Value-for-money is distinct from simply being cheap. Just ask the product planners behind the 2018 Skoda Kodiaq 140TDI 4x4.
This seven-seat medium SUV is no bargain-basement offering. You can seat more than a family of five inside a smaller Honda CR-V for under $40,000 plus on-road costs, whereas the Kodiaq 132TSI 4x4 petrol starts from $42,990 plus on-road costs.
However, this new Kodiaq 140TDI 4x4 diesel demands a huge $6000 premium over that model, which tests its value equation – although Skoda might suggest that it’s priced competitively with the size-match Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe diesels, and well below the larger, petrol-only Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger equivalents.
Either way, is the diesel really worth the premium over the petrol? And can the Skoda gel into a ‘sweet spot’ between the above cheaper/smaller and pricier/larger rivals?
- Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
- Price: $48,990 (plus on-road costs)
- Engine/trans: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 four-cylinder turbo diesel | seven-speed dual-clutch
- Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.9 l/100km | Tested: 8.3 l/100km
If you’re looking at a Skoda Kodiaq then chances are the CR-V is too small, the CX-9 and Kluger are simply too big, and in between the Santa Fe is about to be replaced. Which leaves the superb Kia Sorento.
Where this Kodiaq 140TDI 4x4 costs $48,990 (plus orc), the equivalent Sorento SLi diesel asks $50,490 (plus orc). The Kia matches all of the kit listed as standard on the Skoda, but for $1500 extra it further adds leather trim, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, lane-keep assistance and 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio.
Also note the below options packages required to get items such as leather and premium Canton audio. The combined $4900 Luxury Package, $2500 Tech Package and $1900 panoramic sunroof, lifts the pricetag to a hefty $58,290 (plus orc) and into the realms of the flagship Sorento GT-Line at $58,990 (plus orc).
By this stage the Skoda moves just ahead, uniquely adding auto reverse-park assistance, tri-zone climate control and adaptive suspension, although the Kia maintains station with more engine power and torque, a longer warranty (seven versus five years) plus more affordable servicing. On paper, it’s neck and neck.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry with push-button start, power tailgate, adaptive cruise control, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control, leather/Alcantara trim with electrically adjustable front seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto on/off wipers and adaptive LED headlights.
- Infotainment: 9.2-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, single USB input, twin SD card readers, digital radio, voice control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring and satellite navigation.
- Options Fitted: $4900 Luxury Package (perforated leather trim, electrically adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, tri-zone climate control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assistance and 360-degree camera), and $2500 Tech Package (adaptive suspension, off-road driving mode, hands-free tailgate, 10-speaker Canton audio, auto reverse-park assistance, and memory key).
The Kodiaq makes good on Skoda’s ‘simply clever’ tagline in several ways. All doors when opened deploy a slimline rubber strip that protects from carpark dings. Both front doors have hidden umbrellas in them, while the driver’s door adds a waste bin with a replaceable liner. The rear seats have aircraft-inspired side-adjustable headrest support, plus even a blanket, while the boot includes a removable torch.
This is brilliant stuff that no rival can match, and is a clear highlight of the cabin.
Another high-resolution highlight is the new 9.2-inch touchscreen, which is superbly crisp with its graphics and quick to respond to commands. With a digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and integrated navigation, the only complaints revolve around the lack of live traffic for the nav, only a single USB port (in this day and age!) and a voice control system that works decently but lacks ‘one shot’ destination entry.
Storage, too, is excellent, all the way from the dual gloveboxes and sizeable door bins through to the capacious 630-litre boot in five-seat guise, and still-excellent (given its medium-sized dimensions) 270L with all seven seats in place.
The rearmost passengers will still also find decent space when the middle row is moved forward, and although the seat base is ordinarily flat, it’s fine for kids and shorter adults. The biggest complaint is the lack of third-row air vents that are standard on Sorento.
The middle row comes with air vents, and when optioned a third climate zone, but the bench is also disappointingly flat – it’s expected that the ‘occasional use’ third row is, but not the second row. Legroom is excellent, but the seat base is firm when it should be plush, and the door trims are made entirely of hard and unyielding plastic.
The trend continues up-front. While the front chairs are the only ones to be actually supportive, and the driving position gels with the small steering wheel, the soft-touch dashboard plastics aren’t complemented by acceptable fit-and-finish levels below.
An ill-fitting lower glovebox sits beside barren grey plastics that are certainly fine and pragmatic when the pricetag starts with a ‘4’. But especially pushing towards $60,000 driveaway, the sub-$20,000 light hatchback plastics quality really start to grate. A Sorento in either SLi or GT-Line trim justifies these prices; but the Skoda doesn’t.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 140kW/400Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo diesel
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD
- Suspension: Strut front and independent rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
- Cargo Volume: 630 litres (5-seat mode) or 270L (7-seat mode)
In $6000-cheaper 132TSI 4x4 petrol guise, the Skoda Kodiaq delivers 132kW of power and 320Nm of torque. It weighs 1677kg and claims an 8.2-second 0-100km/h plus combined-cycle fuel economy of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres.
Spend $6000 more on this 140TDI 4x4 diesel, and it moves up 8kW to 140kW, and rises 80Nm to 400Nm. Yet it is also 53kg heavier, at 1730kg, and despite the higher outputs is four-tenths slower with an 8.6s 0-100km/h. At least economy drops to 5.9L/100km.
On paper, then, it seems you’re paying for a slower Skoda, but one that will save you 1.7 litres per 100 kilometres.
This 2.0-litre turbo-diesel also makes more of a clatter on light throttle than the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol does, and it feels more strained when revving. Perhaps worse still, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – dubbed DSG – picks tall gears that turns the throttle to mush.
Even on slight hills, speed falls away quickly before the driver needs to prod the throttle to call the DSG to move back from seventh, to sixth, maybe even to fifth gear. Switch the DSG to Sport and it solves the problem, but the diesel then over-revs.
Experience with the 132TSI 4x4 petrol indicates that it’s not only the cheaper pick, but the smoother and smarter one as well.
Around town at low speed, the petrol will use 14-to-15L/100km whereas this diesel averaged 10-to-11L/100km. However in combined conditions, and a similar test loop, the Kodiaq petrol came out at 9.1L/100km versus 8.3L/100km with this Skoda diesel.
Otherwise, at least when optioned with adaptive suspension, this medium SUV is absolutely one of the best-driving vehicles in the segment. The steering is tightly responsive, ride quality is superbly comfortable yet controlled in the default Normal mode, and the handling just feels like a large wagon more than a lumbering bus.
There’s agility and playfulness in spades with this Skoda that only the Sorento can come close to matching. But that Kia, with 7kW more power and 41Nm extra torque, plus a superb auto, is simply the sweeter diesel.
The Skoda Kodiaq achieved five stars with a score of 35.3 out of 38 points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, rear-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Skoda offers a three-year/45,000km or five-year/75,000km servicing plans at a higher-than-average up-front cost of $1375 and $2850 respectively.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The CR-V is loaded with equipment, but it’s smaller. If your kids are small, and there’s no need for decent luggage space, it’s worth saving coin here – plus the Honda cabin is more upmarket than the Skoda’s.
With the dated Santa Fe about to be replaced, it is best to wait, and the Sorento is far more impressive anyway. It may not be quite as cleverly packaged as the Kodiaq, but its drivetrain and cabin quality justify the $50,000-plus pricing.
Meanwhile the CX-9 is better than a Kluger, but both are enormous on the outside and inside, and much more expensive for an equivalent amount of equipment. Measure your garage first, is our tip.
Honda CR-V VTi-L 7-seat Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander CRDi Kia Sorento SLi/GT-Line CRDi Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD Toyota Kluger GXL AWD
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
In petrol form the Skoda Kodiaq is a brilliant seven-seat medium SUV, and slightly superior to a V6-petrol Kia Sorento. However in diesel form the tables turn.
Skoda charges too much for a diesel engine that is simply inferior to the petrol. Add some options and it lineballs Kia’s diesel on price, and that rival responds with a sweeter drivetrain and more upmarket cabin.
For steering, ride and handling, best not fear buying an SUV because the Kodiaq drives just like a wagon, and it’s a cleverly packaged and delightful one at that.
But from a brand that likes to make a distinction between being merely cheap and offering genuinely good value, the 140TDI 4x4 diesel struggles on both fronts.
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