Skoda Kodiaq review: Still the best in the family car business – but only if you need a car this big

Skoda Kodiaq exterior
The Kodiaq offers families a compelling combination of comfort, build quality, affordability and space

The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has multiple translations in Czech and I’m willing to bet that each one of them was uttered during the development of Skoda’s second-generation Kodiaq. The first car – on sale since 2017 – was and remains a high-quality SUV, with no significant shortcomings that needed to be fixed for the second iteration, which is why it’s been largely left alone for the past seven years.

But here it is – the 2024 Skoda Kodiaq Mk2. It’s analogous to the original, and still offers sensible families a compelling combination of comfort, build quality, affordability and space. It can be ordered with either five or seven seats, and is available with four-wheel drive. A range of newish powertrains is available, including petrol and diesel and the hybrid setup from the new Superb. It rides pretty well, offering comfort and handling on par with this size and shape of vehicle, and both the 1.5-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel enable fast, efficient progress. And, like the previous Kodiaq, it’s fairly cheap.

Relatively speaking, of course. The least expensive Kodiaq costs about £36,500, which is considered reasonable these days. Compare that figure with the £21,565 asking price for the base-specification model back in 2017 and it doesn’t seem like such a bargain, but it comfortably undercuts comparable rivals like the “soccer mom” Kia Sorento or more luxurious Volvo XC90. And yes, you could get a seven-seat Dacia Jogger for almost £20,000 less, but it’s a palpably cheaper car with far fewer family-friendly features than the Skoda.

Skoda Kodiaq on test
Pricing for the new Kodiaq starts at about £36,500

And in lieu of any fundamental changes to the Kodiaq, Skoda has gone all-in on “features”. There are too many small-but-compelling improvements to list here, from the crowd-pleasing cooled wireless charging pads in the centre console to the aerodynamically-optimised roof rack system that reduces CO2 emissions by 0.12g per kilometre.

There is now space for four coffee cups in the front, a significantly improved sound system in the middle row and (slightly) improved headroom in the two optional back seats. Under the bonnet are cheery little funnels that help you get more of your washer fluid into its intended reservoir, while the driver gets a head-up display for the first time.

It’s easy to dismiss some of Skoda’s aggressively helpful user experience flourishes (which are “simply clever”, per marketing bumf) as gimmicks, but you really do get used to them. The head-up display is particularly helpful, projecting the vehicle’s speed unobtrusively onto the windscreen without requiring the driver to divert his attention from the road. Those two wireless phone chargers are cooled, allowing consistent 11kW charging without overheating, even if your devices are straining under the load of navigation and music streaming. And the relocation of the gear lever to the steering column frees a couple of litres of interior space in the most useful possible part of the car.

Following significant anti-touchscreen backlash, “proper” physical buttons are prominent inside. The “smart dials” are essentially lit-up knobs but the middle one can be customised to control up to five functions of the car, depending on your use case. If you want it to zoom the satnav map in and out, you can do this; if you’d rather it controlled the fan speed or the volume of the radio you can set it up accordingly. You can even configure it to control more than one part of the car. Even if you think it sounds stupid and unnecessary, you might find yourself surprised at how useful it becomes.

Skoda Kodiaq interior
One of the new 'smart dials' can be customised to control up to five functions

It’s not faultless, of course, sharing many dynamic shortcomings with other cars of similar size and weight. I’m not convinced even the sporty driving mode will enhance anyone’s enjoyment of this very large, very practical car. Skoda’s lane keeping and speed limit assistance tools are gratifyingly easy to switch off, which is very helpful as they are both overbearing and frequently wrong. And little pop-out door protectors are mechanically very impressive but can’t disguise the sheer size of this car in relation to conventional parking spaces.

There is still a huge touchscreen taking up most of the dashboard, though, and to be perfectly honest I don’t like it. Modern cars like the Kodiaq trade so heavily on being feature rich that it’s impossible for every function to have physical buttons, lest the cockpit resemble that of an Airbus A380. Some interaction with the TV-like screen is inevitable and, like pretty much every modern car, it’s a distractingly weak link in an otherwise very agreeable user experience, but there are few solutions to this without either eschewing 21st-century cars altogether, or choosing those with the most minimalist functionality – such as the Dacia Jogger in Essential trim.

Half the point of a product like the Kodiaq is the proliferation of mod cons. Everybody likes to pretend they want a basic car, until they realise that air-conditioned seats make long journeys on hot days more comfortable, or that the massage function (which has also been significantly upgraded in the Kodiaq Mk2) helps you arrive at your destination with fewer aches. It’s nice to think about back-to-basics motoring but the reassuring Volkswagen Group build quality of the Kodiaq is tangible from the moment you clamber in. And while other roomy vehicles are available, few can challenge the Kodiaq’s class-leading 910 litres of boot space.

Skoda Kodiaq 2024
The Kodiaq shares the reassuring build quality of the rest of the Volkswagen Group

It’s worth reiterating, though, that the new Kodiaq is a big car. It’s longer than the older model and despite Skoda’s designers having done a remarkable job at making the interior feel larger than the exterior, it’s still a full-sized SUV. Buyers who really need seven seats, or the diesel 4x4 version’s 2.5-tonne towing capacity, would struggle to find a better-value all-round family people-mover. However the Kodiaq’s best features are also available in the same manufacturer’s excellent Superb Combi estate, which is still astonishingly roomy, while offering a more comfortable and enjoyable driving experience, at a lower price and in a better-proportioned package.

One of the most important features of both the Kodiaq and the Superb is the optional plug-in hybrid system. If you have a driveway and conduct most of your business within an hour or so of home, the plug-in hybrid Kodiaq (arriving later in the year) will give you up to 100km, or 60-odd miles, of battery-electric range before the petrol engine kicks in. Provided you remember to charge it, this arrangement provides all the economic and environmental benefits of a short-range EV without the commitment of going fully electric. While slightly more range would have been nice (and getting a full 62 miles out of it is probably optimistic) this best-of-both-worlds compromise is an attractive package.

The new Skoda Kodiaq will, like the old Skoda Kodiaq, probably remain a class leader for the duration of its production cycle. For buyers who need a huge, practical and affordable SUV with petrol or diesel engines, this will be difficult to beat.