opt for four-wheel drive, the DSG twin-clutch seven-speed auto gearbox and seven seats with this spec'.

SE Technology versions stick with the 2.0 TDI diesel, with optional DSG seven seats and 4x4 capability. SE L get seven seats as standard and have three engine options – the 1.4 TSI 148bhp, or the 2.0 TDI with 148bhp or 187bhp power outputs, the latter with the DSG gearbox as standard.

One final, but low-selling version, will be a 2.0 TSI 177bhp turbo petrol, which comes with the DSG box and 4x4 as standard, but only in SE L trim.

Having driven both, I'd opt for the excellent seven-speed DSG auto gearbox every time over the six-speed manual. It is also the most efficient and the 2.0 TDI 150 diesel is rated at 56.5mpg combined for two-wheel-drive and a tad under 50mpg for the 4 x 4.

The 'big' diesel can hit 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, though the high-powered petrol does the same timed run in 7.8 seconds. The 148bhp diesel does it in 10.6 seconds with the DSG and for most people, that's quick enough.

Four-wheel-drive models get a driving mode control, which has 'dial a terrain' action, including hill descent control. While it could never be classed as an out and out off-roader, it will handle most surfaces and conditions as weel as contemorary vehicles

On the practical side, its luggage credentials are in a class of their own. In the five-seater, the second row can move forwards and backwards by up to 18cm for some class-leading legroom – allowing the boot capacity to be up to 720 litres. With all the seats lowered, a pretty huge 2065 litres of space is available.

As is usual these days, there is a whole raft of 'driver assistance' technology, most of which is controlled via the excellent LED display which has big clear on-screen 'bits' to press.

One little quirky thing on the test car was a new door-edge protection system, which deploys automatically to protect it from dunts and scrapes – which, if any farm vehicle I've ever seen is anything to go by, is a 'good thing'!

And for those with towing in mind, an optional extra is the trailer assist and area view camera systems, which give the driver as much info as he needs when putting a trailer on, without the need for someone shouting at you!

Opt for that and it could save your marriage!

Sales boost for Skoda

BOLSTERED by strong sales of the Kodiaq in particular, Skoda's sales have been rocketing in the first half of 2017.

From January to June, deliveries to customers rose by 2.8% to a record 585,000 vehicles and revenue grew by 22.6% to a new ceiling of €8.72bn.

Its bosses say that the primary focus will be on expanding the SUV portfolio in the coming months and years, including the Karoq, which is the replacement for the popular Yeti.