Our Skoda Kodiaq has returned to its maker, so how do we replace one of our all-time family favourites? With another Kodiaq, of course, only this time a fast one.
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A great way to judge a car is to consider how much you’ll miss it once it’s gone. Well, now we’ve handed back the keys to the Skoda Kodiaq Sportline we’ve been running for the past six months, there may be some stifled sobs in the carwow office.
Yep, we’ve loved it, although it wasn’t all praise. Our 190hp 2.0-litre might have been the most powerful diesel available at the time (the 240hp vRS takes that crown now) but is it the best engine? Probably not. Most of the time you will be best off buying the 150hp 2.0 diesel instead, which has all the shove you need to haul seven people over a mountain pass, but will be slightly cheaper to buy and run at the same time. Or, if you spend most of your time buzzing around town, the 150hp 1.5 petrol will make a smoother and quieter companion at low speeds.
What about our Sportline trim? Everybody agrees it looks fantastic with its 20-inch alloy wheels and dark exterior trim finishes, while our car’s Velvet Red Metallic paint was refreshingly different. But again, with our sensible hats on, there’s better value and more comfort to be found further down the range of trims – specifically the cheaper-to-buy and smaller-wheeled SE and SE L versions.
The other thing to consider is that Sportline only comes with four-wheel drive, which pushes up the Kodiaq’s price and hurts fuel economy. Whether or not you need it will depend on where you live, but it came in useful on the handful of occasions our Kodiaq ventured from the Tarmac for some light off-roading duties on photoshoots. Sure, it’s no Land Rover, but with hill descent control and the right tyres an all-wheel drive Kodiaq is more capable than most owners will need it to be.
If that all sounds a little downbeat, then rest assured you are buying a great car if you opt for a 2.0 TDI 190 Sportline like ours. Just bare in mind that it’ll feel firmer around town on its large alloys than other Kodiaqs (even with our car’s £990 adaptive suspension set to Comfort) and its sharp looks come at a price – more of which later. Still, you only have to look at the popularity of trims like BMW’s M Sport, Audi’s S line and Mercedes’ AMG line to see that people are prepared to stump up the cash for sportier styling.
Of course, whichever Kodiaq you buy, you get a superb interior, both in terms of infotainment, quality and space. OK, so overall we prefer BMW’s iDrive infotainment system screen and rotary dial layout, but as touchscreens go, we found our car’s 9.2-inch Columbus system bright, responsive and easy to navigate. Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were also very welcome. Sportline’s carbon fibre-effect interior details aren’t particularly convincing, mind, but at least the cabin is solidly screwed together, and looks and feels as plush as any Volkswagen’s.
Having seven seats will depend on your needs, but all Sportline model get two extra pews. In truth they’re occasional seats best reserved for children, but they’re easy to fold up and down, and tuck away neatly in the boot floor when not in use. And the boot itself has proved brilliant – big enough to handle our crew’s camera kit, the unbelievable amount of paraphernalia a baby requires for a weekend away and, as you can see, driving home for Christmas.
Nothing went wrong during our (admittedly short) time with the Kodiaq and we averaged around 37mpg – nothing special, but also not bad given its punchy performance, all-wheel drive and life spent full to the brim with stuff. As we touched on earlier, £37,000 for a 2.0 TDI 190 Sportline Kodiaq is a lot, while our car’s near-£45,000 price tag after options is even harder to stomach. But it does ask a question: does it make more sense to buy the quicker but similarly-priced Kodiaq vRS instead?
Well, we’ll be able to tell you, because we’re swapping our Sportline for a vRS as we speak. Look out for our vRS updates coming very soon.
Our fifth month with the Skoda Kodiaq presented another opportunity for it to flex its practicality and distance-covering credentials when it accompanied carwow producer, Sam James, on a trip to Germany’s Nurburgring.
Sam wanted to test her old Subaru’s mettle around the Green Hell, but – being one of the more sensible members of the carwow office – she thought it might be worth taking a spare set of tyres in tow – or in the boot, as was the case here.
The Kodiaq couldn’t have been more perfect for the job. For a start, it had no trouble swallowing a set of alloy wheels complete with tyres and its practical load bay made loading the least practical of loads an absolute piece of cake.
Ours being the 4×4 model was another plus. You might question the need for four-wheel drive – after all, the majority of the time all it does is suck fuel – but on Sam’s trip to Germany it was very welcome, making the Skoda feel safe and secure, and helping it power up to speed from junctions, despite the constant downpour throughout the journey.
We’re also big advocates for the Kodiaq’s lane assist and autonomous cruise control, which helps take the stress out of big drives like this. That said, just like everything else, it’s only ever a few years from feeling dated and, true to form, the Kodiaq’s direction changes in autonomous mode can feel, shall we say, a little ‘sudden’ compared to the latest autonomous systems you get in something like our new long-term BMW 8 Series.
The Kodiaq’s 360-degree camera system still feels at the top of its game, though, making the rear sensors fitted to the new carwow Audi Q3 seem antiquated. The Kodiaq’s birdseye view makes it surprisingly easy to usher it into tight spaces – be they on the street or in a tight multi-storey carpark.
Sadly, our time with the Kodiaq is almost up, stay tuned for the car’s farewell next month.
Spending 16 hours out of 48 behind the wheel of the Kodiaq is a good way of really getting to know the car. The cruise control really comes into its own as you go through motorway roadworks with average speed restrictions – no chance of unintentionally sneaking above the limit with it engaged.
I drove up on my own, but after reaching my destination, the Kodiaq’s renowned space came into its own. I was to take four passengers to the church, one of whom was a nine-month old baby. And when you take nine-month old baby you take all the accompanying stuff that goes with a baby – there was the pram, the high chair, the feeding stuff, the changing stuff. The Kodiaq has a boot that you just keep on filling up. It never seems to get full.
At the other end of the scale, I was taking my 80-year-old Dad to the church too. He’s not as fit as he was, but found getting in and out of the Kodiaq a breeze.
Back to babies, and I found an unintentional benefit for one of the options we specced. Open the panoramic roof right up and baby in her rearward facing seat, has an interesting sky to look at rather than a dull dark roof. That managed to relax her and send her off to sleep.
Of course it rained at the Scottish wedding and so there were lots of ooohs and aaaahs when I produced the umbrellas stored in the doors.
Soon though it was time to head back down the road. All in all it was about 1000-mile round trip. I kept the car in ‘eco’ despite being tempted by the ‘comfort’ setting. And the car averaged 40mpg. OK that’s 10mpg less than the official figure but I was reasonably happy with that. One thing to watch over the coming weeks is that the warning light for Ad Blue has come on – we have 1500 miles before it’s due a top up.
We’re now three months in Skoda Kodiaq ownership and it’s fair to say it has become something of a long-distance/big job specialist.
The latter of those two skills sets was tested last month when news editor, Russell, helped a friend with odds and ends leftover from a house move. With the Kodiaq having a hard-won reputation for extreme practicality – it seemed like its honour could only be upheld if it managed the job in one trip. It did of course, and the job itself was made a joy by the Kodiaq’s well-thought-out design. The huge boot opening meant it was easy to load everything from paintings to house plants and the low load lip and flat floor meant there was no issue sliding the two heavy TVs we had into place. Putting the back seats down is also a cinch – they fold down from the front of the boot and collapse into place without needing any persuasion. The Skoda’s excellent design is clear even when you’re not putting it to work on big jobs, the hooks in the boot are very handy for keeping shopping from spilling over and if you get caught in the rain, you’ll find there’s a handy umbrella stored away neatly in the door.
The latter was called into action when cameraman, Brad, was caught in a shower when he took the Kodiaq to Buxton. A 300-mile round trip is something the Kodiaq does exceptionally well. Set in its softest suspension setting it’s 20-inch alloy wheels soak up bumps and potholes with ease at a fast cruise. And the motorway is somewhere the Kodiaq feels most at home – it’s active cruise control means you can set your top speed and leave the car to worry about braking when traffic slows down in front of you – obviously, its best to have your foot hovering over the brake pedal, just in case.
The 190hp diesel engine also enjoys motorway work, for a kickoff, it’s a lot less clattery than it is in town. It’s also blessed with decent mid-range shove – once the gearbox has worked out which cog it wants, at least – that makes it easy to sail past slower moving traffic. Our car’s engine probably has a fair bit of loosening up to do, too, so the 40mpg we got at a ‘fast’ cruise over 400 miles is still extremely respectable in a car as large and un-aerodynamic as the Kodiaq.
And, while the Alcantara leather might not be to everyone’s tastes (see below) others find the material less sticky in hot weather than conventional leather, and the comfortable seats themselves make for a welcome relief on a long journey – particularly if you have spent the week having your butt clenched in, say, a new Ford Fiesta ST.
It’s no use testing a big, practical SUV by driving it down a twisty country road – after all, what does that tell you about how easy it is to live with? Instead, we’ve taken a brand-spanking new Skoda Kodiaq on a weekend road trip to Cornwall.
On the face of it, the Kodiaq should be the perfect car for the job. Our SportLine model comes with a 2.0-litre diesel engine and an automatic gearbox which make an ideal pairing for long motorway slogs. The diesel is reasonably quiet when you accelerate down a slip road and has no trouble keeping up with fast-moving traffic. Our car hasn’t been run-in yet, but even before it’s reached the magic 1000-mile mark (after which engines tend to use a little less fuel) we managed 45.5mpg compared to Skoda’s claimed 49.6mpg.
The automatic gearbox changes gear smoothly at speed but it can be slightly jerky when you’re parking – a common issue with double-clutch DSG gearboxes. SportLine cars also come with paddles on the steering wheel to let you choose when to change gear yourself, but besides changing down in advance before overtaking slow-moving cars it’s easier just to leave it in automatic mode and let the car do its thing.
Cars in SportLine spec also get adjustable suspension that lets you choose between (supposedly) sporty setups or more comfortable settings. We’d recommend leaving it in comfort mode – firmer setups highlight bumps and potholes without really making the Kodiaq feel any more nimble. This is especially obvious on poorly maintained Cornish country lanes.
Its unsettled nature isn’t helped by the huge 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car – they look great, but they contribute to the SportLine being a little less relaxing to drive for long periods than less sporty versions. They’re also pretty easy to scratch on tall kerbs – thankfully, something we’ve managed to avoid so far.
Other things we’re not so keen on are the fake carbon-fibre trims you get on the dashboard. These might look good in a stripped-out sportscar, but in a tall family SUV they feel completely out of place. The same goes for the Alcantara trim on the doors and roof and, to a lesser extent, the flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Look past these incongruous items, however, and the Kodiaq’s cabin is impressively practical and a doddle to live with. There’s space in the rearmost seats for a six-foot-tall adult – for short journeys between the campsite and the beach, at least – and the boot’s large enough to easily swallow a tent and a few large bags if you fold the third row down.
Flip all but the front seats down and there’s space for two adults to stretch out, and even sleep, in the back of the Kodiaq – something you can’t say of most traditional family cars or even many boxy MPVs.
So far, then, the Kodiaq’s excelled as a long-distance cruiser and a surprisingly comfortable caravan substitute, but how will it deal with the rigours of carrying massive boxes of camera equipment for the carwow video team? Stay tuned to find out…
What can we say that hasn’t already been said about the venerable Skoda Kodiaq? It is, without a shadow of a doubt, our favourite family SUV thanks to its combination of handsome looks, brilliant build quality, superb practicality and excellent choice of frugal engines. In fact, we even rate it more highly than the Volkswagen Tiguan (VW owns Skoda) – and that’s definitely not supposed to happen!
That we chose the Kodiaq shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, but we chose this particular model with good reason – to showcase Skoda’s new, top-of-the-range Sportline trim level. Being our benchmark family SUV, there’s a steady flow of Kodiaqs coming in and out the doors at carwow towers, but even we were impressed by how much more striking the Sportline model looks.
Especially in our car’s bright Velvet Red metallic paint, which makes it pop like a candy apple. The Sportline’s styling pack also includes a blacked-out grille, sporty front and rear bumpers, side skirts, Sportline badges and a set of huge 20-inch alloy wheels. Even the inside gets a makeover – out goes the fabric interior you’ll get in basic models and in comes luxurious Alcantara upholstery complete with bucket seats up front.
We didn’t skimp on the powertrain, either – we went for the 190hp 2.0-litre diesel with a seven-speed, DSG automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.
And we didn’t stop there, in fact, we didn’t really stop at all until all the must-have options were ticked. That’s 15 ticks! We covered kit such as high-beam assist, lane assist and blind-spot monitoring, electric heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, a heated windscreen, panoramic sunroof, park assist, a 360-degree camera, upgraded Canton stereo and adjustable dampers. Just over £7,000 worth of options!
And the result? Well, we have one of the plushest Skoda Kodiaqs on the road and an extremely happy video producer because it’s Sam that’ll be the lucky custodian of the Skoda for the next few months.
And what does Sam have to say about her new wheels? Well, she loves the Skoda’s 360-degree parking cameras – the Kodiaq’s many things, but small and nimble to park is not one of them. She also loves the adjustable Dynamic Chassis Control, which gives the Skoda its pillow-soft ride, its active cruise control – that can accelerate and brake the car automatically – and the fact that it can return 45mpg fuel economy without breaking sweat.
And the things she doesn’t like? Well, they’re pretty thin on the ground but, with Sam regularly shifting bulky camera equipment, we might have been better off with the five-seat model that sacrifices its spare pair of chairs to make way for extra boot space.
All in all, though, we’re genuinely smitten with our Kodiaq and we’ll be going into much more detail why in the coming months. We’ll be updating this page monthly so – if you’re toiling with the idea of getting a Kodiaq – bookmark this page and get an idea what it’s like to live with straight from the horse’s mouth.
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