Skoda's big family hauler isn't the most popular option in the booming three-row SUV segment, but a drive in the Kodiaq RS is all it takes to have you wondering why that is.

Despite big family SUVs being among the most popular cars on our roads, some still go overlooked, and that can certainly be said for the 2022 Skoda Kodiaq. So far this year, three times as many Australians have bought a Hyundai Santa Fe, and over four times as many people bought a Kia Sorento or Mazda CX-9. To quote the inimitable NBA analyst Brian Windhorst – now why is that?

To find out, I grabbed the keys to the top spec RS model which comes priced at an admittedly hefty $74,990 drive-away, although the base Kodiaq Style comes in at just $52,990 and the Sportline at $57,990. However, the Kodiaq RS is perhaps the most noteworthy model in the updated range – while Style and Sportline models feature the same ‘132TSI’ petrol engine they used to, the RS eschews the twin-turbo diesel engine it previously used in favour of the petrol-fuelled turbo four-pot you’d also find in a Golf GTI.

Although the price is steep, the RS does boast every possible feature the Kodiaq can have as standard, while the two lower grades will need you to add more than $8000 worth of options to match it on spec. At that point, you really might as well go for the RS if you’re wanting something more luxurious rather than a simple family hauler.

Certainly, the Kodiaq is quite a smart looking car, with its chiseled lines and long side profile really helping it stand out. Granted, the shape of the grille is a bit BMW and the plastic aero covers on the wheels will be divisive (as they also are on cars like the Tesla Model 3) but to my eye, this is easily one of the smartest-looking cars in the class.

Inside, you’ll find a spacious and expectedly well-trimmed cabin – Czech Skoda my be a relative outlier in Australia, but don’t forget that it’s owned by German giant Volkswagen and can rely on VW’s know-how when it comes to build quality. As you’d therefore expect, this cabin for the most part feels befitting of the price tag, especially with the abundance of quilted leather with red contrast stitching throughout. Granted, some of it isn’t the most plush such as the slabs of it on the door cards, but by and large it’s a nice cabin to spend time in.

For the front row there’s a pair of deeply-bolstered bucket seats – embossed with the RS logo, of course – which are somewhat odd to find in a three-row SUV, but they’re certainly more than welcome. They’re also heated and ventilated as standard as well, along with heated rear seats and three-zone climate control. Of course, there are rear air vents as well, along with retractable sunshades built into the rear doors and retractable bolsters on the sides of the rear headrests that are designed to help you comfortably sleep in the back on a longer trip.

The third row seats, however, aren’t exactly designed to cater to adults, so you’ll only ever want to have children sitting back there although you can allow for a bit more room if you slide the second row seats forward; a Mazda CX-9 is going to be your best bet in this class if you are needing to fit adults back there.

The boot of the Skoda Kodiaq is utterly massive, though – with the third row up it’s still a respectable 270 litres, but it expands to a whopping 630-765 litres with the third row folded down. Fold them all down and you’ll find there’s 2005 litres of space. There are also dual gloveboxes up front to allow for plenty more interior storage.

It’s also worth noting that the Kodiaq offers some other practical touches that will easily draw utterances of “ooh” and “aahh” from passengers. On the doors, there are plastic scuff protectors that automatically deploy in case the doors make contact with a wall or another car – a very thoughtful feature for those who aren’t the most careful. There are also branded umbrellas tucked away in a special slot in the side of the door card – yep, just like in a Rolls-Royce, although these ones admittedly don’t pop out for you.

On the tech front, you get a reskinned version of Volkswagen’s brilliant Digital Cockpit instrument cluster ahead of you in the driver’s seat in all variants, which can be customised to just about any layout you like. There’s also a 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment screen in the centre of the cockpit which has both wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a wireless phone charger to keep your phone topped up.

I must also commend the 12-speaker Canton audio system which is fantastic. Canton may not be a familiar name in the automotive world, but the high-end quality of its usual loudspeaker systems is clearly on show in the Kodiaq – especially as it offers a proper graphic equaliser with mid bass and mid treble adjustment.

While all of those features are ones available across the Skoda Kodiaq range – even if only standard on the RS in the case of many – the thing that truly separates the RS model is its shiny new engine. Previously, this thing trod its own path by using a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, but now passenger cars are moving away from diesel, it’s made the switch to petrol.

As mentioned earlier, the Kodiaq RS features the same version of the ‘EA888’ engine that you’d find in the Volkswagen Golf GTI, along with the Skoda Octavia RS. A 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, it makes 180kW and 370Nm, which makes it good for the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.6 seconds – nearly two seconds faster than lower-tier models. Like all 2022 Kodiaq variants, the RS features a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive as standard.

There’s a very good reason why so many Volkswagen Group products use this engine – it’s an absolute gem. Smooth, refined, and responsive in its delivery of power, it’s strong enough to make the big Kodiaq feel genuinely sporty – although it does feel off the pace of the smaller VW and Skoda models to use the same mill. It does sound good, though, thanks to its valved exhaust system that emits a rather fruity tone. The seven-speed DSG ‘box behind it is also as good as you’d expect, flicking between ratios absolutely seamlessly and with rapid-fire pace.

But it must be said that the Kodiaq feels like as big a car as it is from behind the wheel. While some rivals manage to shrink around you, in the Kodiaq you’re constantly aware of the length of the car remaining behind the seat, and likewise of its 1790kg mass – even if the switch to the petrol engine has shaved 58kg off its prior weight.

Fret not, though, as while the Kodiaq feels big, the RS model has a remedy for it – its Adaptive Chassis Control damping system. You can truly feel the system working away when you really toss it into a bend, as the Kodiaq RS remains impressively poised and turns in with real crispness, its perfectly weighted steering allowing you to place the big bus exactly where you want it. Genuinely sporty? Yep, it is in the handling department as well.

The ride quality is excellent as well, even on 20-inch wheels, with it still showing composure on the worst city streets. Given the Kodiaq’s size, it lends itself well to long-distance touring, too, with it making for a quiet and relaxing car for a trip such as the one we took from Adelaide to the Barossa Valley for the photos you see here.

The one beef I did have with it after 580km behind the wheel was the fuel economy. Although Skoda claims the Kodiaq RS will use just 7.5L/100km – somehow less than the 132TSI variants – it had a seemingly unquenchable thirst during my time with it, using 10.3L/100km. To be fair, that’s certainly not too bad compared to the real-world figures you’ll see from other petrol-powered rivals, but it’s far too great an increase over the claim.

What is very impressive, though, is that as of September, Skoda became the first European manufacturer to offer a seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty in Australia. Skoda has also reworked its pre-paid servicing packages relative to that, offering five years/75,000km of pre-paid servicing for $2000 (with that fixed price being equivalent to getting two services for free) or seven years/105,000km of servicing for $2900 (equivalent to three free services).

Plus, if you already bought a Skoda Kodiaq before the introduction of that warranty and have a pre-paid service pack, you can upgrade it to a seven-year warranty and service package for between $900-1850.

When you factor in a warranty that’s longer than that of any rival bar the Kia Sorento, the vast array of practical and family-friendly touches it boasts, and how nice a thing it is to drive, the Kodiaq certainly stands out against tough competition as a really solid option, and one that doesn’t deserve to be overlooked as much as it is.

With that said, this RS model is more expensive than its top-spec Hyundai and Kia equivalents, while the admittedly pricey Mazda CX-9 Azami is more luxurious. However, let’s not forget that the tech the Skoda offers is top-notch, and it’s about the only truly sporty option out there in this segment.

Perhaps then that’s why it’s remained the preserve of discerning buyers – those who want to have their cake and eat it too with a family hauler that’s a treat to drive on a backroad – but then, that’s exactly why it deserves more attention than it gets. If you’re a ‘fun parent’, make sure you shortlist this.

2022 Skoda Kodiaq RS 4x4 List Price: $67,440 | Drive-Away Price: $74,990
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 9/10
    Practicality - 9/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Impressive Adaptive Chassis Control system, turbo four-pot engine is a peach, has plenty of thoughtful design features for family buyers, massive boot, impressive seven-year warranty
Cons: Thirsty in the real world, some interior materials aren’t the highest-quality, tight third-row seating, does feel like a big car to drive

In a nutshell: With its vast array of practical, family-friendly touches and one of the few genuinely sporty driving experiences on offer in this segment, one really has to wonder why the Kodiaq doesn’t get the same love as its chief rivals. This is an option in the three-row SUV segment that really shouldn’t go so overlooked.

Photography by Tom Stuart.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Skoda Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel costs were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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