New Skoda Kodiaq vRS 2019 review

The new Skoda Kodiaq vRS SUV offers 237bhp and space for seven people, but it's not cheap at just shy of £43kVerdict3After years of speculation Skoda has finally built a hot SUV and stuck its fabled vRS badge on it. The Kodiaq vRS certainly looks the part inside and out and offers fast performance, wrapped up in practical SUV body with a well-made interior, just like any other Kodiaq. Trouble is, it doesn’t feel quick or special enough to justify its price and it isn’t enough of a step on from the ‘warm’ Kodiaq Sportline model.

The Volkswagen Group has gone GTI crazy in recent years, with numerous special-edition VW Golfs and new Polo and up! GTI models. It has even spun off SEAT’s performance division Cupra into a standalone brand in its own right. Skoda has experienced the complete opposite, though, with bosses being focused on building practical family cars designed to cash in on the SUV boom. 

Yes, there has been the stalwart Octavia vRS but ever since the Fabia vRS hot hatch was killed off in 2013, Skoda’s performance brand has looked a little sorry for itself. Skoda is adamant the vRS badge hasn’t been forgotten about, though. As a clear statement of intent the Czech brand revealed the Vision RS Concept at this year’s Paris Motor Show, and alongside it was the Kodiaq vRS. Three months on, we’ve had our first chance to try the second of those cars.

• Best fast family cars on sale

It would seem as though Skoda has combined the vRS elements fans know and love into a practical SUV shape – and that’s pretty much what it is. There’s a 237bhp 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine and plenty of go-faster bits such as more aggressive bumpers, 20-inch alloys, twin exhausts and black trim for the grille, window surrounds and mirror caps; there’s even a new vRS badge too. It looks really rather excellent and typically vRS – sporting, without being over the top. But strangely, there’s no drop in ride height over the Kodiaq ‘warm’ Sportline model.

Inside there’s lots of red detailing with stitching for the leather and Alcantara sports seats (which are also electrically adjustable with memory function), steering wheel and armrests, and diamond-patterned black stitching on the door cards. There’s carbon fibre-effect trim and a 9.2-inch touchscreen, and ambient lighting with 10 colours and Skoda’s Virtual Cockpit are all thrown in too. The vRS is also  a seven-seater only – there’s no five seat option like in entry-level Kodiaqs. 

Press the starter button and initial impressions are the vRS drives in a similar manner to the Kodiaq Sportline. Both cars have 20-inch wheels with low-profile tyres and on poor surfaces there’s a slight harshness to the way the two cars tackle bumps and ridges. The vRS comes with Dynamic Chassis Control with adaptive dampers; dial it up into Sport mode and there’s more jiggle but with it comes better body control. In fact, attack a corner and the vRS does a very impressive job at containing its sheer size. 

The steering is accurate but devoid of feel and while the vRS gets a progressive set-up, which adds extra weight the faster you go, it feels a little artificial. Speaking of artificial, the vRS also gets Dynamic Sound Boost; it’s an actuator fitted to the exhaust that adds fake noise into the cabin and only really comes into effect in Sport mode. It’s designed to make the diesel engine sound a little fruitier but it fails as it creates a weird, drony tune that simply isn’t needed. It sounds good on the outside, though. 

The twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel is pretty punchy, with its fullest effect coming when overtaking slower traffic, as the engine’s 500Nm of torque gives it quickfire responses. It’s matched up to the usual VW Group seven-speed DSG box and while it’s a bit slow in a Kodiaq Sportline 2.0-litre 190, here’s it’s noticeably sharper. That said, it’s quick but never genuinely rapid, and the engine doesn’t seem overtly sporting for a hot SUV.

The vRS should be the perfect car with a practical interior, an SUV body and subtle sporty styling. In many respects it is but the car’s big problem is how much Skoda is charging for it. It’s just shy of £43,000, which puts the vRS right up against cars like the Land Rover Discovery Sport and BMW X3; they’re not as well equipped but have a different, more premium appeal that’s hard to ignore at this price point. 

However, the biggest issue is from within the family as the new Cupra Ateca – admittedly only petrol-powered and a five-seater – is £7,000 cheaper and the Kodiaq 2.0 190 Sportline offers much of the vRS’s appeal too, with its 20-inch wheels and discreet sporty styling. It even has the same sports seats and progressive steering system. While the 190 is 50bhp less powerful than the vRS, for most of the time the two cars feel pretty similar. Yes, the lesser model doesn’t get the vRS’s digital instrument panel but it also does without the naff sound actuator. And it’s £5,000 cheaper to boot.

Still, there are only 300 vRSs coming to the UK in 2019, so perhaps the Kodiaq vRS will have an exclusive kind of appeal.

Key specs

  • Model: Skoda Kodiaq vRS
  • Price: £42,870
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, twin-turbo diesel
  • Power/torque: 237bhp/500Nm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 136mph
  • Economy/CO2: 44.1mpg/167g/km
  • On sale: January

Rate your car in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *