When my partner and I decided we needed something new, we wanted something decent in size. Being just over 6ft tall, I was getting tired of our little Yaris, and prior to that my BMW 125i. After much deliberation and several test drives, our shortlist was the Mazda CX-9, VW Tiguan and the Kodiaq. We had also driven the Touareg, which if our budget permitted, and if I had the patience to hold out until the new-generation car, would probably be what this review is about.
We test-drove all of the above, and we almost immediately ruled out the CX-9 after a back-to-back test with the Kodiaq. Yes, the CX-9 has advantages. It is certainly larger. But that's pretty much where it ends. The infotainment was a clunky BMW knock-off, the engine and road noise significant, and it really did handle like a bus. As you could probably expect, the Euros are certainly more polished than the CX-9. Also, the Mazda dealers we went to had sub-par customer service compared to VW and Skoda.
The Tiguan and Kodiaq are pretty much identical on the road. That makes sense since they are more or less the same car. The Kodiaq definitely has a size and storage advantage (at least until the Allspace arrives). Also, the cosmetic options on the Kodiaq are much more compelling compared to the somewhat bland options in terms of trim and colours for the VW range. So, our minds were made up to go with the more unique Kodiaq. Herein are my comments on the various facets of the car and how they helped with our decision to go for the Australian newbie.
Cabin Comfort Review
Our Kodiaq has the gorgeous beige leather interior. For Queensland summers, black leather is in my opinion idiotic. Having had my thighs singed several times in previous cars with black leather, I was definitely going with beige this time around.
This brings me to the next fun feature, air-conditioned seats (Luxury Pack only). These are certainly very nice, but to be honest I did expect a bit more. I have never had/used any other system, so I can't say how the Kodiaq one stacks up against others, but it is still a nice creature comfort. The seat heaters seem much more effective, but that is to be expected.
The zonal climate control works pretty much as expected and is simplistic enough to operate. Ninety-five per cent of the climate-control functions are done using manual knobs and dials outside of the infotainment system, which in my opinion is better. Vents and dedicated controls for the rear are here, but we have not had many rear seat occupants yet other than our dog, so we cannot speak to their effectiveness.
Having electric front seats with memory function (including side mirrors) was a big factor for us, given the height difference between my partner and I. Three seat positions can be saved in the seat memory, and can be changed by a single push before you get into the car. However, once you are seated you need to hold the button down in order for the position to change, which is a bit annoying. There are plenty of adjustment options, including lumbar. Your seat position is also saved in the infotainment system (more information further).
Having ridden in the rear several times, but admittedly not for any extended journey, I can say leg room is exceptional. The middle row also allows for a recline and can move forward and back via a generic rail system.
Since we took delivery, we have yet to even use the third row. Even the dealer will tell you these are for children and small adults only. Since I am neither of those, I cannot speak to their comfort. I did make one foolhardy attempt to insert myself in the third row during a test. It was not very dignified getting in or out.
With the third row down, however, space in the boot is immense. Also, there are plenty of nifty features back there for hauling cargo. The grocery bag hooks are great and can hold significant loads. The nets are also handy for when you want to secure a load from rolling around in the back. A prime example of this is when I recently had to get a replacement 8kg gas cylinder for our BBQ. Using the cargo nets, I was able to tie it down so it wasn’t able to roll around by itself in the back. The 12V charging point is handy for camping trips, as well as the nifty LED torch. I used it on several dunny runs on a recent camping trip.
Infotainment & Electronics
The system in the Skoda is very impressive. It is very responsive and intuitive in design, especially for a purely touch system. It will take you a couple of days to a week for you to have it all set up the way you like, but once you get a bit of muscle memory as to where everything is, it’s a great system.
The key feature (for us anyway) is the driver profile system. Up to three profiles can be saved in the system with parameters for different drivers. These parameters include seat position (separate from the positions saved in the seats themselves), radio station favourites, driver-aid settings, driving mode preferences and others I am probably forgetting. These profiles can also be bound to different key fobs if you so wish. As soon as the car starts, the first thing you do is select the profile of the current driver on the smaller screen in front of the driver and everything changes to as you left it.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are here, but we have only used the latter. It works pretty well. Integration with Waze and Google Maps is pretty seamless. Both are superior to the in-built GPS system, mostly due to the fact that the inbuilt system does not have any kind of traffic data. We were told this is for some kind of legislative reason.
Spotify integration is also here, but it is cut down. You don’t get the full version you would get on your phone. Music search options are limited for some reason. Google Assistant is just as good as it is on your phone and integrated perfectly. I have not been able to use the Waze Assistant to make reports etc. I don’t think it is compatible.
The parking camera and sensor system are seriously impressive. You get the usual front, side and rear sensors, and a very clear rear-view camera. The latter is key given the size of the vehicle. That’s not to say visibility is poor when looking back. Visibility all around is great. The rear camera also has a trajectory projected in the picture, which is handy for lining yourself up for precision moves.
The real 'wow' feature is the 360-degree camera you get. It is great for judging your parking manoeuvres and giving you a solid idea of where you have stopped exactly, as things like parking bay lines appear clearly. Autonomous parallel parking is also included, but we have yet to muster the courage to try it. Sorry!
Another electronic feature I will mention, which was particularly handy for us, is the tyre pressure sensor. We had the rotten luck to get a puncture while driving through the Airport Link Tunnel in Brisbane. The system gives you a clear warning and tells you which tyre has been deflated. We pulled into the nearest service station and checked the pressure. Sure enough, it had dropped below the others to 25ish PSI.
Thinking it was a slow leak, we put some air in it, reset the system and got on our way. By the time we got to the Mains/Klumpp Road off-ramp we received another warning. Again, we jumped into the nearest servo. It was visibly flat – 9psi! We were just a few minutes from home, so we pumped it back up and got home and chucked the space-saver on. Sure enough, we found two nails in the tyre and an audible leak.
This is a nice segue into our first experience with the Skoda Service Department. They quoted us on a replacement tyre, but I shopped around a bit. I found I could get it cheaper with fitting and balancing elsewhere. To my surprise, Skoda matched the deal. It was all done in just a couple of days, since we had to get the tyre up from Sydney. Still, it's $350 I would have rather kept in my pocket, but these things happen and could have been more severe if not for the early warning sensor.
Driving & Performance
At the time of our purchase (Q1 2018), the VAG 132TSI and 140TDI were our options. We tested the 132TSI Kodiaq and the 140TDI Tiguan back to back, since at the time the 140TDI wasn’t available in the Kodiaq in Australia. We were much more impressed with the drive characteristics of the oil-burner. Personally, I found the 132TSI mating to the DSG in the Kodiaq to be kind of lurchy and unresponsive (outside of the Sports mode).
I also got the impression that 132kW isn’t really enough for the Kodiaq's larger size over the Tiguan. Though, on paper, the 0–100km/h time in the 132 is a couple of tenths better than the diesel in a flat-out drag race, the 140 felt punchier and definitely smoother. Probably due to the wider torque band and significant torque increase.
Another key factor was our mileage. We do at least four commutes a week from the south side of Brisbane to the southern Gold Coast. With that kind of mileage, the prospect of paying a premium for 95-octane fuels wasn’t attractive. Let alone the decreased range. So, we made up our minds to go with the 140TDI.
There are five standing driving modes: Comfort, Normal, Eco, Sports and Snow. The Tech Pack we fitted also gives you the option for an Individual driving mode, which lets you mix the characteristics of all these. My personal settings mate the gear ratios of the Sports mode with the suspension damping of Comfort mode, Eco mode settings when I am using the cruise control and Normal mode steering characteristics. To me, this is the optimal way to operate.
In the non-Sports modes, the DSG is too unresponsive for my liking. There is a significant delay to your throttle input while the computer figures out the most economical way to do what you want. Though as mentioned earlier, this is less pronounced than in the 132TSI. With the Sports ratios engaged, the driving experience is a treat. Even with my semi-hooney driving style around town, I still average only 7–9L/100km. Combined, our average is less than 7L/100km (mostly highway kays).
The ride is maybe one of the Kodiaq's weaker points. It is obvious that to (significantly) improve handling characteristics over the other SUVs of this size, ride comfort has been sacrificed a little bit. Even in the Comfort setting, bumps are a bit more pronounced and noticeable. This is probably also due to the 19-inch rims the car rides on. Other common SUV characteristics are far less pronounced as a result though. Body roll is a non-issue in this car. If you're like me and prefer something a bit more engaging to drive, it’s a worthwhile sacrifice. This is still a very comfortable car.
The Tech Pack also has an Off-Road driving mode that adjusts the traction control and gearbox for optimal off-road grip. I put it through its paces on some wet, muddy, (slightly) washed out, steep inclines while camping in Kenilworth recently, and the Haldex IV differential in the car handled them beautifully.
There is also a hill-descent control system that performs well going down the same slippery inclines. Though I have yet to attempt it, but I am confident the car could handle things such as the Rainbow Beach/Double Island Point run. Bribie Island though? I would be taking backup in the form of a friend with a locking differential and some snatch straps, just to be safe.
This car is fantastic at chewing up miles on the highway. The autonomous system that detects cars in front and adjusts your speed is great on long journeys. The controls on the wand dedicated to the cruise-control system can take a bit of getting used to. You have the ability to increment your desired speed by 10km/h with pulls towards you, and then minor adjustments by 1km/h up or down with different buttons (which can be hard to find at first) on the wand.
You can also adjust your following distance for the autonomous acceleration system. This system is great for open highways on long journeys, but in argy-bargy peak-hour traffic, the space the system grants is too generous to your fellow motorists. You will find yourself leaving too much of a gap in front and someone will inevitably push in front of you. Then the system slows you down and leaves another gap. The system does allow for complete stops and will also perform a standing start after a manual dab of the throttle. If you're not in a rush and just want to zone out in the traffic, it’s great. But if you're in a hurry, give it a miss.
Frankly, the colour options for the Kodiaq are pretty bland, with the exception of our choice of Magnetic Brown. Most people scoff at the idea of a brown car, but to my mind the combination of this colour and the beige leather was an easy choice compared to the alternatives.
I was not a big fan of the standard wheels, but the $2500 cost for the slightly more attractive option was not justifiable. We also opted out of the Panoramic Sunroof, which was about a $2000 option.
We did opt in for the Tech and Luxury packs, which I thought gave enough enhancement to justify the costs. Particularly since seat adjustment was a key feature for us comfort-wise. I would recommend the Luxury Pack as almost essential for anyone sharing the car with someone else of significantly different stature.
To be honest, there are very few problems we have encountered in the past four months of owning this car. To name a couple of minor annoyances:
- The aforementioned Individual driving mode does not engage correctly sometimes. To fix it, you need to cycle out of it and then back into it to inherit your configured settings.
- The auto park brake. This is designed for hill starts, but is downright dangerous for reversing out of a steep driveway like ours. But it is easily disabled at the press of a button, and stays off permanently.
Some other nifty features that I have not mentioned so far include:
- Direction lamps that come on as you turn the wheel.
- Autonomous emergency brakes. I have only had these engage on me once. At the time I thought it engaged a little prematurely, but it was a still good to see that the system works in an emergency.
- Rain-detecting wipers.
- Rear traffic sensor.
- Door edge protectors that come out when you open the doors. These are great for opening the doors against walls.
- Umbrellas! Small but very handy.
- Electric tail gate. The kick feature hardly ever works for me, but for some reason it works better when my partner tries it! Honestly, the button on the key is convenient enough. Just make sure you have enough space behind the car, as I have already had a minor scrape on my garage door.
- Five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty.
- Great VW finance deals with guaranteed future value.
To Sum Up
This car is a must-test for anyone shopping for an SUV in the $50–$60K price range. It provides a highly engaged driving experience with immense practicality and economy.