We're not quite mid-year but already contenders for Driven Car of the Year are in our sights. So meet the latest potential nominee, the Skoda Kodiaq.
The seven-seater SUV has just been launched in New Zealand and already Kiwis are clamouring to buy it, especially as the company is targeting mainstream competitors, rather than other European marques.
The Czech automobile manufacturer is owned by VW Group, so it's built on the parent company's MQB platform, also used for the all-new Volkswagen Tiguan although it is longer due to that third row.
The Kodiaq is 4687mm long, 1676mm high and 2087mm wide and carries seven seats as standard.
The line-up starts at $39,990 for the front-wheel-drive 1.4-litre petrol Ambition model. Skoda NZ boss, Greg Leet, said he fought hard with Skoda's Czech factory to get it for such a low entry point.
The Kodiaq 1.4-litre petrol produces 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque and is paired with has a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Ambition+ also has the 1.4-litre petrol engine plus four-wheel-drive, and is priced at $44,990.
There are two powertrains for the top-spec, four-wheel-drive Style -- either a $54,290 2-litre petrol (132kW/32Nm) or $58,290 2-litre diesel (140kW/400Nm). Both are powered with a seven-speed automatic transmission and sit on 19in alloys.
Other competitors in the seven-seater SUV segment are the Holden Captiva/Trailblazer, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Highlander.
Leet says the "big chunk" of sales will be the Ambition+ and Style.
Kodiaq comes from the name of the largest brown bear, the Kodiak, and with the room inside, you could probably fit its bear namesake.
With three rows, there are 270 of space in the boot, fold down the seats and you get 630 litres, but put down row two as well and you get 2005 litres. Plenty of room for a Kodiak bear.
The third row is suitable only for primary school and younger kids, but you can slide the 60:40 second row seats forward to give more legroom for row three.
The standard features are impressive, including power tailgate, parking assist and an impressive infotainment centre.
There's also the option of trailer assist ($1850) that has the Kodiaq reverse the trailer in any tight spot for you -- ideal for the trips to the tip or boat ramp.
The Kodiaq is the first vehicle in the Skoda line-up to have area view (360 degree camera) and predictive pedestrian protection (stops if someone walks in front of you). It also has Simply Clever features such as door edge protection that pop out when you open the door, cup holders with special grips that helps you open bottles, umbrellas in front doors, and a magnetic torch in the boot to attach to panels if, for example, you need to change a tyre at night.
On the practical side, as parents will know, if you put kids in the third row, their little fingers will find that torch. And before you can say, "Kodiaq means brown bear", the torch will fall between the seats, never to be found again.
Ditto for the umbrellas. No matter how many umbrellas I buy (or am given by car companies) they disappear, especially at the first hint of rain. But Skoda NZ says replacement umbrella's are $30 and a torch is $70.
It also has digital voice enhancement via the stereo system that projects the driver's voice to the third row of seats. No more yelling at misbehaving kids!
Driven had the first road test of a Kodiaq after the media launch, spending five days in the Style diesel that has, like the Ambition+, full leather seats, plus heated front seats and steering wheel.
From the exterior, the Kodiaq has a strong road presence, thanks to the large grille that merges into the LED headlights. But it's the inside that impresses with a sleek dashboard and easy to find and use elements.
Due to cabin soundproofing, you hardly hear the diesel engine from inside the Kodiaq. Even outside, it's quieter than expected.
The 2-litre diesel engine has combined fuel efficiency number of 5.7-litre/100km but during our drive we averaged 9 litres.
On the open road, the Kodiaq comes to the fore. Its cornering is easy, and you aren't thrown around, with the stability at speed notable.
As diesel, it works best on the open road, with the engine producing 400Nm of torque between 1750-3200rpm.
Around town, that torque lag in the diesel was annoying. I had to turn off stop-start in city driving, as the Kodiaq was slow to respond at traffic lights. For me and my lifestyle, I'd opt for the petrol Style.
Another niggle was that the doors don't completely close unless you slam them, due to that niffy edge protection that has to retract completely.
But those are just niggles that you'd adjust to if you owned it. I'd say quite a few Kiwis, especially those with young families, will be putting it on the shopping list due to the seven seats and price point.
It has also won praise overseas, as it was named Best Family Car in the World 2016 by Top Gear Magazine.