Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi 197 KX-2
List price £32,000
Target Price £29,675
Kia’s chunky seven-seater is a practical choice, but is it worth its higher price?
Mazda CX-5 2.2d 150 AWD SE-L Nav
List price £26,995
Target Price £25,722
It’s the only five-seater here, but the ageing CX-5 is also the cheapest by some margin
Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 150 4x4 SE L
List price £30,595
Target Price £30,595
Newcomer promises lots of space, a classy interior and tidy handling for a reasonable price
Let's face it: MPVs aren’t exactly sexy, are they? Practical, yes, and some are even pretty good to drive, but none will tug at your heartstrings quite like a burly SUV. The trouble is, while SUVs are very practical, they’re usually also very pricey, especially if you want a seven-seater.
The Kia Sorento has long been one of few such options for less than £40,000, but now there’s another: the Skoda Kodiaq. The Kodiaq costs from just £21,495, but you can largely ignore that price, because if you want seven seats, a punchy diesel engine and lots of kit, as most buyers will, you’ll be paying £30,000 or more.
That’s still good value next to a Land Rover Discovery Sport, though. Or if seven seats aren’t essential and you’d rather spend a bit less, you could consider the Mazda CX-5. As with our other challengers, we’re testing it with four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox
What are they like to drive?
Although comfort is the priority here, unruly handling isn’t an acceptable compromise in a modern SUV. Broadly speaking, the Kodiaq balances both things fairly well, although there are a couple of caveats. Firstly, our test car was equipped with Skoda’s (£980) optional DCC adaptive dampers, which allow you to stiffen and soften the suspension by pressing a button. Secondly, even with this fancy feature, the Kodiaq only delivers a supple ride if you choose the softest Comfort setting.
There are no clever optional suspension systems on the other two cars. The Sorento wafts along in a relaxed fashion at high speeds, and its spongy suspension copes well with speed bumps in town. Things are a little unsettled over patchy surfaces, but the Sorento still has the comfiest ride of our trio.
The CX-5 is easily the firmest; you feel bumps passing beneath the car that you wouldn’t even be aware of in the other two. However, the flipside of this is that its body stays remarkably level through corners. The CX-5 grips well, too, although its steering never really provides a great sense of connection with the front wheels.
Tackle the same corners in the Kodiaq and you’ll notice a fraction more body lean. However, it still stays remarkably upright for such a tall car. Its steering is always precise, but is too lightly weighted unless you switch it to its Sport setting, which can be done without stiffening up the suspension. Meanwhile, the Sorento’s steering is vague and unnaturally weighted, and the big Kia sways about the most through twists and turns.
The Sorento has by far the most potent engine, however. Put your foot down and it pulls much harder than its rivals at low revs, while acceleration is made even quicker by short gearing. Ultimately, it’ll show the other two a clean pair of heels when you’re in a hurry. The lighter CX-5 isn’t too far behind, though, and its engine is more flexible, continuing to deliver a strong surge of acceleration well above 4000rpm – long after most diesel engines have run out of puff.
In this company, the Kodiaq is a somewhat leisurely performer. Yes, you need to change gear more often than in the others, but the shift is light and precise; the Sorento’s is sloppy, while the CX-5’s is a bit stiff. The Kodiaq’s engine never frustrates, either, with enough punch to cart around seven people without you needing to use the lower reaches of the accelerator.
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