Only one seven-seater can be the 2020 carsales Best Family SUV
Models Tested: Holden Acadia v Hyundai Santa Fe v Kia Sorento v Mazda CX-8 v Mazda CX-9 v Nissan Pathfinder v Skoda Kodiaq v Toyota Kluger v VW Tiguan Allspace
For the 2020 carsales Best Family SUV award, we took the nine best seven-seat SUVs available in the Aussie market and assessed them against a range of criteria important to family buyers.
Assessment categories included cabin and cargo space; child safety and accommodation; connectivity, infotainment and technology; driveability and performance; cost of ownership factors; and design.
Understandably, given the range of assessment criteria, the expectations of buyers and the difference in price of the best-selling model variants tested here, there are different winners in each category – all of which were scored against a weighted ranking.
Complex, but the process was aimed at determining which seven-seat SUV is truly the best overall for modern family buyers.
When it came to which seven-seat family SUV had the most cabin and cargo space, we reached a three-way tie between some of the larger models on test.
Here, the Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Kluger shared top billing, each presenting a level of space, amenity and flexibility that we feel suits larger families down to the ground.
For the smaller members of the family, we looked at all that pertained to child safety and accommodation and in this section of our test it was the Mazda CX-9 that rose to the top.
With the help of expert Tace Clifford from BabyDrive.com.au, we found the big Mazda to be the easiest and roomiest family SUV to carry a mix of occupants, whether the vehicle was fitted with child seats or not.
It was also voted the easiest seven-seat SUV for children to get in and out of, and with good visibility from both rear rows of seats.
Moving on to the all-important questions of affordability and cost of ownership and it was the Skoda Kodiaq that beat its contemporaries by a convincing margin.
Measuring the fuel and tyre costs of the Kodiaq over a three-year period – and factoring in insurance, finance, depreciation and aftersales costs – the team at Redbook.com.au voted the Czech-built model as the best value for family buyers.
Technology for technology’s sake is not what the next section of our test is about. This important criterion is about how well the SUV interacts with its driver; how its technology helps to make the drive safer and more relaxed; and how easy the complicated systems we rely on are to operate.
It was here that our judges praised the modernity and seamless integration of technology in the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace as better than the rest. It narrowly beat the Skoda Kodiaq and Mazda CX-8 and CX-9.
Whether we care to admit it or not, style plays a big part in the purchase of a new SUV. After much consternation, the Skoda Kodiaq topped the ladder in this part of the test. Our judges felt it was the most contemporary and attractive SUV of this group and the one least likely to show its age in the years ahead.
Finally, we assessed the dynamics and road-holding abilities of our nine SUV contenders. Comfort and feel behind the wheel are also important in a family hauler, so too fuel economy, performance and refinement.
And the seven-seat family SUV that topped the field in this part of the test was the Mazda CX-9 which, quite simply, is the ride and handling benchmark here – quiet, refined and a joy to drive.
And the winner is…
In the end, top spot in the 2020 carsales Best Family SUV award is reserved for the vehicle that performs best against the scoreboard overall – the one that amasses the highest number of points across the field.
This was the Skoda Kodiaq Sportline 132TSI 4x4.
The Skoda Kodiaq trumped the value and styling sections of the test, ranked second in the technology and accommodation category and third in the on-road driving performance and child safety and accommodation fields.
Overall, Skoda’s biggest SUV tallied a score of 89.9 per cent to take out the 2020 carsales Best Family SUV Award.
The Kodiaq is the second Skoda model to win a carsales award in the past couple of months. The Skoda Fabia won our Best First Car award in December, and many of its quality and value traits are clearly recognisable in its larger sibling.
Yes, Volkswagen’s Czech brand is on a roll. The Skoda Kodiaq is a deserved winner in the hotly contested family SUV segment.