It isn’t any surprise why the Skoda Kodiaq has been so well received in its class. It’s a fairly large SUV that’s scores big on practicality, build, looks, and economy. But under the surface, all these parts come together to form a very impressively rounded end product that should be at or near the top of anyone’s shortlist.
Being based on the Volkswagen Tiguan, expectations were high on whether the Czech automaker could improve upon the Wolfsburg formula, but also whether they could take in a direction that endows it with some character unique to Skoda.
It actually took a surprisingly long time for the company to execute a proper SUV, remaining an onlooker through much of the category’s ascension from truly being about utility to usurping the role of de facto body style and type most popular with buyers. With that rise, perhaps, Skoda and their German benefactors felt they simply could not stand on their sedans and hatches - their bread and butter, essentially, up until recently - any longer.
Available locally in that sweet spot below $50k, the Kodiaq offers a package that’s presents itself as extremely good value once totalled, offering all-wheel drive, plenty of kit, a 5-year warranty, and a powertrain that’s both frugal, proven, and full of grunt. Have we also mentioned that it looks decently sharp and drives likewise as well? Second only to the Mazda CX-9, that is. Other notable competitors include the Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda CR-V, Toyota Kluger, and Kia Sorento.
“Clean, crisp creases to its panels, muscly rear haunches and a wide stance make the Kodiaq look big and tough, but elegant.” - CarsGuide
The Kodiaq, as an idea manifested, began life as the sleekly styled as the Vision S Concept, premiering at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. To their credit, Skoda has managed to keep many of the exterior flourishes first seen there onto a production body, sacrificing little in the way of actual visual cues, rather compromising on more impactful constraints.
The 7 seater’s sharply defined exterior lines are carried over, as previously mentioned, from the concept car, becoming one of Skoda’s first vehicles to adopt their crystalline motif that’s most prominently seen within the illumination cluster. Of note, the large 19-inch wheels come as standard (20-inchers in Sportline trim), so too does Adaptive LED Headlights, both add an air of the premium to European wagon.
Despite being longer than a Mitsubishi Outlander or Nissan X-Trail, other mass market 7-seater options, the Kodiaq’s footprint doesn’t lend it any disadvantage when out in the open. It’s size can assert some authority next to smaller vehicles, sure, but it’s packaged well enough that it can be manoeuvred no less laboriously than a mid-size sedan.
Engine and Drivetrain
“Overall, the diesel still makes more sense: with this particular Kodiaq weighing up to 1,739kg…” - EVO UK
Under the bonnet of each Kodiaq lies the heart of a Volkswagen, and here we have the option of choose from either a single petrol or diesel, both turbocharged and displacing 2.0-litres over four cylinders.
The 132 TSI kicks things off, being of the same EA888 family as the Golf GTI and others. It’s been tuned less for sheer sportiness here, though, and better for it, delivering its namesake 132kW and peak torque of 320Nm that’s available as early as 1,400rpm.
This motor, as it’s been known to, pulls well and returns impressive consumption figures (7.6-litres/100km claimed) as long as you keep your right foot in check. Straining the turbo-petrol to move the 1,700kg SUV too fast, too soon, and too often can often result in a plummet in economy.
The 140kW diesel, however, handles that kind punishment with noticeably more grace. Being the more expensive of the two engines, it’s also been tuned to deliver more power than the petrol in addition to expected torque advantage, which sits at 400Nm and delivered from 1,750rpm. It’s one of the more refined diesels in its class, and is especially happy to sustain effortless highway cruises.
Being a VW product, it follows Kodiaq is one of the few SUVs out there that mates its powerplant and all-wheel drive configuration with a dual-clutch transmission. In this case, it’s a 7-speed DSG unit. It’s shifts are quick but tuned to have a bit of that edge taken away to better mimic the relaxed behaviour of a conventional torque converter. Still, we lament the omission of shift paddles. In tandem with its all-wheel drive, contributes to improved fuel economy and enables the Kodiaq’s towing capacity to be rated at 2,000kg.
“The Kodiaq’s dashboard layout is entirely conventional, but it’s smartly presented, well laid out and solidly constructed.” - Autocar
Named after the largest brown bear, the Kodiaq certain is commodious, offering more usable space even compared to its sister vehicle, the second-generation Volkswagen Tiguan. Skoda was tasked with not only bringing their first SUV to market, but indeed their first 7-seater anything, posing quite a few challenges and opportunities to an automaker so accustomed to 5 occupants.
This is especially interesting given the regular Tiguan isn’t able to squeeze in as many passengers, only later arriving in a larger Allspace variant that was longer to make room for third-row seats. The Kodiaq got there first, though.
Stepping inside, the cabin does feel satisfyingly high quality with its grooved and perforated leather upholstered seats, plenty soft touch material, tasteful applications of gloss piano trim highlights, overall sturdy construction, and even ambient LED interior mood lighting.
There’s loads of airiness to the cabin with great visibility in almost every direction, the former further supplemented by an optional panoramic sunroof. Passengers in the first two rows will have no trouble with shoulder or leg room, but neither attribute carries into the third row seats, which are among the most cramped among its competitors.
There’s a healthy 630-litres of usable boot space with the third rowers out of the way, expandable to a cavernous 2,005-litres with everything but the front seats upright. With all three rows erect cargo capacity does take a steep hit, expectedly, but with 270-litres there’s still enough volume for everyday needs.
Behind The Wheel
“Over smaller bumps the Kodiaq was very composed and settled. It was firmer over the heavier hits, but the upside was the lack of body roll, squat and dive.” - Motoring
There are many examples of Volkswagen’s MQB platform producing some talented handlers, and the Kodiaq, despite being hefty SUV, is something of an example given how it can seemingly hide its perceived mass.
It’s front end response cannot go so far as being described as sharp, of course, but there is something to be said about how it responds to undulations the odd abrupt corner with composure, though the standard suspension is more susceptible to road imperfections, reminding one of the ride in a normal sedan. Body roll is well controlled, however, with enough compression to adapt to the lateral weight transfer, but not too much that the front inside wheel would lose traction.
Like the Tiguan, this sense of security grants the Kodiaq a kind of character seemingly unperturbed on the road, but responsive enough for the driver to remain confident of its abilities in a pinch, endowing it with some of the same on-road attributes as an Audi Q5. Selecting the Tech Pack, among other features, adds Dynamic Chassis Control, which can alter the suspension stiffness according mode selected: Comfort, Normal, and Sport.
There are some niggles, though, specifically to do with its behaviour under sustained cornering load and steering angle, tending to wash out easier despite its comparatively firm suspension, made more bothersome by the lack of feedback from the steering wheel. It’s responsive and undeniably competent as far as SUVs go, just don’t go calling it sporty.
Let it settle into a cruise, though, and the Kodiaq happily dissolves into its element with above average sound insulation, vibration dampening, general refinement, a barely perceptible hum from the (petrol) engine.
Safety and Technology
“Sadly, there’s no VW-style full-fest digital instrument display, instead opting for a pair of traditional analogue dials split by a digital information display complete with speed gauge…” - CarAdvice
In June 2017, ANCAP rated the Skoda Kodiaq as deserving of their full 5-star safety score, each performing well in crash deformation as well as being fitted with dual frontal, side chest, and curtain airbags as standard. In addition, every variant is equipped with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Collision Warning, a rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and Adaptive Cruise Control.
There’s a vibrant 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto situated dead centre along the rather minimal dashboard with a fairly intuitive interface very similar to VW’s own Composition Media suite. One carryover that did not make it to the Kodiaq was the Active Info Display digital instrument cluster, which would have really sent the Skoda’s already impressive tech offering over the top.
Despite its lack of practice, Skoda has definitely shone in its first stab at an SUV. Arguably, it was a first foray into a very important space, one that would surely come to contribute more to their bottom line than any other vehicle type, and therefore one they needed to execute upon with haste and without flaw. While it’s not perfect, the Kodiaq succeeds on nearly all those fronts.
It earns its practicality credentials with a very roomy interior, strong (albeit pricey) diesel engine, all-wheel drive, steady handling, sharp looks, interior sophistication, sheer value, and enough character to make it a memorable entrant right out of the gate.
Autocar - 4/5 - “Amid a flurry of new SUVs that could bury a wannabe buyer up to his or her neck in choice, the Kodiaq does almost all of the important things well: practicality, economy, driveability and convenience.”
CarsGuide - 7.9/10 - “There’s not many mid-sized seven-seat all-wheel drive SUVs on the market and none of them are as good as the Kodiaq 4x4 in terms of comfort, handling, design, features or refinement – that is until the Allspace arrives.”
AutoExpress - 4/5 - “The Skoda Kodiaq SUV is our Large SUV of the Year, and as a package it's very difficult to beat”
Practical Motoring - 4/5 - “The Skoda Kodiaq offers acres of room along with a third-row that an adult can sit in without feeling cramped. More than that, it’s good to drive gets a good list of standard features and a fit and finish that beats anything else in the segment. If you’re in the market for a genuine family-oriented medium SUV then the Kodiaq should be right at the top of your shot list.”
Motoring.com.au “In the final wash, the Kodiaq cleaned up brighter than expected. It’s more a part-time seven-seater, than a vehicle which will carry the full load on long trips every day. But, as a more urban-ready wagon for the family, the Kodiaq is a very competitive offering.”
CarAdvice - 8.4/10 - There isn’t really any one aspect that stands atop another, but as a complete package this seven-seat all-wheel-drive load lugger with clean European styling, a ton of tech, and a sensible price tag is a seriously compelling package in what is a ferociously competitive segment.
EVO UK - 3/5 - The Kodiaq is a pivotal car for Skoda, taking it confidentially into the burgeoning SUV market with the brand’s trademark blend of qualities: discreet styling, generous specification, and lots of metal for the money.
CarBuyer.co.uk - 4.5/5 - It’s more than just a value proposition, though. The Kodiaq is actually rather involving to drive, for instance, with accurate steering, a decent gearbox and well judged suspension.