IAIN ROBERTSON

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Most unwittingly, although naming its first SUV ‘Yeti’ might disprove it, Skoda has blended conventional design with EV underpinnings, highlights Iain Robertson, that could create a dichotomy for what will be its most expensive new car ever.

Do you recall when Skoda was at the butt-end of most comedians’ performances? Do you even remember, when it was the least expensive new car sold in the UK? You may, although it is unlikely, recall when I described the Skoda Rapid Coupe as being as dynamically gifted as a Porsche 911 (of the 1980s!), yet costing the same as a family bag of crisps?

Interestingly, when digging a little deeper into those rear-engined wonders of the pre-Favorit era, it would be fair to describe them as ‘agricultural’, in engineering terms, but ‘as tough as old boots’, an advertising tag-line employed by subsequent owner, Volkswagen, for its Golf Mark One! With more than a heavy dose of irony, the Communist-controlled Skoda may have lacked design intuition but its cars were over-engineered and designed to deal with unmade roads and poverty-grade motoring demands.Skoda-Enyaq-10

While the company could have all too easily been sold by the Czech government to Renault, after poet Vaclav Havel presided over the despatch of the regime to its Russian homeland, a more progressive deal was struck with VW Group. The potential Renault deal would have been utterly disastrous. Instead, following a period of staged percentage takeover bids, Skoda grew like Topsy and developed its own design stance, under the watchful eye of Dr Ferdinand Piech, VW’s then boss. It was a fruitful outcome for all concerned parties, not least improving the earnings potential of Czechs more familiar with salaries a mere 10% of those at Wolfsburg (VW’s HQ). It is hard to believe that this has occurred within just the past 30 years. Equally, it can be hard to believe that Skoda might be as old, if not marginally older than Daimler-Benz.

Yet, with the passing of Piech and the advent of ‘Dieselgate’, Skoda finds itself in an unusual position. As a brand, it has always returned better loyalty statistics, greater reliability and better value than its sister brands from VW, Audi, or Seat. In fact, it has become a much-loved trademark. However, its strategy has been usurped by a VW Group that has become the largest carmaker in the world and one that seems to be more determined to pursue a badge-engineered role than allow relative brand independence. The ‘ghost-in-the-machine’ would appear to be BMC/BLMC, which only serves to prove another theory that what goes around, comes around.

Enyaq clings onto ‘conventionality’ with its drive control still in the centre console, rather than following the VW edict of placing it on the steering wheel. Yet, there is more: although Enyaq hides its hiked-up height (a symptom of full electrification beneath the cabin floor) with skirts and bumpers, its looks are typical of many contemporary 5-door SUV-like family estates. In fact, you have to look closer than usual, to spot the illuminated and plastic-clad radiator shell, or the fuel flap that opens to reveal a female socket for plug-in recharging purposes.Skoda-Enyaq-7

Both head and tail-lamp arrays are typical Skoda fodder but the reduced frontal body overhang is more BMW-like than VW Group sourced. In fact, squint a bit and the Enyaq looks more X2, or downsized X5, than anything else from the VW Group stable, a factor exacerbated by the upper and lower ‘splitters’, an aerodynamic device, applied to the front bumper. However, underneath is all VW ID.4, the larger sister to the Golf-size ID.3 that has not been applied to the other VW brands, as yet.

The capacious cabin is clad in a mix of fine leather and both novel and eminently tactile recycled plastic trim. Dependent on choice of colour, or equipment level, the end result is truly pleasing to the eye, with pleasant seat graphics and high-end stitching. Yet, the dashboard is a minimalist’s delight, with little more than a small bank of conventional switches just above the front seat drinks-holders, separated by air-vents from the largest, 13.0-inch touchscreen yet employed on a car outside of the Tesla factory. Even the heating and ventilation controls are now relegated to the screen, while a teensy digital speedometer and a set of some recognisable warning lamps sit just ahead of the driver, almost as if they were an unnecessary appendage not really intended to upset the view.

A choice of 62, or 82kWh batteries drive the rear axle, their 100kW and 125kW outputs equating to 177, or 201bhp respectively. Both 261bhp 4×4 and speedier 302bhp vRS versions will follow in spring 2021. Full charge distances range from 260 to 316 miles and will take a fairly standard between six to eight hours to recharge from a 7kW home wallbox. Up to 80% recharge is possible, as with all other EVs, from public fast-chargers, in around 30-minutes. If you are prepared to accept EVs as becoming conventional, there is very little to upset the system and the future vRS model will be a resounding, if silent, road-burner. However, entry-level Enyaqs are priced from around £33,400, with the forthcoming vRS likely to exceed £45,000, which might be a step too far for some Skoda traditionalists.Skoda-Enyaq-8

Electrification means a 0-60mph time for the least costly IV60 model of around 8.4s, with a top speed governed to around 100mph, which helps retain some battery life for a range expectancy of around 260-miles, although 200 is more likely to be the norm. Wheel diameters range from 19.0 to 21.0-inches, with a choice of designs, some more aerodynamic than others. Enyaq is very refined to drive, thanks to its rear-located electric motor, although that will change a little with the 4×4 versions, which will feature beefed-up damping too, an aspect sure to make larger diameter wheels and lower profile tyres a less welcome option. As long as the government keeps reducing the EV grant (currently £3,000), Enyaq will be sure to cause a pricing double-take.

Conclusion:       Buyers of the Skoda Enyaq may find themselves slightly disgruntled by the deadness of the car’s dynamics. Yet, as the company’s first, fully-fledged EV, it passes muster in a shark tank of mid-size and expensive EVs from key rivals.

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