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Second generation of popular family SUV gets an interior makeover and plug-in hybrid power (but you can still get diesels)

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The technical rundown of the new second-generation Skoda Kodiaq might sound quite familiar if you’ve been reading Autocar recently.

That’s because Volkswagen and Skoda are doing a wholesale refresh of their large cars. The Volkswagen Passat and Tiguan and the Skoda Superb and Kodiaq are all based on a new version of the Volkswagen Group's MQB Evo platform.

The estates were a joint development led by Skoda, but the SUVs are "entirely separate". Mind you, Skoda can stray only so far from what the mothership dictates.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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02 Skoda Kodiaq review 2024 driving front

The biggest mechanical change is that this updated architecture can accommodate a massive 25.7kWh battery for a company car tax-friendly electric-only range of 62 miles. The original Kodiaq conspicuously lacked a PHEV option, so that’s a major win.

At the same time, though, the powertrain line-up is reassuringly traditional, with a choice of two petrol engines (a mild-hybrid 1.5-litre and a 2.0-litre) and two diesels (both 2.0-litres, just in a different state of tune), all with four cylinders. Gearboxes are all dual-clutch (DSG) automatics.

There's a choice of 18in and 19in wheels; larger options will undoubtedly become available later

Externally, the Kodiaq is of course quite different from its Volkswagen counterpart. It's substantially longer than both the Tiguan and the original Kodiaq (4758mm versus 4539mm and 4699mm), although Skoda has managed to resist making it any wider. In fact, it's very slightly narrower.

Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t look quite as confident on the road as before. It has slightly softer edges as part of the Czech brand’s new Modern Solid design language, which improves aerodynamics (0.28Cd instead of 0.31Cd), but the old straighter lines suited it better, to these eyes at least.

Skoda also hasn’t resisted the general lightbarification of design. There’s one as standard at the front and an optional one running through the grille.

INTERIOR

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06 Skoda Kodiaq review 2024 dashboard lounge

A large, seven-seat SUV is all about the interior, you might argue, given the genre has effectively replaced MPVs. And Skoda seems to have taken that to heart, because inside, the Kodiaq is a bit of a triumph.

Practical matters first: the old car was spacious, and an additional 63mm of length makes this one even more palatial. With the rear seat in its standard position, you can stretch out, almost like in a Mercedes S-Class.

Instead of a gear selector on the centre console, the Kodiaq now has a column stalk that you need to twist. It works okay and it leaves space for storage, but a Mercedes-style up/down stalk would be more convenient.

The third row (which is standard on most Kodiaqs in the UK) is tighter, of course, but by sliding the second row forwards, you can just about cram in seven adults. None of them will be too happy about it, but it’s better than walking.

A usable amount of boot space remains even with all the seats up, too. The five-seater boasts 910 litres.

You can’t have a seven-seat PHEV, because the third row seats and the battery occupy the same space. Skoda’s engineers say they did consider one, but they would have had to compromise the battery size and the fuel tank. Indeed, the Kia Sorento PHEV, which does have seven seats, offers less than half the Kodiaq’s EV range.

The real revolution is in the general design and ambience. As with the Skoda Enyaq electric SUV, you choose a trim and then one of four ‘design selections’ that match all the interior materials. Some work better than others, but the one with the grey faux leather and wool and wood inserts felt a cut above some of the symphonies in plastic being churned out by the ‘premium’ car makers.

The user interface also gives you the sense that the engineers put some real though into how you might want to use a car. On the road. While driving. Figure that. The overall button count has been reduced, sure, but once you’ve set up some shortcuts, the latest generation of Skoda’s multimedia system puts important functions just a single press away. Unlike previous iterations, it also responds instantly.

The new ‘smart dials’ that made their debut in the Superb help too. There are two dials that control the temperature and heated seats and one to which you can map up to four functions, like zooming the map and changing the fan speed and driving mode. Once you get used to it, it works remarkably well, and without overloading the dashboard with buttons.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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09 Skoda Kodiaq review 2024 front

Since Skoda UK reckons the 1.5-litre mild-hybrid petrol will be the most popular, that’s what we spent the most time in. And anyway, having also tried the PHEV and the entry-level diesel, the 1.5 TSI is probably the nicest of the lot. At low revs, it’s smooth and all but inaudible while still delivering decent shove.

When coaxing the 1.6-tonne Kodiaq up a Spanish mountain, it can start to feel a bit breathless and sound reedy, but most of the time, it’s perfectly adequate.

If we have some criticism, it’s that it still has the usual DSG vice of being a tad hesitant to select a lower gear and provide drive when you roll up to a roundabout and then try to quickly nip onto it. On our route, it returned an indicated 41.5mpg, which is solid for a big car with a mild-hybrid engine.

The diesel sounds surprisingly, well, dieselly. It’s not horrendous, though, and it does have more grunt from low revs, which will be useful if you plan to do any towing. We've yet to try the more powerful four-wheel-drive diesel.

The PHEV is one we’d need to spend a few days with to get a reading on its economy and EV range, because the way it juggles its power sources between the different driving modes, gearbox modes and battery modes is furiously complicated – excessively so, really.

If you just leave it in the standard hybrid mode, it blends petrol and electric power to fairly effortless effect, and even in electric mode it can get up to motorway speeds. Twisty roads are frustrating, however, because the software is too keen to shut off the petrol engine while slowing down. The result is that it then has to re-engage it when accelerating out of a corner, which always takes half a second too long.

RIDE & HANDLING

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10 Skoda Kodiaq review 2024 front driving

Corners are something the Kodiaq deals with remarkably well. Maybe too well. It grips reassuringly, stays fairly level and lifting off the throttle will even start to bring the back around. The standard steering is surprisingly heavy and even offers some feedback, but the flipside is an iffy ride. It’s not that it’s particularly crashy, just a bit too firm for an otherwise relaxed family bus.

The new DCC adaptive dampers do improve things, but it’s not night-and-day, and they come packaged with the variable steering, which feels more numb than the standard rack.

The DCC Plus adaptive dampers are the same as those that are being introduced on various Volkswagens. They have separate valves for bump and rebound for finer control. In the UK, they come packaged with the Progressive Steering and are an option on SE L trim.

The optional seats are outstanding, however, and in combination with solid noise isolation, I can imagine 1000 miles passing by in a flash.

The Kodiaq arrives with a fairly simple range that contains just two trim levels and three engines: SE and SE L and the 1.5 TSI and the two TDIs. However, the PHEV and 2.0 TSI will join soon and the sporty vRS will make a return too.

VERDICT

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Prices start at £36,645 for a five-seat 1.5 TSI in SE trim. That just about undercuts the Mercedes GLB and the Kia Sorento, although comparisons are difficult, due to quite different levels of equipment and powertrain options. Don’t expect it to be a budget choice – those days are firmly in the past.

Not that that’s likely to stop people. Some 58,000 first-generation Kodiaqs made their way to the UK, making it the second-biggest market, after Germany. With the number of unelectrified (and therefore vaguely affordable) alternatives dwindling fast and the Kodiaq better than ever, there’s little reason why that success shouldn’t continue.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.