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Has the decision to ditch diesel resulted in a palpably hotter seven-seat SUV?

It wasn’t so long ago that diesel shook off its reputation as HGV fuel and simply became the fashionable, economical choice for any kind of car. Everything had to be diesel-powered, from city cars to supercars, to the point that Audi at one stage seriously considered a V12 diesel R8. 

Skoda has a long history with performance diesels – the first Skoda Fabia vRS had a 1.9-litre TDI – but now the Skoda Kodiaq vRS, the largest performance Skoda , has fallen in line with expectations and traded diesel power for petrol.

The easiest way to tell a facelifted Kodiaq from the original is its face. The kink in the bottom of the main headlight unit is new. All Kodiaqs now get LED headlights. Matrix units are optional on most versions but standard on the vRS.

How quickly that’s changed. A handful of diesel performance cars remain, like the Audi SQ5 and the BMW M340d, but the tide has rapidly turned. The BMW M550d is long gone and the Ford Focus ST diesel won’t return after the facelift.

The engine may be new for the Kodiaq, but it’s the familiar Volkswagen Group 2.0-litre EA888, here in 242bhp tune as also found in the Skoda Octavia vRS and Volkswagen Golf GTI. It’s no doubt a more sporting engine than a big diesel, but in a heavy SUV like the Skoda Kodiaq, we rather liked the torquey oil-burner, so the new petrol engine has something to prove.

The Kodiaq vRS remains an unusual offering in that it’s one of very few seven-seat SUVs to come with an overtly sporting derivative. If you want a performance SUV, you normally have to either go with something smaller like the Cupra Formentor or Hyundai Kona N, or pay a lot more for a six-cylinder BMW X3 or Mercedes GLC.

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Other than the new petrol engine for the vRS, the whole Skoda Kodiaq range is getting a subtle mid-life update. The changes are the usual facelift fare of tweaked headlights and trim levels plus an infotainment update, so under the microscope for this road test will be the more profoundly changed vRS.

The Kodiaq line-up at a glance

You’re certainly not short of choice when picking a powertrain for the Kodiaq. There are petrol, diesel, front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions. Most have DSG dual-clutch automatics, but the entry-level petrol comes with a six-speed manual as standard. Only the base SE Drive trim level can be ordered with five seats. All others always have seven. As well as coming with the most powerful engine, vRS is also the top trim level.

Engines Power From
1.5 TSI 150 148bhp £30,415
2.0 TDI 150 148bhp £33,645
2.0 TDI 150 4x4 148bhp £35,690
2.0 TSI 190 4x4 187bhp £38,535
2.0 TDI 200 4x4 197bhp £40,210
vRS 2.0 TSI 4x4 242bhp £46,035