The new Skoda Enyaq is the nicest car I’ve driven all year, maybe apart from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class limousine, which is the kind of thing no one would have remarked about a Skoda even a few years ago. It’s an object lesson in now to take a brand further and further upmarket. You don’t bother slapping “posh” badges on the thing or loading up it up with kit; you just build a brilliant car, which the Enyaq is. It’s basically a £50,000 electric Skoda luxury SUV, and, it’s worth it. Spacious, smart, smooth, quiet, nippy – “gorgeous” says my friend, and she’s a bit of a fusspot. Praise indeed.
Based as it is on Volkswagen’s new electric vehicle platform, the Enyaq is closely related to the recently released all-electric VW ID.3 and ID.4, and it’s superior to them, whether by accident or design, and especially the bigger ID.4, with which the Enyaq is more directly comparable. The Skoda is better looking, even more comfortable, and the “dash” (these days a large 13-inch screen) more user-friendly. The climate controls are a bit tricky to get at (too many touchscreen menus) but otherwise it works as well as any touchscreen to operate, which is to say not as great as old-fashioned buttons and dials. The fashion for tablet-style controls in cars has gone far too far for the sake of safety, I can’t help feeling.
The interior feels high class and there’s lots and lots of space and clever storage everywhere, something of a Skoda signature theme. That’s not because the Enyaq is especially well designed for space efficiency, you understand, but just because it is so darn big. The optional leathers are especially soft and cosseting and there’s a whole range of packs to choose from rather than a traditional options tick-list. They can easily adds thousands to the cost of your Skoda, taking it well into Audi or Mercedes-Benz territory. The Skoda holds its own, though.
On the go, like all electric cars, the low-speed power delivery is impressive; it’s quickly away from the lights and, because of the large battery pack, it doesn’t run out of power even at higher speeds. At just under 100mph, the top speed is much lower than in petrol- or diesel-engined equivalents, such as Skoda’s own massive Kodak, but, given the national speed limit, it’s perfectly adequate in any case.
The range, always an issue with battery electric vehicles, is impressive too, and should allay anxiety about running out of energy. Skoda claims over 300 miles on a full charge but it could be even higher, given warm weather, low-speed use and a gentle driving style, or below 200 miles in cold weather with a heavy right foot. Even more than in internal combustion engines vehicles, the electric car is sensitive to such factors, and users soon learn how to get the best out of their cars (or should, if they don’t want to get stranded).
The Enyaq comes with a choice of battery packs, but the larger pack doesn’t deliver that much more performance or range because the additional batteries are heavy. Because either pack is so large they also take longer to charge up; some 12 hours from the kind of box you’d have installed on the side of your home, for example, or about 40 minutes off a commercial fast charger at a petrol station (ie to get the range up from 26 miles to 208 miles, according to the excellent ev-database.uk). The alternative is one of the smaller electric SUVs with intentionally small (ie quicker to charge) packs such as the Lexus UX 300e or Mazda MX-30. Such are the compromises of the modern battery car.
Cost? As usual, going electric means balancing the higher list price or monthly lease fee, plus environmental benefits and comfort, against far lower running costs – “fuel” and servicing. Leaving the very real green issues aside, and just looking at money, there’s no point in paying a £10,000 premium for an electric car over the petrol equivalent if you’re just going to pop down to the shops every week or so. So you need to do your maths. The entry-level Enyaq will qualify for the government’s £2,500 electric car subsidy, but most of the range is way more expensive, and will become even more so when sportier and four-wheel drive versions arrive.
The only real fault I found in using the Skoda Enyaq is the autonomous emergency braking function. This is highly efficient, and the benefit in avoiding injury to other road users is obvious, but it makes parking this big beast even more difficult because it comes to an abrupt emergency stop if you get anywhere near an obstacle. That means having to override the emergency stop by pressing on the ac
celerator, which feels risky in a tight spot. So it’s laborious. There’s an automatic parking function, but I’m not sure I trust that either.
It’s an unusual car, then, because it’s much more difficult to control at 7mph than at 70mph. But it’s still a real winner for Skoda, at any speed.