What Car? says...
As claims to fame go, the Skoda Kodiaq vRS has a rather unique one: it set a fastest lap record at Germany’s fearsome Nürburgring circuit. Okay, so lots of cars have gone round the same track faster than its 9min 29.8sec – but none of them have been seven-seat SUVs.
And that’s the premise of the Kodiaq vRS. This is a rather brisk version of the big and practical Skoda Kodiaq. The seven seats make it more versatile than other sports SUVs and you get four-wheel drive as standard, for better traction in slippery conditions.
Under the bonnet is a petrol engine that’s a touch more powerful and a little bit lighter than the diesel unit that came with early models (including the lap-record car).
You still get adaptive suspension and variable-ratio steering thrown in for free to help tighten up the handling. Plus, there are big 20in wheels and more aggressive styling on the outside to let everyone know you’ve chosen the vRS, rather than the regular Kodiaq.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Once you’ve got past the hesitancy of its seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox to get going, the Skoda Kodiaq vRS accelerates away with reasonable gusto.
Its 242bhp 2.0-litre engine never makes this sports SUV feel quite as swift as its 6.6 seconds 0-62mph time would have you believe though. While there’s enough performance in reserve for overtaking, you can sense the engine is working hard to haul this car’s bulk.
The Kodiaq vRS is outshone by the smaller (five-seat-only) Cupra Ateca, which manages the sprint in around five seconds.
Four-cylinder petrols are not known for being particularly tuneful, so Skoda adds something it calls Dynamic Sound Boost, which augments the car's natural exhaust note with an artificial soundtrack through a speaker underneath the car.
The result is a low grumble that’s more reminiscent of a five-cylinder engine, and which gets progressively more aggressive as you switch between its Normal and Sport modes. It’s one of the more convincing fake noises we’ve heard, but the loudness can get irritating on the motorway (fortunately you can switch it off using a mode called Individual).
Meanwhile, the 20in tyres don’t generate much more road noise inside than in a regular Kodiaq, and wind noise is still limited to around the door mirrors.
The Kodiaq vRS might be a big old lump, but in addition to those adaptive dampers and big wheels with wide tyres, you get Progressive Steering. It gets faster the more you turn the wheel, so the vRS feels stable in a straight line yet requires less twirling of the wheel for tight bends.
Although precious little information filters up from the front tyres to the steering wheel, we doubt many will complain because the steering is direct and precise. Grip levels are predictably high, but the Kodiaq vRS is also surprisingly well balanced. You can really feel power being directed rearwards to stop the car pushing wide at the front.
This is nearly two tonnes of SUV, not some lightweight special, so it’ll never feel as exciting or as agile as the Ford Puma ST. Instead it lets you confidently carry plenty of speed on a twisting stretch of road and have a degree of enjoyment in the process.
That doesn’t come at the expense of the ride. Although the vRS is firmer than the smaller-wheeled regular Kodiaq, there’s still plenty of compliance in Comfort and Normal modes to deal with all but the craggiest of road surfaces without you getting agitated.
Strengths Handling upgrades don’t upset ride comfort
Weaknesses Competent rather than exciting
The interior layout, fit and finish
You sit high up in the Skoda Kodiaq vRS, and the driving position is hard to fault, with plenty of powered adjustments for the seat, plus lots of movement in the steering wheel.
The sports seats are comfortable, but also offer lumbar adjustment and plenty of side support to keep you braced during enthusiastic cornering. Skoda gives you memory settings, so once you've found the right position for you, it's easy to go back to it after someone else has been at the wheel.
The Kodiaq vRS’s dashboard is logically laid out and a doddle to use. There are plenty of big, clearly labelled buttons and the configurable 10.3in digital instrument display is crystal-clear and legible at a glance.
The car's boxy shape means visibility is good all round, and you get front and rear parking sensors to assist during tight manoeuvres. You also get powerful LED headlights to help see in the darkest of conditions. A 360-degree camera system isn’t available, but you can have a self-parking system as an option.
Infotainment is taken care of by a crisp, clear 9.2 in touchscreen, with sat-nav as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. The menus are easy to navigate, although the rotary dial-controlled system you get on the Mazda CX-5 and others is easier to use on the move.
The Kodiaq vRS interior is a smorgasbord of soft-touch materials and nicely damped buttons and switches. Harder plastics are, for the most part, kept well out of sight.
The perforated leather steering wheel, leather and Alcantara suede seats, and carbon-fibre effect trims add to the plushness. Overall, it feels much better than the rather low-rent interior of the Ford Puma ST and a step up from the Cupra Ateca.
Strengths Impressive interior quality; clear digital driver’s display
Weaknesses Rear visibility isn’t great with third row in use
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Despite the Kodiaq’s sporty makeover, the vRS is just as practical as the regular car, so it copes with people and luggage far better than its nearest sports SUV price rival, the Cupra Ateca.
That means there’s still tonnes of space up front, plenty of oddment storage in big door bins, a cubby under the central armrest and another in front of the gear selector.
The second row of seats can be reclined for comfort or slid back to maximise leg room. If you slide them right back, there’s a good amount of room for taller adults, but not as much knee room as in larger seven-seat SUVs – such as the Kia Sorento and the Peugeot 5008 – which give three adults in the back more width.
The vRS’s third row of seats is a lot less accommodating than the 5008 and Sorento's.
Children will be perfectly comfortable back there, but taller teenagers and adults will have to duck to keep their heads from brushing the roof lining. Leg room is reasonable as long as the middle seats aren't slid back too far, and it's roomier than in the Seat Tarraco and VW Tiguan Allspace back seats.
The third-row seats stow away into the boot floor when they’re not required and are reasonably simple to put up. Only the middle seats have Isofix mounts, although you can pay Skoda to add them to the front passenger seat.
With the third row stowed, the vRS has an enormous boot. We’ve squeezed nine carry-on suitcases into the regular Kodiaq and the vRS is no less spacious. The 5008 and Sorento will take one or two more, but they’re hardly direct rivals. The Cupra Ateca only manages to fit six cases, while an Audi SQ2 or VW T-Roc R will hold five.
With all seven seats occupied, the vRS's much smaller boot space has room for a quick trip to the supermarket or a couple of carry-on cases. The tonneau cover pulls across the whole boot area when the car is in five-seat mode and slots away under the boot floor when all seven seats are required.
The second-row seats split in a 40/20/40 configuration to allow you to fold them down completely or mix long loads with passengers.
Strengths Big boot; loads of front space; lots of front storage; not many sports SUVS offer seven seat versatility at this price point
Weaknesses Third-row seats best suited to children
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
This is where the Skoda Kodiaq vRS looks a little shaky, with a list price that's well into the realm of premium-badged SUVs.
It's also several thousand pounds more than the sporty-looking Sport Line version of the Kodiaq. The Sportline has four-wheel drive, an automatic gearbox and a wider range of engines, including a de-tuned 187bhp version of the same 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 197bhp diesel.
The vRS's high CO2 emissions (198g/km) put it in the top company car tax bracket. Its official fuel economy is in the low-thirties (in real-world use, it can be more like mid-twenties), which is close to the most powerful Cupra Ateca.
On the plus side, the Kodiaq vRS does come with loads of features as standard, including power-folding door mirrors, interior ambient lighting, keyless entry and heated front seats.
Skoda claimed a middling 16th place out of the 32 manufacturers included in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. The Kodiaq itself did very well, coming third out of eight models in the seven-seater category.
Every Kodiaq is covered by a three-year/60,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty.
The Kodiaq was awarded five stars out of five for safety after testing by Euro NCAP in 2017. It scored well for adult protection and solidly for child protection, although it’s worth noting this was performed under less stringent testing regulations than the Nissan X-Trail and the Kia Sorento (both cars also achieved five star ratings).
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is standard and identifies pedestrians as well as cars. Lane-keeping assistance and blind-spot monitors are optional, along with rear side airbags, a driver fatigue sensor and a Travel Assist pack that can recognise road signs and display them on the dashboard.
Security expert Thatcham Research gave the Kodiaq a four-star rating for resisting being broken into and the full five stars for resisting being stolen.
Strengths Lots of standard equipment
Weaknesses High list price
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|RRP price range
|£49,335 - £49,335
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|33.1 - 33.1
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£2,659 / £3,531
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£5,319 / £7,062