When it comes to seven seats and all-wheel drive medium SUVs these two leap to mind the Skoda Kodiaq and Toyota Kluger go head to head.

2017 Skoda Kodiaq

Pricing From $42,990+ORC Warranty five years, unlimited kilometres (three-years standard; extra two-years factory extended) Service Intervals 12 months//15,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 132kW at 3900-6000rpm Torque 320Nm at 1400-3940rpm Transmission seven-speed DSG Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4697mm (L); 1882mm (W); 1655mm (H); 2791mm (WB) Ground Clearance 187mm Angles 19.1-degrees (A); 15.6-degrees (D); 19.7-degrees (R) Turning Circle 11.6m Weight 1677kg Spare space saver Fuel Tank 60 litres Thirst 7.6L/100km (claimed combined) – 95RON

2017 Toyota Kluger AWD

Pricing $47,550+ORC Warranty three–years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.5-litre V6 Power 217kW at 6600rpm Torque 350Nm at 4700rpm Transmission eight speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive (on-demand) Dimensions 4890mm (L); 1925mm (W); 1730mm (H) Weight 2100kg Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 72 litres Thirst 9.5L/100km (combined)

What are we testing?

Named after a bear, the Skoda Kodiaq arrives Down Under with just one engine available, at the moment, which is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with a gruntier turbo-diesel on its way to the range before the end of the year. Kodiaq lists here from $42,990+ORC and is standard with all-wheel drive and seven seats, it’s known as the 132TSI.

The Kodiaq is built off the Volkswagen Group’s Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform which, being modular, can be stretched and shrunk down to suit a variety of vehicle types. The vehicle measure 4697mm long, 1882mm wide and 1676mm tall (including roof rails); its wheelbase measures 2791mm. The Kodiaq is Skoda’s first step into the world of medium SUVs.

The refreshed 2018 Toyota Kluger arrived in Australia in February this year with very little fuss and no national media launch. But that wasn’t because Toyota didn’t think it had anything to crow about… The new-look Kluger boasts a sharper exterior look (new look front and rear and new alloy wheel designs), tweaks to the interior, a tweaked engine that offers more power, enhanced features and slight price rises across the board. The Kluger is priced from $47,550+ORC in entry-level all-wheel drive trim (GX)

What’s the interior like?

The refreshed Kluger boasts the same focus on roominess as the old car but has updated the interior, particularly the dashboard. Indeed, Toyota has tried to move its hard, scratchy plastics as far away from regular touch points as possible and, particularly in top-spec Grande trim tried to lavish it with soft-touch materials.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t tried hard enough and while the cabin looks and feels much nicer than the old Kluger, much of the regular touch points, like volume control knobs and climate control dials, feel very cheap. Key surfaces in the car also scratch easily and show grubby marks.

2018 Toyota Kluger Grande Review

The infotainment unit offers decent features but it all feels a little clunky and the touch-sensitive shortcut buttons aren’t the easiest to use. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity and so you have to make do with Toyota’s native offering which, when streaming music can require quite a few button presses to get to where you want to be. To be honest, the system feels a generation behind key competitors.

Like all Skoda interiors, the Kodiaq’s is simple, practical and with just enough elegance to the material choice and design that it doesn’t come across as pretentious. Volkswagen is often held up as the benchmark when it comes to dashboard design and interior fit and finish at this price point, but I think Skoda is the shining light of the brand and the Kodiaq’s dash looks clean and simple with all the buttons you might ever want to use easy to see and reach without making it feel cluttered.

2018 Skoda Kodiaq Review by Practical Motoring

All the materials used in the cabin feel premium, sure, there’s some hard, scratchy stuff where you want hard scratchy plastic to be, like on the door handles and around the door bins, but in places where you want softer stuff, like where your knee rests up against the centre console, you get beautiful soft plastic.

The infotainment system (8.0-inch screen) offers a lot of functionality in the unit with some capacitive shortcut buttons on either side of the screen which older drivers, like me, will likely use… the ‘home’ page features a side-swiping arrangement which reveals more functionality when connected to a smartphone. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and I found this to be one of the quickest responding systems I’ve tested once your phone is connected (mine’s an iPhone). The glass screen looks beautiful too, and while it’s virtually glare free it will show finger prints on some angles… just like your iPad.

What’s the passenger space like?

While the Kodiaq looks big it’s only 38mm bigger than a Skoda Octavia wagon, yet, somehow Skoda’s designers and engineers have somehow managed to fit in three rows of seating and room for a small boot when all rows are in use… and, while managing to keep the cabin from feeling cramped.

The third-row seats will work well as occasional seats for adults or regular use for not-so-lanky teens. The second-row seats slide forwards and backwards although a 40:20:40 split instead of a 60:40 split would make the space much more flexible. There’s good head and legroom if you don’t need to worry about anyone sitting in the third row and enough room if you do. You’ll fit three adults across the second row. The front seats are comfortable with good vision and access to all the major controls.

Climb up behind the wheel of the Kluger and it feels comfortable and big. The driver and front passenger seats are squidgy but they lack support when the road turns twisty but it’s suitably comfy on longer drives.

2018 Toyota Kluger Grande Review

Over in the back there’s plenty of room and the flat floor makes it easy for kids to clamber from one side to the other, which is handy when trying to get them into and out of the car onto the footpath when parked on a busy road. 

The second-row seats fold down easily for access into the back row (they are 60:40 split only). Although sitting in the back is for smaller teens rather than adults. While the back seats tumble forwards easily, you’ve still got to clamber through a small-ish gap, although it’s easier than climbing into the back of a Ford Everest.

What’s the boot space like?

Fold down the third row (270 litres with it in place) of the Skoda Kodiaq and space grows to 720 litres which is bigger than all this car’s price-point rivals, and then drop the second row and you get an impressive 2065 litres of space

The Kluger offers 195 litres with the third-row seats in use which grows to 529 litres when the third row is folded down. So, the Kodiaq easily wins the battle of the boot.

What are they like to drive?

The Skoda Kodiaq gets a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making 132kW and 320Nm of torque. The 320Nm of torque is available from a diesel-esque 1400rpm through to 3940rpm which is an impressive spread of grunt. This 2.0L petrol is an engine that is used in a range of other Skoda and Volkswagen products and it’s a solid performer in all applications. It’s mated to a seven-speed DSG.

The ride on or off-road is excellent (with only sharper-edged hits catching the thing unawares and jolting through the front end only) which came as a surprise given this thing rides on big 19-inch wheels. Beyond that, at high and low speed the ride is composed and comfortable with body roll well controlled even when pressing on.

2018 Skoda Kodiaq Review by Practical Motoring

In the end, the Kodiaq is a responsive, comfortable and safe vehicle to drive on both road and dirt with the all-wheel drive system working well to ensure grip in all conditions. And you can’t ask for more than that from a family-oriented SUV.

Under the bonnet of the Kluger is the same 3.5-litre V6 as before, only now it has direct injection which has liberated an additional 17kW and 13Nm of torque for a total output of 218kW and 350Nm. This tweaked engine is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the old car’s six-speed unit.

2018 Toyota Kluger Grande Review

Across highways and around town the Kluger feels fine, but as the road surface breaks down or the road gets twistier then the soft-riding Kluger’s ride begins to bite. At around town speeds and in a straight line, the soft ride makes short work of pot holes, smothering them. But a lack of damping becomes evident across speed humps, where the ride becomes boat like. And, tipping the Kluger into corners sees it roll and become wallowy.

If you do want to take the Kluger ‘off-road’ then be warned its traction and stability control systems don’t work very well when one or another wheel becomes light, say, when you’re driving across a ditch on an angle. Because stability and traction control (two separate things) are on at the same time, meaning you can’t turn off stability control and leave traction control on, they end up fighting against each other. The Kodiaq is the better choice for dirt road excursions.

What about safety features?

Toyota Kluger continues the old car’s five-star ANCAP rating, the test was based on the 2014 model and applies to all vehicles built and sold from November 2016. It scored 35.57 out of 37. Standard Kluger safety features include seven airbags, reversing camera, reverse-parking sensors, anti-skid brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, stability and traction control, and hill-start assist control. Additional premium Grande features include active cruise control, blind spot monitor, and auto high beam.

The Kodiaq gets a five star ANCAP rating and depending on the specification a heap of active safety features, like automatic parking assist, surround camera view and more. As standard, it gets front assist with city emergency braking (AEB, in other words), stability and traction controls, hill hold assist, all-wheel drive, reversing camera, nine airbags, engine immobiliser, height-adjustable seatbelts, ISOFIX points for the second-row seats (outboard seats only), alarm, child safety door locks that can be activated from the driver’s seat, rain sensor and door-edge protectors which deploy automatically when you open the doors, and an umbrellas stashed inside each of the front doors.

So, which one wins and why?

For some the default choice will be the Toyota Kluger simply because of Toyota’s reputation for reliability and its service coverage in this country. But that really would be the only reason you’d choose the Kluger over the Kodiaq. In every other area, the Kodiaq roundly whips the Kluger. See, the Kodiaq is better to drive, more comfortable and there’s more room and a bigger boot whatever the seating configuration, it offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is a newer car, despite the Kluger being refreshed late last year, and the Kluger is more expensive, indeed the top-spec Grande variant which competes fairly with the Kodaiq costs around $20k more than the Kodiaq.


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  1. Respectfully, do not agree with many of the objective points in this write-up. Objectively speaking, the Kluger is much larger than the Kodiaq in 3rd row seating – a key point for buyers of 7 seater SUVs. It is also a lot more powerful than the Kodiaq, which is a bit underpowered in this engine configuration.

    Am not sure a sportier drive is preferred over a more comfortable ride for buyers of a 7 seater SUV. For that matter, not sure how a much more underpowered car can be deemed a better drive – just because of firmer suspension? Also, for most buyers of such vehicles, the 3rd row seating space is more important than boot space.

    Need to keep the preferences of the buyer audience in mind.

    The Kodiaq is an excellent car and does not need managed reviews to sell. Autoexpress is already doing enough of this in the UK, would expect a more balanced review from Practical Motoring.

    1. Thanks Danny Lim, I appreciate your feedback. Believe me, this isn’t a managed review. And, yes, we’ll get around to Kodiaq Vs X-Trail, etc and Kluger Vs CX-9. But, for the money, there’ll be those who will consider both and the Kodiaq has too many advantages over the Kluger. My preference for the Kodiaq’s ride wasn’t that it was stiffer rather that it felt more composed as the surface broke down… and it was more capable across rough dirt roads, too. Stick with us, we’ll get to those other comparisons soon. – Isaac

      1. Thanks Isaac.

        I think a lot of the Kodiaq – great value, fantastic interior and very good package overall. But as a potential buyer reading the review, would expect clear advantages of the Kluger such as the power discrepancy and the space advantages to be highlighted, just as Kodiaq’s advantages such as dirt road composure, boot space, and interior quality were highlighted by yourself.

        In any case, I appreciate the reply, and look forward to the other comparisons.

  2. I’ve never understood the appeal of the Kluger, apart from it being a Toyota. It is old hat, overpriced and seems more geared to the US market than Australia. It proves the point that most motorists are not much interested in cars except as a means of transport.

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