Skoda has established itself in the mid-sized SUV segment with this Kodiaq, a model now usefully upgraded with a smarter look, both inside and out, and some more efficient engines. You can still have seven seats and four wheel drive. And, whatever spec is chosen, you still get class-leading passenger space. It can still tow up to 2.5-tonnes too - and has one of the largest boots in the class. In other words, you'd have to take this contender seriously.
The Kodiaq was the car that launched Skoda as an SUV brand, launched back in 2016, with 600,000 worldwide sales achieved since. It paved the way for the two subsequemt smaller Skoda crossover models, the mid-sized Karoq and the smaller Kamiq. And has now been usefully updated. The Czech brand hasn't set out to alter a winning formula here, but the cabin now feels a bit more up-market, there are some more luxurious options offered and the engines are the latest, more efficient VW Group units. Plus the vRS sporting range topper switches from diesel to TSI petrol power. As before, you can have front or four wheel drive; and/or 5 or seven seats. Lots to talk about then.
Even in the modern era, big spacious seven-seat SUVs have a reputation for handling with all the dynamic finesse of a Channel ferry. As do big Skodas. It's pleasantly surprising then, to find that the Kodiaq is actually quite an agile thing by class standards, its relatively light weight and rigid chassis delivering decent body control through the turns, though you'd better appreciate that if the steering felt more responsive. There have been a few changes on the engine front with this revised Kodiaq, with nearly all powerplants mated to 7-speed DSG auto transmission. The two TDI diesel units look much the same but are actually completely new, from the VW Group's latest EVO range, developing either 150PS or 200PS and featuring 'twin dosing' technology for cleaner emissions. As before, the entry-level powerplant is Skoda's familiar 1.5-litre TSI EVO petrol unit with 150PS. There's also a 2.0 TSI variant with 190PS. TSI petrol power also now features in the top vRS sporting model, which previously used a twin turbo diesel. Now, the Kodiaq vRS features a 245PS version of the 2.0 TSI petrol powerplant, which is 60kgs lighter than the outgoing TDI and offers 5PS more. As before, across the range, there's an optional 'Driving Mode Select' system enables the driver to tweak throttle response, steering feel and auto gearshift timings, plus on 4x4 versions there's a 'Snow' setting that optimises things for off road use. Front wheel drive is mandatory on base petrol and diesel Kodiaqs and optional on the 1.5 TSI 150PS or 2.0 TDI 150PS derivatives. Most will want 4WD though and you have to have it on top petrol and diesel units.
Visual changes to this updated model are subtle. You get a redesigned, more upright Skoda grille, now flanked by headlamps that feature full-LED beans across the range. There are also restyled bumpers, smarter alloy wheel designs and a new gloss black rear spoiler above LED rear tail lamps. As before, this Czech SUV has a clear, precise and clean-cut shape marked out by a distinctive, highly recessed shoulder line. The Kodiaq was one of the biggest VW Group models to be spun off the conglomerate's MQB platform. It's around 4.7m in length and the long wheelbase and short overhangs point to a large interior. That's certainly what you get once you take a seat inside. This is a significantly bigger SUV than the brand's other mid-sized SUV, the 5-seat Karoq, with ample room for heads, legs and knees. Changes with this improved model include smarter finishing and the option of massaging and ventilating seats, as well as a more sophisticated audio system upgrade. The central infotainment screen (as before of an 8-inch standard size) can be up to 9.2-inches in size and the media monitors now feature Skoda's 'Laura'-enabled voice-activation set-up. This model can also now be equipped with a 10.25-inch 'Virtual Cockpit' instrument binnacle screen. As before, there's plenty of middle seat room, with sliding, reclining seats. And there's still the option of having a third seating row. If you stick with the five-seat variant, there's a 720-litre cargo area, extendable to 2,065-litres once you fold the rear bench. If the optional folding front passenger seat is chosen, this SUV can transport items up to 2.80m long. An electrically operated tailgate is available, and a Kodiaq fitted with the TDI/DSG/4x4 drivetrain can tow a trailer weighing up to 2.5-tonnes. It's all very practical.
There are seven trim levels - 'SE', 'SE Drive', 'SE L', 'SE L Executive', 'Sportline', 'L&K' and 'vRS'. Prices start from just over £29,000 for a base petrol variant but if you want 4WD or almost any kind of diesel, you're going to be spending in the £33,000 to £40,000 bracket - or more. That's about the same kind of money you'd need for obvious family SUV rivals that offer a 7-seat options, cars like Kia's Sorento and Peugeot's 5008. Comparable mid-sized 7-seat SUV models like Land Rover's Discovery Sport and Hyundai's Santa Fe will cost you more. The top Kodiaq vRS performance petrol variant costs around £46,000. New options available with revised Kodiaq models include bigger 20-inch wheels, Matrix intelligent LED headlamps, cooled massaging front seats, a 'Virtual Cockpit' 10.25-inch instrument binnacle display screen and an enhanced Canton sound system. You might also want to look at upgraded the centre-dash infotainment screen from 8.0 to 9.2-inches. There's also the opportunity of using a 'Skoda Connect' package that gives you various online services, remote access to your car via a downloadable app and a 'Care Connect' system that provides emergency assistance. As for safety, well a 'Front Assist including City Emergency Brake' system is standard, using a radar to scan the road ahead for potential accident hazards as you drive. Adaptive Cruise Control, a 'Driver Alert' system to combat fatigue and a 'Traffic Jam Assist' system are all optional.
Family-sized SUVs used to be thirsty things, but things have had to improve a lot as this market segment has become more popular. The efficiency performance of this Kodiaq illustrates that very well. All the diesel and petrol engines on offer here feature turbocharged direct injection and fulfil EU6d-TEMP emission standards. As you'd expect, all the powerplants feature a Stop-Start system, brake energy recovery and a powerful thermo-management set-up, contributing to low consumption. As a result, the 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG model manages up to 52.3mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and up to 141g/km of WLTP-rated CO2. The 1.5 TSI 150PS variant manages up to 42.8mpg and 150g/km. The 1.5 TSI 150PS petrol unit uses the VW Group's 'ACT' (or 'Active Cylinder Technology') system that shuts down the second and third cylinders when the load and engine speed are low. The top-of-the-range 2.0 TSI petrol engine can't match that kind of cleverness, but it does feature a clever combustion process for high efficiency. All the usual measures are in place to improve frugality, including an 'Eco' mode on the 7-speed auto gearbox that allows the Kodiaq to coast at speeds above 12mph when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator. The all-wheel drive set-up is optimised for efficiency too, using a control system that when in overrun or at low load, directs drive via the front axle, which saves fuel.
Skoda took its time in bringing us a larger family-sized SUV but what's been delivered with this Kodiaq is a very complete package. The 7-seat option is particularly popular and most customers tend to choose to specify this car in a version that gives them 4WD. You'd certainly have to be quite addicted to badge snobbery to choose a pricier Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace over this Czech contender, the Tiguan after all, using exactly the same engineering and offering less interior space. Otherwise, all the things that have made Skoda's smaller Crossover models so appealing also apply here. You get 'Simply Clever' design features, decent levels of efficiency and a car built to stand the test of time. We think the Kodiaq will continue to be a familiar sight on our roads.