David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Does Škoda’s first big SUV make a top tug? We hitch up with the Kodiaq to discover what tow car ability it has and if it is a practical holiday car

Overview

The Kodiaq is Škoda’s first big SUV, designed to take on the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.

There’s a variety of petrol and diesel models on offer, and Škoda gives buyers a choice of five- and seven-seat models.

On test here we have a 190PS (187bhp) seven-seater and our car is a high-end Edition model, with a luxurious standard spec, for just over £36,000.

What are we looking for? Well, we towed with the Škoda Kodiaq at the Tow Car Awards last year.

This is our opportunity to get to know the car much better, as an everyday drive and in terms of what tow car talent it has.

There’s no shortage of talented SUVs for this kind of money – is the Kodiaq good enough to compete?

Towing

With a minimum kerbweight of 1795kg, the Škoda Kodiaq is relatively light for a big SUV with space for seven.

Kerbweights for the equivalent Kia Sorento start at 1953kg, so the big Kia has more favourable matching ratios.

The Škoda’s legal towing limit is 2000kg, and the noseweight is 80kg.

The latter figure is lower than we’d expect for a big 4x4 and it will take care to avoid exceeding this if you have a large caravan with a heavily loaded front locker.

We matched the Škoda to our Bailey Unicorn Cabrera long-term test caravan, weighted to within a few kilos of the Kodiaq’s 85% match figure.

The Škoda’s 2.0-litre diesel engine coped well with a van weighing just over 1500kg.

At the test track, we recorded a very respectable 12.5-second 30-60mph time, which was quick enough to overtake slower traffic with confidence.

Out on the road, we found the Kodiaq easily maintained momentum uphill, with the seven-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG) changing gear smoothly.

It changed down a gear more promptly in Sport, so we tended to choose this setting, rather than Drive, on hilly routes.

Our testing took place in very cold but still weather, and in these conditions we were happy with the Kodiaq’s stability.

At a steady 60mph on the motorway – and 10mph faster at the test track – the big Škoda tracked straight and true.

However, our experience with the car at the Tow Car Awards last year suggests the Kodiaq isn’t quite as secure in crosswinds as some rivals, such as the VW Tiguan.

The Škoda held up well in the lane-change test. Pushed hard on a section of track which had one or two icy patches, it found grip and changed direction with no pushing and pulling from the caravan.

The hill-start test was also straightforward. The electronic parking brake kept car and caravan still on the 1-in-10 slope, then released without allowing the outfit to roll back.

The combination of the DSG, four-wheel drive and the engine’s 295lb ft of torque helped the Kodiaq pull to the top of the slope with a squeeze of the throttle and no wheelspin.

In the braking test, it did well, given the conditions. By the time we performed this manoeuvre any ice had melted, but it was still cold and damp. So the stopping distance of 11m from 30mph was pretty good.

In regular towing, we found the brakes could be applied smoothly but had enough bite when required.

We have some reservations with the Kodiaq as a tow car. The 80kg noseweight limit is rather low, and there are heavier, more powerful rivals for similar money.

But otherwise it’s very capable, with determined acceleration, strong brakes, and a solid and stable feel unless the wind really picks up.

Everyday driving

So we know what tow car might the Kodiaq has, but what is it like without a caravan hitched to the back?

Despite its 19-inch alloys, the Škoda mostly rides comfortably.

It can fidget a little around town and over patchy surfaces, but as speeds rise, it is composed.

We wouldn’t rush to replace our car’s standard suspension with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, which gives a choice of normal, sport and comfort for an extra £980.

We think the regular suspension is a good compromise for most road conditions.

As standard, the car has Drive Mode Select, which alters the steering, throttle response and gearbox settings.

Selecting Sport adds some weight to steering, without making it more incisive.

The Kodiaq handles well, but the steering doesn’t really give a strong indication of what the front wheels are up to.

A Mazda CX-5 or a VW Tiguan would be livelier on country roads, but that’s a mild criticism – the Kodiaq is a well-rounded performer.

Wind and road noise are low, and engine noise is unobtrusive unless the 2.0-litre engine is revved hard.

Given that maximum pulling power is available from just 1750rpm, there’s rarely any need to explore the upper rev range.

The Kodiaq really comes into its own on long journeys, when its comfortable ride, quiet cabin and ache-free driving position can really be appreciated.

For a seven-seat SUV, it is relatively compact at 4.7m long. That helps it squeeze into quite small spaces, especially with the optional Area View system, which uses cameras to give an overhead view of the car.

Low-speed manoeuvres would be even easier if the DSG ‘crept’ as smoothly as a conventional auto.

It can be a little jerky at very low speeds, slow to respond then moving off more briskly than intended – a disadvantage compared with a torque converter automatic.

Space

Provided you only plan to use the third row now and again, the Škoda Kodiaq is a very practical SUV.

But if you often carry passengers in the third row, there are better seven-seaters. According to our figures, a Kia Sorento has an extra 2cm of rear legroom.

In practice, you’ll need to slide the Kodiaq’s middle row of seats forward on their runners for anyone to be comfortable in the very back.

The third row is cramped, but everyone else has plenty of room. There’s space up front for a driver well over six feet tall, and headroom is generous.

The dashboard is clearly laid out, the controls are easy to use and the finish is good, save for some hard plastics lower down on the dashboard and doors.

There’s lots of headroom and legroom in the middle row, especially if the seats are set all the way back, and air vents between the front seats keep second-row passengers at a comfortable temperature.

Boot space is a strength for the Kodiaq. From a relatively modest 270 litres with the rear seats upright, capacity rises to 630 litres with the third row folded into the floor.

With the second row lowered as well, there’s a huge 2005 litres to fill.

Running costs

In some quarters, Škoda has been criticised for the pricing of Kodiaq Edition – we think unfairly.

A list price of £36,000 or so is not unreasonable for a car of this size, practicality, performance and equipment, especially when you think of the smaller and less powerful cars we’ve tested recently with price tags of over £30,000.

Haggling should pay off – research by our colleagues at What Car? suggests discounts of £2000 or more can be found.

Your money buys a lot of kit. Leather upholstery, sat-nav, Wi-Fi connectivity, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, wireless phone charging, and lane assist and blind spot detection are standard.

The car has a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, with 92% for adult occupant protection.

The running costs should be reasonable. The official combined figure is 49.6mpg and we achieved 25.7mpg towing on A-roads and motorways.

What Car? also predicts strong resale values – the Kodiaq should be worth 47% of its original price after three years and 36,000 miles.

Technical specs

Engine size1968 cc
Kerbweight1795 kg
85% KW1526 kg
Towball limit80 kg
Maximum towing limit2000 kg
Power187.0 bhp
Torque295.0 lb ft
Official MPG49.6 mpg
Towing MPG25.7 mpg
CO2151 g/km
30-60mph12.5 seconds
30-0mph11 m

Verdict

The Kodiaq is one of the best seven-seat SUVs you can buy.

We have a few reservations, but overall we’re impressed.

As a tow car, it performs very well. In still air, we found it stable, and it handled our lane-change test and hill start with ease.

It’s not as powerful as one or two rivals, but we can’t see many drivers finding the 2.0-litre diesel engine lacking, and for a 4x4 of this size, we’re happy with the fuel economy.

However, it isn’t immune to crosswinds and the 80kg noseweight limit is low for an SUV of this size and weight.

In everyday driving, the Kodiaq is easy to live with. The ride is mostly comfortable, the performance is strong and the car is refined on the motorway.

It’s not the most engaging or exciting car, but it is one that we’d be very happy to live with.

The big Škoda is a practical car, too, as long as you can live with limited space in the third row of seats.

They’re fine for taking a child’s five-a-side team-mates to a local match, but not so suitable for adults and longer journeys.

However, there’s plenty of space in the front and middle rows and a flexible cabin layout.

What’s more, provided the rearmost seats are folded into the floor, the boot is huge.

In Edition spec, the Kodiaq may not be low-cost as such, but compared with vehicles that offer a similar level of space, equipment and ability, it’s very competitively priced.

Respectable economy and strong resale values make this a painless proposition for long-term ownership.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The Kodiaq is a strong and comfortable tow car
  • It is very practical
  • It is good value for money

Cons

  • It has a surprisingly low noseweight
  • If you need to seat seven regularly, rivals are better