There must be plenty of families that embark on new car buying journeys with the intention of getting something a little bit exciting or at least interesting as a reward for all the hard work modern society asks of us.
But given that modern family requirements tend to pull you in every direction aside from exciting, combined with the fact that there’s very few options available to tick all these boxes, I reckon most of those rose-tinted ambitions end up with seven seats worth of ‘that’ll do.’
Enter the Skoda Kodiaq RS, which aims to build on all the ‘those in the know’ cool of the Czech brand’s regular line-up, beyond the eye twinkling of those who’ve already joined the performance-flavoured RS club by delivering what looks to be most of our Christmas lists rolled into one.
The Kodiaq RS recently arrived at the top of the top of the seven-seat SUV’s range, with its $65,990 list price sitting some distance above the $44,890 132 TSI and $48,890 132 TSI Sportline, but also reintroducing a diesel option to the Australian range.
My family of two adults and two toddlers spent a week on board the Kodiaq RS, and here’s what we found.
What does it looks like?
Pretty sharp, actually. The RS look builds on the already slick design of the base Kodiaq and more aggressive Sportline with extra black inserts in the front bumper, unique 20-inch wheels and the unique rear bumper has the RS-trademark full width reflector and a pair of squared off exhaust outlets at the rear. Note that only the right one is real though, with the left one just for decoration.
Also helping to distinguish our test car is its optional ($770) Race Blue paint, which is unique to the RS and familiar from every other RS model we’ve seen to date.
Impressively, the Kodiaq RS manages to achieve its sporty look without adding any jutting bodykit elements, and keeps all its unpainted lower side cladding to preserve fuss-free everyday usability.
On the inside, leather, Alcantara and red stitching are used for a racy feel that’s actually reminiscent of some far more expensive Porsche models. Carbon-look vinyl is also used for some details, which pushes the theme a tad too far in my opinion, but the overall impression is very appealing and still quite luxurious.
How does it drive?
If you approach the Kodiaq RS with a ‘seven-seat SUV’ mindset, you’re likely to be quite surprised the first time you climb behind the wheel.
That’s because it actually feels quite small from the driver’s seat, with the outlook no different to the Kodiaq’s Karoq little sibling and no more daunting than any other mid-size SUV like a Tiguan, CX-5, RAV4 etc. It’s also therefore less daunting than any of the large seven-seat SUVs like the Santa Fe, Sorento or CX-9 and key to its sporting character.
It’s a touch ironic that the sportiest Kodiaq is also the only diesel, but it’s got a second turbo to give it the most power of the range by some margin. And being a diesel, it handles both sides of any argument by also being the most efficient Kodiaq.
You wouldn’t call it fast, but it’s clearly more spritely than the other versions. Skoda claims it is able to accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.0 seconds, which is a significant 1.2 second gain over the petrol Kodiaqs.
A seven-speed dual-clutch DSG auto helps to make the most of the engine, but you’ll probably find it a bit awkward during parallel parking manoeuvres on hills.
Its performance feel is enhanced by ‘Dynamic Sound Boost’ amplified exhaust noise, which has the double benefit of disguising the engine’s diesel clatter.
But like other RS models, all this sporting character is managed to preserve everyday comfort.
If you’re ever wanting to dial things up a notch, the RS scores adaptive dampers that work in conjunction with the drive modes to firm everything up.
Even in the default setting, the RS handles corners very well for an SUV, with excellent stability.
How spacious is it?
The Kodiaq’s modest width still permits impressive cabin width for its size. It will easily carry four adults comfortably, and it’s relatively long wheelbase makes for heaps of room in the first two rows for taller passengers.
This is further aided by the sliding and reclining second row seat, which allows you to prioritise room between the second or third row seats, or allowing more cargo space if needed.
This also means there’s plenty of room for rear-facing child seats in the second row, which often wind up eating a lot of front seat space in mid-size SUVs and can relegate taller passengers to the remaining back seat.
You shouldn’t have any trouble fitting three child seats across the second row, but as always, it pays to trial fit your own seats to be sure. There are ISOFIX mounts in the outboard positions and top tether across all three spots on the second row, but no child seat mounts at all for the third row.
The third row is on the smaller side, but it’s only intended for occasional adult seating anyway. It will fit children no worries, and there’s decent access but be aware that you’ll need to slide ⅔ of the seat forward to enter the third row from the kerb side.
The second row backrest splits three ways though, which is great for preserving cupholder (and armrest) access in the third row if you’re calling longer narrow items in the boot.
This boot is very impressive for a car of this size, with at least 270 litres with the third row seats up, expanding to 630 litres with the third row folded, and a massive 2005 litres (to the roof) with both rows folded.
I managed to fit my mountain bike in the back with both wheels attached by simply folding the third row and ⅔ of the second row. This left room for one child seat, my bike baby seat and all our stuff for an easy dad and one toddler afternoon adventure.
How easy is it to use every day?
Under the boot floor is an array of clever cubby holes with configurable dividers that will allow you to stop pretty much anything rolling around back there. The cargo blind also stores neatly within this space. This cleverness does come at the expense of a spare wheel though, with an inflation kit taking its place.
This is just the start of the Kodiaq’s brilliant array of clever practicality details, which are a real trump card over pretty much any other SUV on the market.
Up the front, you get two proper gloveboxes on the passenger side, the classic Skoda rubbish bin which can live in any door pocket, a wireless phone charger that’s big enough to swallow big phones, and there’s even an umbrella integrated into the passenger door.
The rear door child locks can also be activated simply and independently from the driver’s door window switch panel, and also disables the rear windows in a single press.
There’s a third climate zone for the back seat and seat heaters for both rows, retractable window shades for extra sun protection beyond the rear privacy glass, and the brilliant flip-out door protectors that will protect your doors when flung open and the doors of neighbouring cars.
One surprise shortcoming though is the design of the front cup holders, which is only really up to the task of carrying one coffee and a Red Bull-style can. If you’re wanting to carry two coffees, one of them will have to be a piccolo.
The rear cupholders step up the game though with regular sizing plus a third spot for a Red Bull can or piccolo. There’s also bottle holders in each door, which are lined with felt to mitigate annoying rattles.
How safe is it?
The regular Kodiaq’s maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (2017 standards) carries over to the RS.
Airbag coverage includes dual front and driver’s knee, side airbags for the first two rows and curtain airbags covering all three rows.
It’s also got active cruise control, city AEB (up to 30km/h), Lane Assist, blind-spot detection, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, auto parking function and a driver fatigue monitor.
What's the tech like?
The Kodiaq RS continues with the awesome 9.2-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Skoda's digital cockpit, and 10-speaker Canton audio. There’s also two USB points and three 12V power sockets.
How much does it cost to own?
At a list price of $65,990, the Kodiaq RS is currently the most expensive Kodiaq you can buy. It does come with every feature one could hope for in a family car aside from maybe a head-up display, but for your extra $17,100 over a Kodiaq 132 TSI Sportline, the actual equipment advantage isn’t much more than the diesel powerhouse under the bonnet.
But is there another seven-seater that offers this much excitement and practicality? Its near sibling, the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace is $13,500 cheaper and half a second quicker to 100km/h in 162 TSI guise, but lacks the Kodiaq RS’s cool factor, even with the optional R-Line pack.
It also can’t match the RS’s 6.2L/100km official combined fuel consumption figure (8.1 in the Tiguan, for the record). We managed 8.3L/100km on the RS’s trip computer during our mixed-conditions testing, which is just ahead of what we’ve recorded for most mainstream petrol mid-size SUVs during an average week.
So it uses less than a petrol five seater, but offers that clear performance edge. This also suggests a real-world 722km between fills of the 60 litre tank, which is pretty handy.
The Kodiaq RS is covered by Skoda's five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with servicing required every 12 months or 15,000kms. You can also pre-purchase your servicing, with three years setting you back $900, or five years costing $1700.
Skoda has succeeded in creating a family hack that’s actually an object of desire with the Kodiaq RS. It’s far from cheap, but ticks every box for most seven-seat-seeking families, and I can’t think of anything near it price-wise with as much sporting design appeal and performance.
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