- Available for £30,000
- 2.0-litre diesel twin turbo or petrol turbo, all-wheel drive
- Surprisingly driveable for a big SUV
- Quick enough for most, though not that economical
- Low depreciation reflects high standing among owners
- Sounds dear, but how much would it be with a German badge?
Fancy something that can carry seven people and/or a hell of a lot of cargo while also being fast enough to maintain your credibility as a powerfully-built PH type? Something well-built and pretty much free of pretension? Then step this way sir or madam as we introduce you to the Skoda Kodiaq vRS, or as it’s known in less legally constrained markets outside the UK, i.e. probably all of them, the Skoda Kodiaq RS.
Yes, we know the Kodiaq (or ‘Bear’ as owners club members like to call them) is an SUV, but here’s the good part. Skoda’s vRS treatment – extra power, a sharper chassis and range-topping equipment – has already lifted proletarian motors such as the Octavia and Fabia to a new level of credibility, so why not apply it to the MQB-chassised Kodiaq? So as not to fritter away this hard-won brand loyalty the Kodiaq vRS came with the full package: all-wheel drive, 20-inch alloys, Dynamic Chassis Control, Progressive Steering, seven-speed DSG transmission, adaptive damping, a grunty engine and plenty of other stuff to stand it apart from regular Kodiaqs.
Unfortunately, in the eyes of some anyway, the grunty engine the Kodiaq vRS initially came with took its fuel from the black pump. Although diesel was by that time a well-established part of the vRS offering, its choice wasn’t what every vRS fan had been hoping for. There had already been a two-year wait between the Kodiaq’s release at the 2016 Paris show and the vRS’s appearance in showrooms in early 2018 (non-vRS models having begun production in early 2017). This teasing delay led many to expect, or at least hope for, a 300hp Golf R/Tiguan R spec EA888 petrol motor in the Kodiaq rather than a 2.0 diesel that had previously done duty in the Passat and Tiguan.
In its defence, the 2.0 diesel in the Kodiaq vRS did come with twin sequential turbos which allowed it to dish up a meaty 369lb ft from 1,750rpm. A well-sorted chassis, strong AWD grip, surprisingly good body control and DSG gearbox smoothness led to the 2018 diesel vRS securing an unlikely Nürburgring lap record. Admittedly it was the not-massively-contested one for seven-seat SUVs, but hey, it was still a record at just under 9m 30sec and it showed that the Kodiaq chassis had something going for it. Despite this achievement of sorts, Skoda’s announcement that the diesel vRS was being chopped from the range in 2020 on emissions grounds put expectant smiles on a few faces. The only downside was that petrol fans then had to wait for another year for Kodiaq’s light midlife facelift in April 2021, on the back of which the vRS was relaunched with the VW Golf GTI/Octavia vRS spec 2.0 turbo TSI petrol unit.
By this time Skoda had sold over 600,000 Kodiaqs of all specs around the world, a pretty good effort for a four-year run of a seven-seat SUV. The TSI’s 241hp output wasn’t a big leap forward from the diesel’s, and of course its torque was much lower at 273lb ft, albeit delivered over a wider spread of revs. The failure to insert an R-spec motor triggered new grumbles, but if it had had that sort of power the asking price would have been a difficult number for Skoda and for those buyers who still strongly associated the brand with value. Even with 241hp the 2.0 TSI vRS started at £47k in late 2021. A 300hp one would definitely have stepped over the emotional £50k mark, and a good way over it too when the extras were added. Anyway, the switch to petrol did bring good news in that it trimmed between 60kg and 100kg (depending on your internet source) off the Kodiaq’s weight, helping to knock around half a second off the 0-62mph time.
As of March 2023, the starting RRP of a 2.0 TSI Kodiaq vRS was £48,075, and its comparative newness means you’ll do well to find a used one for under £40k, but used mid-mileage (50k) 2018 diesels are readily available for £30k or less. Are they worth that though? Well, it depends on what your life priorities are. The British constabulary has been using Kodiaq vRSs since 2019, and police fleet buyers are obliged to get the best vehicles they can for the money. They’ve won a fair few awards too. Kodiaqs, that is. Maybe the police too, but that’s one for the forums. If you want the largest performance Skoda, which is about as niche as it having a ‘Ring record, then it has to be the Kodiaq vRS.
SPECIFICATION | SKODA KODIAQ vRS (2018-on)
Engine: 1,968cc inline four 16v bi-turbo diesel/1,984cc turbo petrol
Transmission: 7-speed DSG auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 236@4,000rpm/242@5,250-6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 369@1,750-2,500rpm/273@1,600-4,300rpm
0-62mph (secs): 7.0/6.6
Top speed (mph): 139/144
Weight (kg): 1,853/1,752
MPG (official combined): 35.0/32.5
CO2 (g/km): 209/198
Wheels (in): 20
On sale: 2018-20 (diesel)/2021-now (petrol)
Price new: £42,870 (2018 diesel)/£46,035 (2021 petrol)
Price now: from £30,000/£40,000
Specs given are for 2.0 diesel/2.0 petrol
Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
There was nothing much to be gained from exploring the upper reaches of the diesel’s rev band in any of the intermediate gears. It was happiest being rowed along at low revs in the higher cogs, the relaxed enjoyment provided by that scenario being accompanied by a synthetic but pleasing burble from the Dynamic Sound Boost speaker system (which was also in the petrol variant). The noise inside and outside was oddly five-cylinderish and could be quite loud in Sport mode. If you didn’t like it you could bin it through the ‘Individual’ mode setting, but the default mode on restarting the car for its next journey wasn’t back to Individual. You had to physically go back into that to retrieve your quieter setting, which was slightly annoying.
Fuel consumption wasn’t that great for a diesel at 35mpg combined, with higher thirties numbers available on long runs, but we should always remember the non-aerodynamic nature of the car battling against the vRS-ness which nonetheless gave you a 0-62mph time that nearly began with a six.
The TSI petrol’s official consumption figure was worse still at 32.5mpg and could easily drop into the twenties in mainly urban use. It was a few tenths quicker over the 0-62mph (6.6sec v 7.0sec) than the diesel. Obviously with 96lb ft less and peak power that didn’t arrive until a heady 5,250rpm you had to work it hard to extract maximum performance, but driven in a less frenetic manner with the DSG taking the strain there was little real-world difference between how the two engines went. Cars like the Cupra Ateca and Tiguan R were noticeably faster off the line and dartier on twiddly roads but they were nowhere near as spacious as the Kodiaq. You paid your money and took your choice. Both diesel and petrol VRS Kodiaqs had launch control, which is quite unusual for this kind of vehicle.
The DSG gearbox worked really well on both versions of the Kodiaq vRS, although it was keen to get into top at the earliest opportunity and it did automatically change up at the redline whether you wanted it to or not. The plastic used to make the paddles was not an inspiring substance but the mechanism itself worked sweetly, with fast upshifts and practically imperceptible downshifts. DSG Mechatronic units are known for failing but we haven’t heard of this in relation to the Kodiaq vRS.
Skoda operates fixed-price servicing for cars of up to 2.0 litres that are between three and fifteen years old, so that covers 2020-on Kodiaq vRSs. An annual oil and inspection service (including new synthetic oil and filter, a visual overall inspection and diagnostic check, a road test to check the car’s general operation and a wash and vac) costs £195, with an extra charge of £60 for the recommended Extended Scope on the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th year. This adds the checking and retensioning of drive belts, wheels-off brake check, suspension and heating/air con checks, door lock lubrication and the check and replenishing of final drive and gearbox oil (though not for the DSGs used in these vRS Kodiaqs – that’s a separate item every 4 years/40,000 miles at £230). Brake fluid changes every 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th year are £70, with new pollen filters fitted in the even-numbered years for £40. New spark plugs cost £115 every 4th and 8th year, and new cam belts for the diesels should be fitted to every 5th year irrespective of mileage at £550, or £695 including the water pump. Not bad prices really.
The 2.0 TSI engine had a timing chain, which on newer versions has been classified as a ‘non-serviceable item’ that should last the lifetime of the vehicle. Evidence on earlier TSIs suggested that the chains did indeed last for 150,000 miles or more but that the chain tensioners were not so durable, some failing as early as 80,000 miles even as you were angrily waving your fully-stamped up service book at the service receptionist. Time will tell on these new Kodiaqs but hopefully it won’t be a problem. Keep an eye on the battery as an under-par one could result in the disabling of functions like adaptive cruise and lane assist. Loose engine covers were subject to a recall on 2020-22 Kodiaqs. Otherwise, there’s very little negative information out there on the mechanical front.
With the all-wheel drive and Dynamic Chassis Control doing their stuff, up to 85 per cent of available urge could be put through one wheel if conditions mandated it, but in normal circumstances the vRS felt like a regular FWD car. Overall, handling with the standard adaptive damper suspension was good by general standards and very good for the type of vehicle. There was much less body roll than you’d expect from looking at the beast.
There were six drive modes and even in the most sportlicher one the ride comfort was perfectly acceptable. Skoda had a name for the Kodiaq vRS’s steering: ‘Progressive Steering’. The more you turned the wheel the faster it became. Two turns took you from lock to lock, useful for low-speed fiddling about. In terms of feel Progressive Steering was by no means a step forward but it was quite good at delivering the steering angle that you felt you were asking it to deliver. Elsewhere, the TSI’s metallic black wheels looked a bit odd but you could improve that simply by removing the black plastic ‘aerocaps’.
For the type of vehicle, the Kodiaq was sort of handsome. A rather stylish GT ‘coupe’ version of the Kodiaq exists but for the time being at least it’s been restricted to the Chinese market. Although the Kodiaq looked big it was actually the same length as the Octavia and was therefore shorter than the Superb. The 2021 Kodiaq facelift on which the petrol vRS piggybacked focused on the usual front-end freshen-up with slightly sharper taillight lenses and slittier full matrix LED headlights on all but the most basic spec model, reflecting what Skoda called a crystalline design language. No, neither do we. The facelift vRS had more black trim parts, most notably in its gloss black grille and new badgework.
If space was important the vRS did not disappoint. Even with all seven seats deployed there was more space in the boot (270 litres) than there was in most small cars. Drop the back row and that grew to 765 litres. Drop the second row as well and you basically had a small van with over 2,000 litres. As usual for Skoda there were plenty of nice detail touches like two umbrellas tucked into the doors, an ice scraper mounted inside the fuel filler door, rubbery grip nubbins at the base of the bottle holders to let you open bottles one-handed, and a removable boot light that doubled as a torch. Why, there was even a proper spare wheel. What will they think of next?
Some owners reported a failure of the control unit for the windows and auto-close tailgate. Tailgates could also open on their own or not close fully, possibly to do with a faulty microswitch (which seems to be a Skoda thing), and the driver’s door could fail to lock, sometimes necessitating the fitment of a new lock mech. The door edge protectors didn’t always deploy correctly. Aftermarket towbars could create problems with the car’s electronics that sometimes required a towbar rewire. Braked towing weight capacity for either vRS model was 2,000kg.
Remarkably, some earlier Kodiaqs developed rust rash on the rear bumper. It was remarkable because the bumpers were made of plastic. Legend has it that this really happened and that it was down to iron fallout from the brakes on the trains used to get the cars from the factory to the port. Iron particles would embed in the bumper paint and then go rusty. Well! You learn something new every day.
As noted at the beginning, the first diesel vRS cost nearly £43,000 when it was new in 2018 and that didn’t include desirable extras like the rear-view camera with full LED lights or the £1,175 panoramic roof. It did however include generally excellent quality in the cabin, not just in the materials used – Alcantara-lite on every seat and carbon-fibre-u-like on the passenger-side dash, which had two good-sized glove boxes – but also in the way those materials were put together. It also had a raft of driver/safety aids, including some like Area View, Tow Assist, Manoeuvre Assist and Predictive Passenger Protection which made their Skoda debut in the Kodiaq.
The vRS’s red-stitched ‘microsuede’ sports seats looked great and were nicely supportive. The driver’s seat was electrically adjustable. Humans of just about any size would have no complaints about the head and legroom in the middle row, whose seats could be not only reclined but also slid forward to provide adult-accommodating legroom in the cheap seats at the back. With the middle row slid back the legroom there was massive, although the width of the front seats did cut down on your forward vision from back there which was a consideration for passengers given to car sickness. A very small number of Kodiaqs built in a five-day period in February 2019 developed cracks in the passenger seat frame. In another dodgy week a couple of months earlier, somebody forgot to install the right number of securing nuts on the second-row seat frame.
The 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit featured an additional Sport layout option that brought the speedo and revcounter (or just the revcounter) displays to the fore. The knob-free 9.2-inch central infotainment screen had wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. There was also a wireless charging pad and a £65 option to install a USB-C in the panel above the rear-view mirror to allow for the fitment a dashcam without cables trailing down to the dash somewhere. The Canton sound system upgrade was worth the £400-odd cost.
The Travel Assist function could fail as a result of a software fault that as of late January this year (2023) still hadn’t been rectified. Probably has by now though, which is just as well if true because it would keep beeping you every few seconds until you fixed it or turned the car off. That would be annoying. Some brake pedals on Kodiaqs built in a three-day period in July 2020 were found to be inadequately welded, causing a recall. Interior door handles were known for creaking when pulled but as far as we know this was mainly (and possibly exclusively) on earlier non-vRS models. Same goes for interior rattles generally: more likely on early cars.
If there is such a thing as a typical Skoda owner they might have been slightly confused by the Kodiaq vRS. It had the badge they were looking for, the great practicality of a well-thought-out family SUV, and the ‘VW quality at a lower price’ thing that sealed the deal for many Skoda buyers. The chunky looks weren’t a must-have but they were a nice bonus.
The confusion would have arisen from the vRS performance image and the elevated price. In its initial diesel guise the 190hp Sportline didn’t look all that different to the vRS, wasn’t much slower than it and was more than £5k cheaper. As such, you’d think the Kodiaq vRS was always going to be a difficult sell and a prime candidate for rapid depreciation.
So here’s where it gets even more confusing for the rest of us. At the time of writing in early 2023, five years after it went on sale at £43k before options, you would struggle to find a diesel Kodiaq vRS at under £30k. That kind of depreciation, or lack of it, suggests that this is a well-liked car whose high-sounding new price, it turns out, was actually not far off the mark. If you forgot about the badges, both Skoda and vRS, and just looked objectively at what you were getting, that was a large, airy, easy-driving, solid handling and well-built car with huge carrying capabilities and the ability to lift up its skirts and go a bit if the occasion demanded it. For many, this was and still is a pretty good recipe for a do-everything car. To that you could add a reliability record that certain other big-name manufacturers would be very happy to have. Most of the issues mentioned in this guide were mainly associated with earlier non-vRS Kodiaqs. The vRS is rarely mentioned in a negative light and may well have benefitted from its later release.
Of the seven vRS Kodiaqs on PH classifieds in March 2023 three were diesels. The most affordable one was this 29,000-mile 2019 car in Race Blue at £31,000. The cheapest petrol car was this 2022 car in the same colour with 10,000 miles and the optional Canton sound system. Yours for £39,750.
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