From £20,7208
Skoda’s sporty-styled seven-seat SUV gets welcome tech updates and remains just as family-friendly

What is it?

Meet the latest version of the Skoda Kodiaq family SUV, brought up to date with the same Skoda  in-car tech currently doing the rounds in the slightly newer Skoda Scala and Skoda Kamiq. Looks a lot like the old one, no?

That’s because this isn’t a mid-life update, which would normally see some new exterior fripperies like redesigned bumpers, headlights or paint colours. One is coming, but not for a few more months. So in the meantime, we get this somewhat less dramatic model-year update.

Although it's physically unchanged from the car that first arrived on UK shores in 2017, albeit here in fetching Sportline trim and riding on 20in alloy wheels, the new Kodiaq gets Skoda’s latest-generation infotainment suite, complete with connected services courtesy of a built-in SIM card and a voice assistant named Laura. Which could prove a tad confusing for any drivers or passengers also named as such. 

Sportline cars get seven seats as standard, the front pair being firmly bolstered sporty types, along with Alcantara upholstery and a sports steering wheel, plus plenty of blacked-out exterior trim pieces. It’s the closest thing to a vRS on the order books, at least until Skoda brings the top-rung model out of early retirement later in the year.

Our test car is also the go-to choice for anyone after the most powerful engine in the line-up. The 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel powertrain produces 197bhp and 295lb ft, which is sent to both axles via a seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s good for 0-62mph in just under eight seconds, which seems rather sprightly for near-1800kg family transport.

What's it like?

Everything feels familiar inside, with just the icon-heavy interface on the 9.2in touchscreen standing out as new. The system now uses a version of the software seen in the latest Volkswagen Golf and is faster to respond to inputs than the outgoing car's. The always-online functions let you beam navigation directions from a phone to the car, or store settings in a profile and transfer between cars, if you happen to be a multi-Skoda household, but you’ll mainly notice the sharper graphics and appreciate the addition of internet radio.

All the USB ports have been upgraded to newer USB-C, so you’ll need the right cables (or an adaptor) to plug in your devices. There’s even an optional USB port in the roof next to the rear-view mirror, a frankly brilliant addition that saves dashcam owners from leaving cables dangling across the windscreen, or ripping up the interior trim - an increasingly daunting task because of pillar-mounted airbags. It’s one of those 'why doesn’t everyone do this?' features that Skoda has been doing so well for decades now, like the umbrellas stored in the door pillars and the ice scraper built into the fuel filler cap. Were Skoda's engineers to add another port near the boot hatch for rear-view cameras, they would be on to a real winner.

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Interior materials are plush enough at eye level, but lest you forget the Kodiaq sits at the more affordable end of the VW Group's SUV spectrum, the instrument cluster uses conventional dials rather than a digital display as standard. You also get parking sensors, but no reversing camera.

The driving experience is essentially unchanged, with a well-matched powertrain that delivers smooth progress and a good amount of mid-range pull, although reaction times aren’t the best when pressing on, even in the more dynamic driving modes. Lazy automatic gearboxes are the bane of current VW Group models, but the dual-clutch unit used here copes well enough, and while you do get wheel-mounted paddle shifters as standard, the ’box still works best when left to its own devices.

At motorway speeds, this is a relatively sedate engine, to the point that the wind noise generated by the chunky wing mirrors is more noticeable. Ride quality is at its best here, coping rather well with broken surfaces and expansion joints, but at slower speeds, things feel a tad lumpier. It’s comfortable enough but rides no softer than any rival that also has ambitions of dynamism.

The Kodiaq retains its over-assisted steering rack, which is deceptively light and provides little in the way of feel, putting something of a disconnect between car and driver when pressing on. Still, the car handles itself well enough through the corners for a seven-seat SUV, even though handling prowess is rarely the primary reason for choosing this class of car.

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Should I buy one?

If you’re after practical, economical family transport that requires three rows of seats, the Kodiaq remains a great choice. Although the latest round of interior updates are modest at best, they help the Skoda keep pace with rivals like the Peugeot 5008, and the Sportline trim certainly suggests more of a driver focus - even if the car's on-road manners don’t quite back that up.

It’s the Korean competition that should give pause for thought, because the Kia Sorento has taken a real step up in materials quality and standard equipment for its latest generations, while the Skoda remains slightly more value focused. The Kia also offers self-charging or plug-in hybrid power for little extra outlay and so could prove the more cost-effective, environmentally friendly option in the long run.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
scotty5 4 February 2021

I recently bought one of these, I wish the above pricing were true tho. It's easy enough to secure a good discount off the starting list price of £34770 but not a £14k discount. From £20720? I don't think so.

The other error in the report surrounds the infotainment. The new MIB3 software units are actually slower than the previous MIB2 units. Much of the functionality is now over-the-air using that e-sim therefore when you start the car, it has to go searching for info rather than read it locally. Its correct to say the updates are few but apart from the infotainment, most are welcome.

But as for the Sorrento being a competitor? It's all give and take with the options to compare models but it's the '3' model which is closest to the Sportline. As I say you can buy a 1.5dsg Sportline from £34770 where as the 1.6auto '3' starts from £42745. Not only is that a £9k difference, the KIA falls in to the higher VED rate, in other words costs an extra £325 each year. It's not a competitor in my book. 

superstevie 4 February 2021

I don't mind this car as a good family car, but Sportline? Is that really needed on a family bus? This is such an unsporty car.