Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 180 HSE
List price £39,800
Target Price £37,621
Got £40k to spend on an SUV? The Discovery Sport has long been our top choice. Is that still the case?
Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 190 Edition 4x4 7st DSG
List price £34,895
Target Price £34,895
Newcomer stacks up on price and practicality, but can it really beat a premium-badged rival?
Toyota Land Cruiser 2.8 D-4D Active 7st auto
List price £40,330
Target Price £37,792
Yes, it’s long in the tooth, but for similar money it offers more space and proper go-anywhere ability.
Meet Jeff. He's the one with his head in his hands. Why? Well, of course he’s overjoyed at the news he’ll be a dad again, but what about that new car? Now it’ll need more than five seats which will surely mean an MPV. Pity: he fancied something more interesting.
But perhaps there’s another solution: a seven-seat SUV. They can be just as practical but look considerably less like an airport taxi, a fact illustrated well by the stylish new Skoda Kodiaq. The top-spec version we’ve lined up comes with a punchy diesel engine, four-wheel drive and enough standard luxuries to keep the family suitably pampered.
However, for only slight more cash you could buy a Land Rover Discovery Sport or a Toyota Land Cruiser. Both have serious off-road pedigree and arguably more desirable badges on their noses, but are they actually better cars?
What are they like to drive?
The Toyota has by far the biggest engine, so you’d imagine it would breeze past its rivals. But, no: away from the lights or accelerating up to motorway speeds, it definitely won’t be hurried. It’s the heaviest and least aerodynamic, after all, so getting from 30-70mph takes more than three seconds longer than it does in the Land Rover. However, even that feels slow next to the Skoda which is king for effortless acceleration and overtaking.
All have slightly flawed automatic gearboxes. The Skoda’s and Land Rover’s are hesitant when you move off but smooth thereafter; the Toyota’s dithers less when pulling away but then never seems to know which gear it wants to be in. The Toyota’s engine is also the noisiest and sends the most vibration through to the driver. The Land Rover’s engine isn’t as rowdy but still buzzes the steering wheel at certain revs, while the Skoda’s is smoothest and quietest.
The Skoda also has the most positive control weights, making it the easiest of this trio to drive smoothly, while the Toyota’s grabby brakes make it just the opposite. There’s some wind noise in the Toyota at motorway speeds, too, although it suppresses road noise well. Pronounced wind noise is the Skoda’s Achilles heel, although overall it’s still the quietest cruiser.
Our Skoda had optional (£985) adaptive dampers, and with these set to Normal or Sport mode, the ride was far too bumpy. Select Comfort, though, and the Skoda actually delivers the cushiest ride of all three cars. True, you have to put up with a bit of wallow over dips and crests, but that’s preferable to the Land Rover’s fidgeting at low speeds. Meanwhile, the Toyota’s constant jostling and side-to-side shimmies make it extremely tiring on anything but short journeys.
For the most composed cornering, choose the Skoda. It leans a bit but is relatively nimble. It steers predictably too, provided you choose the sportiest setting for the steering. The Land Rover’s steering is meatier and more consistent, and it’s a confidence-inspiring car to hustle along, if not quite as agile.
With no discernible feedback from the steering, little grip and awful body control, the Toyota doesn’t so much glide around corners as hop through them in a decidedly haphazard fashion. Trying to cover ground quickly is both demanding and alarming. That said, off road it’s even better than the Land Rover. The Skoda gets itself stuck in the mud the soonest.
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