Skoda Kodiaq SUV (2016 - ) review
Skoda is known for building practical and affordable cars, but its new SUV, the Kodiaq, adds seven-seat versatility and a premium cabin into the mix to make it one of the brand’s most desirable cars yet.
Interested in buying a Skoda Kodiaq?
How good does it look?
The Kodiaq sees Skoda competing with Land Rover, BMW and Audi in the large SUV market, and in no way does Skoda’s offering look like some pale imitator. Its deep front grille is imposing without being showy, and every model in the range gets alloy wheels (ranging from 17- right up to 20-inches in diameter), roof rails and LED rear lights as standard. Pricier versions also benefit from front fog lamps, LED headlights, electric folding wing mirrors and a wider choice of paint colours.
If you’re planning to take your Kodiaq off-roading, the tougher Scout model may be worth considering. It’s got extra underbody protection at the front and back, along with unique 19-inch alloys, tinted side windows and silver detailing all over the car, including on the roof rails and grille.
For those looking for something sporty, the top-of-the-range Kodiaq vRS rides on 20-inch alloy wheels and has a more aggressive-looking bodykit, as well as vRS badges dotted around the exterior. Metallic or pearlescent paint is standard on this version, as are front and rear parking sensors.
What's the interior like?
Without doubt, the Kodiaq features the smartest cabin Skoda has built to date. It isn’t quite up to the standard you would find in an Audi or Volkswagen, but it’s really not far behind. All the plastics you can see or touch frequently are soft and yielding, and although there are some harder surfaces on show, they're not that obvious. The wide and flat dashboard adds to the feeling of width in the cabin, and the driving position is excellent, with a wide range of steering and seat adjustment that should allow almost anyone to get comfortable. The top-of-the-range Kodiaq vRS gets extra supportive sports seats and lots of embroidered vRS logos, as well as a sportier, flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Higher-spec models feature a slick infotainment system, with an integrated sat-nav, and a smooth glass touchscreen instead of physical buttons. Paying the extra for the Scout and vRS models gets you a 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, along with Wi-Fi, and Alcantara seat trim. The infotainment system looks superb, and the sharp responses and logical menus make it fairly easy to use, even while you’re on the move. Having said that, the dials found on more entry-level systems, which make it very straightforward to operate, are absent from this top-of-the-range unit in favour of a touchscreen-only interface.
Around the car, the switches all have a tactile feeling of robust quality, and forward visibility is good, although the length of the Kodiaq, and the thickness of the pillars at the back, make it harder to see what’s behind you.
How practical is it?
If you regularly need to carry seven adults on long journeys and in reasonable comfort, a big MPV like the Seat Alhambra or Ford Galaxy will be a better choice for your needs. However, for most buyers, the appeal of a car that gives you the choice between having a huge boot and seven seats for the rare occasions the whole family need to travel together will be invaluable. Entry-level Kodiaqs have five seats, with the third row of chairs optional on SE versions. They’re standard on SE L, Edition, Scout, Sportline, L&K and vRS models.
With all those chairs up, you’ll be able to shoehorn children in without any trouble, but grown-ups will find it a squeeze back there. Still, even in this layout, you have 270 litres of space for a few bags of shopping. Fold down the back row and the flat loading bay swells to over 700 litres. Those sat in the middle row have a generous amount of head- and legroom, and these seats slide and recline to ensure maximum passenger comfort. The middle seat is harder and narrower than the other two, though, and a Kia Sorento feels bigger inside.
The Skoda fights back with clever touches including an automatic bootlid on most versions, umbrellas stowed in each of the front doors, and a removable LED torch in the boot. Towing, which is something important to many SUV buyers, will be no problem in the Kodiaq either, with the diesel 4x4 models rated to tow up to 2.5 tonnes, and there’s an optional system for helping you reverse caravans into tight camping spots, too.
What's it like to drive?
Many full-size SUVs struggle to engage the driver. They’re often too heavy or softly sprung to do anything other than drive gently along smooth, straight motorways. However, the Kodiaq is surprisingly alert through corners. There are different driving modes to choose from, and while the steering is a bit light in ‘Normal’ mode, it weights up nicely in ‘Sport’, so you can place the car with real confidence. While you can feel the Skoda’s considerable weight in a tight corner, the suspension keeps the body nicely in check, with decent grip from the tyres, and less body roll than in many of its rivals. Nevertheless, the ride stays impressively comfortable most of the time.
Top-spec versions are equipped with an adaptive suspension, so you can make the ride firmer or softer depending on the type of road you’re on. In its softest setting, the ride is fairly good, but you’ll still feel those sharper ruts and potholes. Firm things up in the stiffer settings and the ride (even on 18-inch alloys) becomes quite unsettled on patchy surfaces. We prefer the slightly more forgiving set-up. The range-topping vRS model uses the same adaptive suspension set-up as the rest of the range, which means the levels of sportiness aren’t increased as much as the marketing would suggest.
How powerful is it?
There are six different engines to choose from in the Kodiaq, and we’ve driven four of them: the 1.4-litre petrol with 150 horsepower, and a trio of 2.0-litre diesels, with 150, 190 and 240 horsepower. The 150-horsepower diesel is the more refined performer. It feels punchy in the mid-range, and perfectly capable of hauling a car of this size and weight around without straining too hard. It’s not the smoothest engine of its kind, but certainly settles to a more relaxed motorway cruise than many of its rivals. Performance off the line is not exactly scintillating (0-62mph takes 10.0 seconds), but the real-world performance will be more than adequate for most buyers.
The 190-horsepower model is considerably quicker (0-62mph in 8.8 seconds), but the extra turn of speed comes at a price. It’s noisier, especially when worked, and that can be quite intrusive. The 240-horsepower version, only available in the vRS model, is definitely perkier, and comes with an artificial sound feature that makes the engine note sound a bit more dramatic, but it stops short of being exhilarating. If you’re hoping for thrills from the sportiest Kodiaq then think again.
Next to these diesels, the 1.4-litre TSI petrol feels a little underpowered: without the same mid-range puling power, it needs working hard more of the time, which soon becomes wearing. Manual models have six speeds, and the gearbox is a pleasure to use. The automatic is a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but it can get a little flustered occasionally, pausing before downshifts and not always selecting the right gear at the right time. You can push it into ‘S’ mode for quicker responses, but that also means the gearbox holds onto lower gears for longer, making the engine noisier.
Two-wheel drive is standard on all models except the 4x4 Scout and vRS, and there are several four-wheel drive versions to choose from should you wish, with off-road displays, hill descent control, and a few other handy features for those who want to venture off the beaten track. Be aware that not all combinations of engine and two/four-wheel drive are available in all trim levels, though.
How much will it cost me?
One of the biggest attractions of the Kodiaq is its low entry price: the five-seat version equipped with the 1.4-litre petrol engine costs the same as a VW Golf. That model only has five seats, and a more modest level of standard kit, but even the 2.0-litre diesel in SE L trim will cost thousands less than its comparable rivals from ">Hyundai, Kia and Land Rover. It will also be cheaper than those competitors when it comes to PCP finance deals, with Skoda consistently offering hefty dealer contributions and incentives.
The Scout model will cost a good chunk more than most other models, so unless you really plan to take your Kodiaq off-road, it’s probably not worth the extra. Likewise, the vRS model is the most expensive car in the range, and is a slightly faster version of the regular Kodiaq, rather than a standalone SUV, so you’ll need to be sold by the sporty image and extra horsepower to justify the extra cost.
As for how much the Kodiaq will cost you in tax and fuel, this is still a big, heavy car, so expect the diesels to return economy in the mid-forties (less in the vRS), while the 150-horsepower model emits a claimed 144g/km of CO2, putting it slightly below the Kia Sorento for BIK tax. Petrol models don’t fare as badly as you might think, and are cheaper to insure than the diesel versions. The biggest news, though, is that the Kodiaq will hold onto its value a lot better than most other cars in the class. According to our calculations, this means when you tot up all your costs over a three-year ownership period, the big Skoda will cost you significantly less than any of its key rivals.
How reliable is it?
The Kodiaq is a new model, so at this stage it’s difficult to gauge how reliable it will be in the longer term. On the plus side, Skoda as a brand has consistently performed well in customer satisfaction surveys for reliability, and this model shares plenty of its mechanical parts with the tried-and-tested Octavia and Superb Estates.
The big Skoda comes with the usual warranty period of three years/60,000 miles. However, that is still a whole four years’ less cover than you get in the Kia Sorento.
How safe is it?
The Kodiaq benefits from the latest VW Group safety technology. Seven airbags are standard on all models, as is front assist: an emergency braking system that will intervene at low speed if it senses an impending collision. High-end Edition models benefit from Blind Spot Assist, and Lane Assist, which will steer you gently back on course if you start to drift from your lane on the motorway. These models also have bright LED headlights as standard, with High Beam Assist automatically dipping the lights if another car is headed towards you. You can add all these items to lesser versions of the Kodiaq, for a price, of course.
Other safety options you might want to consider adding include a Traffic Sign Recognition system, a driver fatigue monitor, and adaptive cruise control, but one handy feature is standard – Care Connect – which will contact emergency services for you in the event of a crash. Speaking of crashes, the Kodiaq scored a maximum five stars when crash-tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP in 2017.
How much equipment do I get?
None of the trim versions leave you too short-changed when it comes to kit. The entry-level ‘S’ model still has 17-inch alloys, a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system, LED running lights, keyless go, and manual air-conditioning. Still, we would avoid this version, as it’s five-seat only. SE trim brings desirable additional items including reversing sensors, cruise control, a better infotainment system, automatic lights and wipers, and handily for long holidays, a set of roof rails. SE Technology models add keyless entry and start, and an upgraded infotainment system.
The Scout model is based on the SE interior trim, but you do get a few extra goodies. It comes with an extra 6mm of ground clearance, which isn’t all that much, but it might help you stop bashing the underside of the car when you venture off the beaten track. You also get Off-road mode and Hill Descent Control as standard, which prepares the car for low-speed off-road manoeuvres, and helps to control downhill speeds. Both those are available as optional extras on the standard models, however.
It is worth spending a bit of extra money for the SE L: it won’t cost too much more on a finance deal, and it has seven seats as standard (they’re extra on the SE), plus sat-nav, heated seats with Alcantara trim. Those so inclined will find the Edition models at the top of the range even better kitted out, but while its luxuries make this a very posh Skoda, they also push the Kodiaq too close to its premium rivals on price, making the SE L better value for money. The L&K is a fully-loaded version of the Kodiaq, with a luxury vibe, and features 19-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, leather seats and an upgraded Canton sound system.
For a sportier edge, the Sportline sits alongside the Edition and rides on 20-inch wheels. It also features a sportier bodykit, Alcantara-upholstered sports seats and a sportier steering system. The top-end vRS also has the same steering system and adaptive suspension as standard, as well as electric, heated seats
If you are looking for a smart, sophisticated, seven-seat SUV that’s good to drive, light on the wallet, and roomy enough for the whole family, the Kodiaq is for you. It might not have quite the premium image of some of its rivals, but it also costs far less and comes better equipped. And, better yet, it never feels like a car that’s been built to a price. There are more practical choices for the family, but few cars manage to tick so many boxes with such consummate ease.