2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS review: hot seven-seat SUV driven

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

The Skoda Kodiaq was the Czech marque’s first foray into the crowded arena of the family SUV.

Three years on, it’s still selling well – and Skoda has expanded its SUV offering with the smaller Karoq, plus the Kamiq coming soon.

Skoda SUVs have so far been deserving of their success. They’re the cheapest of the Volkswagen Group cars with which they share underpinnings, yet similarly equipped and built to the same standard.

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

Both the Kodiaq and the Karoq are sharp-suited and handsome. Unlike many rivals, they don’t try to disguise their SUV silhouette, embracing its chunkiness with boxy proportions and bulbous wheelarches. 

Related: The Seat Tarraco is a Spanish Skoda Kodiaq

So, good looks, seven seats, lots of space, smart pricing, good equipment levels and an efficient engine line-up – what’s not to like?

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

Review over? Not quite. Meet the new top-of-the-line Nurburgring-conquering Kodiaq vRS. Specifically, £44,730-worth of Kodiaq VRS – we’ll get back to that later.

The vRS is Skoda’s version of Volkswagen’s GTI or Seat’s Cupra. It delivers different flavours of performance, though, with strong diesels available alongside potent petrols.

Seven-seat Nurburgring fighter

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

The Kodiaq is the latest to get the diesel vRS treatment, packing a twin-turbocharged 240hp 2.0-litre TDI with a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission and four-wheel drive. It’ll get to 62mph in 7.0 seconds, plus a top speed of 136mph.

Skoda is keen to point out that this is the most powerful diesel engine in its history. It’s one of the main weapons with which the Kodiaq vRS won the title of fastest seven-seater around the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit, with a time of nine minutes and 29 seconds. When not at the ‘Ring, it’ll achieve between 34 and 35mpg.

The vRS specification adds some aggression to the Kodiaq’s already agreeable looks. Blacked-out brightwork and 20-inch ‘Xtreme’ alloy wheels are suitably moody mods.

Sportier front and rear bumpers complete the look, with big metallic exhaust exits recessed into the back. Sharp LED lighting all-round comes as standard. Ignoring the juxtaposition of sporty styling with an SUV platform, it’s a looker.

Inside the Kodiaq vRS

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

Immediately evident inside are the Alcantara sports seats with quilted stitching, carbon-look material and strong bolstering. For all their attitude, they’re still nice and comfortable.

Flashes of red and Alcantara continue elsewhere, too. Look through the sportier steering wheel and you see the digital dials – exclusively standard on the vRS.

A nicely responsive 9.2-inch touchscreen handles sat-nav, digital media, radio and more. Climate controls sit below, along with various other physical controls in an intuitive layout. Depending on how you feel about touchscreen systems, the number of buttons will either feel refreshing or regressive. We’re in the former camp.

With all of the above, plus cruise control, climate control, adaptive lighting and more, the vRS is a very well-equipped car. Options fitted that we’d tick include the rear camera with full LED rear lights for £385, plus the Canton sound system for £405. The electric folding tow bar (£865) could appeal to others.

Driving the hot Skoda Kodiaq

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

Driving the Kodiaq vRS is a curious experience. The twin-turbo deployment of that 240hp and 369lb ft is seamless, but you definitely notice it. 

This is the first use of ‘Dynamic Sound Boost’ in a Skoda vRS – also known as ‘Mercedes-AMG G63 sound effects’. The bass and woofle it puts out just trundling around is amusing, but also quite odd. At speed, it could fool the lesser-informed into thinking there’s a V8 under the bonnet.

It feels every bit as fast as the figures suggest, but it’s not a scary or dramatic flavour of acceleration. A good job, then, that in spite of the tall driving position, the sporty seats keep you anchored where you need to be.

They have their work cut out for them when it comes to corners, though. The stiffer vRS in Sport mode covers ground at serious pace, doing well to mitigate typical SUV roll characteristics.

The steering is quite numb, which becomes a problem in the wet when the car’s significant weight pushes the low-profile tyres beyond their limits. There is next to no warning or sensation through the rim that you’re playing fast and loose with the available adhesion.

Skoda Kodiaq vRS verdict: four starsSkoda Kodiaq VRS

The Kodiaq VRS is an excellent car, but mostly because the Kodiaq is an excellent car.

Most of what it offers in vRS specification is available in a 190hp Sportline for much less. Sporty looks, amiable performance, generous equipment levels and a quality interior appointment are not exclusive to the vRS.

By no means is £38,250 – the amount that a Kodiaq 190 DSG Sportline costs – a small amount of money. Nevertheless, it is more than £6,000 less than a vRS, which costs from £42,895. The 190 Sportline offers more Kodiaq for your buck.

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

If you’re dedicated to the vRS life, we’d suggest the excellent Octavia vRS estate is more the practical performance car for far less cash. It’s more economical, better looking, faster and more fun to drive.

A full-fat Octavia Estate vRS Challenge will cost you £31,300, in fact. That’s a healthy £11,000 less than kick-off in a Kodiaq vRS. We also reckon the Kodiaq looks better in the chunky ‘Scout’ spec, but that’s your call.

Skoda Kodiaq VRS

Five 2019 Skoda Kodiaq vRS rivals

  • Skoda Kodiaq 190 Sportline
  • Skoda Octavia vRS Estate
  • Cupra Ateca
  • Audi SQ5
  • BMW X3 M

How much did our test car cost?

Skoda Kodiaq vRS 2.0 TDI 240PS 4×4 DSG: £44,730

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Skoda Kodiaq vRS
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