Parkers overall rating: 4.6 out of 5 4.6
  • Diesel engines make the most sense
  • All-wheel drive adds all weather usability
  • Petrol engines lack low-down torque

It's a tale of two halves regarding Kodiaq performance; the previously available entry-level 150hp petrol was smooth and sweet, but didn't have the muscle to confidently lug a seven-seat off-roader, passengers and luggage – especially if you plan to head for the mountains.

The 150hp diesel, on the other hand, offered much more torque – which was much more fitting for the Kodiaq, granting it reasonable acceleration and sufficient muscle at low engine speeds.

The entry-level petrol was briefly taken off sale, but it's better to look towards the more powerful options, including a 190hp petrol, a 190hp diesel and a flagship 239hp diesel vRS. Unsurprisingly, the more powerful diesel and petrol options are less fazed by heavier loads and higher passenger counts, so they're worth investigating if you want a quicker, more capable Skoda.

Adequate acceleration, even in base form

Slowest is the 150hp diesel, which takes around 10 seconds for the benchmark 0-62mph acceleration test, depending upon whether all-wheel drive, an automatic gearbox or seven seats are fitted.

The 1.5-litre petrol with 150hp and 250Nm of torque offers identical times, but the quicker models are automatic-only and come four-wheel drive.

The bluff aerodynamics limit the Kodiaq’s top speed – which varies from 119mph to 130mph – but the 150hp versions feel more than happy at motorway speeds. The 150hp petrol version needs to be worked harder when driving faster, as it offers less muscle at low engine speeds.

Lacklustre petrol engines, diesel make the most sense 

As a result, it’s the diesel motors that feel most suitable in the Skoda. The 150hp version offers a reasonable spread of power, with 340Nm of torque, and works very well with the slick DSG automatic gearbox. Gearchanges are practically imperceptible and the car does a very good job of selecting the gear you want without hesitation – making it the transmission to go for, especially as the manual alternatives are a little notchy.

The 190hp diesel with 400Nm of torque costs isn't that more expensive and will suit those who regularly plan to carry a full complement of passengers and luggage. Higher-spec versions come with Drive Mode Select – which lets you change how responsive the engine and gearbox are and alter the weight of the steering. The differences are relatively subtle, but let the driver tailor the car to better suit their needs. The 190hp diesel – which takes 8.6 seconds to sprint to 62mph – develops 400Nm of torque, while the 190hp petrol develops 320Nm of torque and takes 7.7 seconds. Despite the small difference in figures, it’s the 190hp diesel that feels most suited to a large off-roader, with enough low-down punch to shrug off carrying seven passengers and luggage.

The most powerful 190hp 2.0-litre petrol also struggles to make a strong case for itself as the standard-fit DSG automatic gearbox hampers performance, being too eager to change up a gear under normal driving conditions and too slow to respond when you wish to push on. 

Press the Drive Mode Select into Sport and the gearbox becomes more responsive, but the overall performance is still underwhelming. The fact that its only available with all-wheel drive will also hamper fuel consumption and doesn’t provide much confidence in the way of keeping running costs low either.

If you're getting a Kodiaq SportLine we think it makes sense to get an engine that offers pace to match the looks. There is definitely merit in owning a car that looks faster than it is, and in that case you're better served by the diesel rather than the petrol.

Performance diesel: Kodiaq vRS

Pick the Kodiaq vRS and you get a specific 2.0-litre biturbo engine with 239hp and a substantial 500Nm of torque. This car is good for a 0-62mph sprint of 7.0 seconds dead and feels very strong in the midrange thanks to all that pulling power. Not outrageously fast, but certainly a decent lick. The petrol-powered Octavia vRS certainly feels more exciting to drive but there's something very satisfying in the lazy, easy to access performance that is always on tap in the Kodiaq.

Skoda's engineers have also pulled off a clever trick with a synthetic sound symposer gadget that makes the Kodiaq sound like it's got a massive V8 under the bonnet. This has been a bit divisive in the Parkers office but on the whole we think it's a fun addition to the Kodiaq's overall appeal. There’s a bit of a problem with the price of the Kodiaq vRS, because there’s no entry-level version like with the Octavia vRS, complete with two-wheel drive, a manual gearbox, no options and a lower price tag.

The Kodiaq vRS arrives with all of the kit you could think of adding and the price reflects that – the trouble is, the chassis isn’t that different to the (admittedly less powerful) SportLine model, which is a clear £5,000 cheaper. It does at least offer all you could realistically want in a performance seven-seat SUV for pretty much half the money an Audi SQ7 would cost. In that company it doesn’t seem like a bad deal at all.

Engines no longer available

The entry-level petrol option was previously a 1.4-litre TSI with 150hp, which is the engine you used to be able to get in a Volkswagen Polo. This ain’t no vRS.

The 1.4-litre turbo petrol is actually a really sweet engine, but it’s one that’s being phased out of the VW Group range and replaced by a 150hp 1.5-litre TSI Evo unit. The 1.4, however, is smoother and creates less of a racket than the 1.5 when getting up to speed.

You’ll be pleased with this as you do need to work it hard to get up to speed in the Kodiaq. It’s punchier than you might expect, but the 4x4 system does hobble its performance slightly, and once you add in a couple of passengers, you’ll be wishing you’d chosen a diesel or more powerful petrol engine. he outcome of stretching its legs is that fuel economy won’t be especially impressive. Skoda claims it’ll reach 40.9mpg on average, which is entirely achievable if you’re not in a hurry, but once loaded up and driven even just a little enthusiastically, you’re more likely to be seeing figures in the mid-30s.

The driving experience is just the same as the rest of the Kodiaq line-up, just with a slightly firmer edge to the ride. It still rolls a bit in corners without feeling wayward; it’s well-controlled and the steering has a good weight to it.

The 1.4-litre TSI 150hp engine in the Kodiaq was retired at the end of 2018 and replaced with a slightly larger 1.5-litre producing the same power.

You also gain a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, as opposed to the previous engine’s six, but this appears to have been a lot of effort to achieve the same CO2 output 143g/km and reach a top speed of 123mph – up by just 1mph.

There are a few compromises for this, too. The 0-62mph time climbs from 9.7 to 9.9 seconds and the more stringent WLTP efficiency test system sees the average mpg figure plummet down from the optimistic 44.8mpg to a more attainable range of 34.0-36.7mpg. Plus, at the time of writing, the list price for the equivalent model increased by more than £2,000.

If, however, you’re simply seeing how this engine stacks up in the Kodiaq range, this 1.5-litre remains a serviceable engine. You won’t choose this engine for being particularly eager, but there’s enough performance here if you don’t leave town very often, or carry a full set of passengers or cargo.

There are no steering wheel paddles to override the gearbox and the accelerator pedal needs plenty of encouragement before the gearbox will shift down a couple of gears, but the engine remains smooth and hushed, even when worked hard. The Audi Q3 with the same engine is far less pleasant to use, becoming far too vocal and reluctant to rev above 4,000rpm, while attempts to accelerate quickly from stationary result in the front wheels spinning.

Handling

  • Comfort-focused suspension with a sporty edge
  • Body control is admirable for a large vehicle
  • Dynamic Chassis Control adds adjustability

The Kodiaq may be a big car, but it feels much more nimble than you might expect - it’s based on the VW Golf’s underpinnings after all, and the way it drives is tellingly similar to the smaller hatchback. The view from the driver’s seat is also good, making it an easy vehicle to place on the road – though the absence of any parking sensors on the base model makes it unnecessarily difficult to park compared with rivals. All other models feature at least rear parking sensors.

We drove an off-road model in frozen Finland to see how it got on with tricky, icy terrain. The steering provides a good sense of control, too, offering a little more weight than some rivals and the Kodiaq takes corners confidently, with the body remaining well controlled, even when taking tighter corners at speed.

The optional Dynamic Chassis Control system varies the stiffness of the suspension and offers Normal, Sport and Comfort modes – also changing the weight of the steering and linking to the Drive Mode Select system, which alters throttle and gearbox responsiveness. All modes offer a subtle but noticeable change in suspension and steering characteristics – with Comfort offering the cushiest ride and slightly less responsive handling, while Sport firms up the suspension for greater control around bends. Steering weight increases in Sport mode, too, though each setting offers a reasonable feel without being overly light or excessively heavy.

Tauter handling in Skoda Kodiaq vRS model

Improved handling in the Kodiaq vRS comes courtesy of standard fit Progressive Steering, which adds weight at higher speeds for better stability, and plenty of grip from the (also standard) all-wheel drive system. Adaptive Dampers give you a range of ride characteristics from wafty to hunkered down, but there's no vRS specific chassis - everything mechanical in this car is the same as the SportLine, only with different software.

As you'd expect that means there's no revolution in the handling department when it comes to driving the vRS, it's broadly the same surprisingly bodyroll-free, secure feeling as the standard car.