First drive: Skoda Mountiaq pick-up concept

Skoda Mountiaq concept first drive review - hero front

One-off student-built machine is a Kodiaq reimagined for wilderness expeditions

Since 1927, Skoda has run an in-house vocational academy to help train future designers and engineers, and since 2014, the students of the Skoda Academy have produced a one-off concept car each year to highlight the skills they are learning.

The latest machine is the Mountiaq, which was developed over eight months by 35 apprentice students, who are studying various aspects of the car industry, supported by the firm’s design, production and technical teams.

The Mountiaq, which has no production intent, is the sixth concept developed by students of the school, which is based in-house at Skoda’s Mlada Boleslav headquarters.

The first concept was the Citijet, a two-seat Citigo. It was followed by the Funstar (a Fabia-based pick-up), the Atero (Rapid-Spaceback-based coupé), the Citigo-based electric Element and the Sunroq (a Karoq convertible). This is the first machine to have been based on the Kodiaq.

The students developed two concept ideas: the Kodiaq-based pick-up and an Octavia ‘supersport’. The bulk of the students voted for the pick-up, with the decision then approved by the Skoda board. Apparently, the hardest decision surrounded the name, with numerous ideas put forward before Mountiaq – of which we very much approve – was settled on.

What is the Skoda Mountiaq like?

After design work on the Mountiaq had been undertaken, the students were given a Kodiaq to re-engineer. The finished concept retains the mechanical underpinnings of the large SUV, which is based on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform. Although the Mountiaq utilises the existing 187bhp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, the bodywork and interior have been extensively reworked. 

The students reinforced key elements of the existing bodywork, with the rear replaced with a flat load bed. Ensuring that rear gate functioned was one of the toughest design challenges. It also required a new rear window and side windows to be created.

The students fitted new, shortened and widened doors to match the new design, along with modified front and rear bumpers, and new running boards along the door sills.

To boost off-road capabilities, the vehicle’s ride height was raised to 290mm, a 100mm increase over the Kodiaq Scout. Aiding that were new chunky off-road tyres mounted on 17in wheels, which also increase the car’s width by 30mm. As a result, the Mountiaq is 4999mm long, 2005mm wide and 1710mm tall and it weighs 2450kg.

Much of the exterior design work was also intended to make the Mountiaq appear more rugged. There is a front air intake snorkel, with a winch and bull bars mounted on the front grille. The students fitted new lighting effects into the grille, Skoda logo and engine bay, along with a new roof-mounted light bar.

What’s the Skoda Mountiaq like inside?

From the comfy bucket driving seat of the Mountiaq, the pick-up’s Kodiaq origins are clear from the design of the driving display, dashboard and infotainment, although everything has been given flashes of orange to match the exterior paintwork.

But the rest is far more distinctive, the freedom given to the students apparent in some fun design elements. These include a glowing Skoda logo in the roof lining, which serves as a door light, and unique Mountiaq logos stitched into the seats. 

Of course, the biggest difference is the lack of rear seats. Instead, the rear of the cab features a small storage section, surrounding the substantial – and effective – 2000W amplifier and sub-woofer. The storage contains Skoda-branded mugs and useful outdoor tools.

In place of the rear seats, of course, is the flatbed, accessed via a working tailgate and  finished in metal to ensure it’s easy to clean and practical for outdoor use. Sitting on the rear bed during our time with the Mountiaq was an inflatable kayak, although we found little way of testing this at our kart track proving ground. Underneath the flatbed were several storage compartments that contained a fold-out table and chair set, an axe and crockery.

What’s the Skoda Mountiaq like to drive?

Because it’s a one-off student-built concept, our running in the Mountiaq was limited to some low-speed laps of a kart circuit located within a Prague greyhound stadium. Not exactly ideal ground to showcase the ability of a rugged off-road pick-up, but it was enough to prove that the machine is incredibly well put-together for a student concept.

The Kodiaq underpinnings are clear. The work to adapt the car means the engine feels slightly on the rough side, although no more so than many one-off concept cars we’ve driven. It definitely sounds the part: removing the catalytic converter and adding a resonator results in a suitably rorty engine note, aided by a distinctive noise as air heading to the engine is sucked in through the working safari snorkel.

The steering is direct and relatively responsive, despite concerns that the off-road tyres could reduce the feel. They ensure a smooth, soft ride and the extra height of the Mountiaq further boosts the traditional high-riding SUV position. 

It would be unfair to draw definitive dynamic conclusions, but it’s clear that the Mountiaq hasn’t been built just to look the part: it showcases the skills of those who made it and the adaptability of both the Kodiaq and the VW Group’s MQB platform.

Will a Skoda Mountiaq ever make production?

Sadly, it seems unlikely. This is strictly a showcase of the skills the students have developed in the Skoda Academy. But as with their previous concepts, the aim is to highlight Skoda’s more emotional side and, in doing so, hint at what the firm is capable of.

For example, the electric Citigo-based Element pre-dated the recent unveiling of the e-Citigo EV, and the Mountiaq certainly has more production potential than most of the other concepts. It hints at how a Skoda pick-up based on the Volkswagen Amarok truck could look, and on this evidence, it would hold substantial appeal.

In fact, according to Academy student Melanie Grmolenska, when Skoda boss Bernhard Maier saw the Mountiaq he “told us it should definiytely be a production vehicle.”

That said, don’t expect a Skoda pick-up any time soon: the firm is already unable to build enough cars to meet demand in Europe, so adding a relatively niche model to its line-up is unlikely.

Still, the Mountiaq stands as an impressive display of its in-house academy and the 900 students studying there – and as a tantalising prospect of the huge potential for a Skoda pick-up.

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Source: Autocar

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