The school run has a new arrival… and it’s big news
Sometime along life’s road, there comes a fork when things change. When you take as much satisfaction from a smooth transition from six- to seven-seat mode as you do from the race from six to seven on the tacho. When rear packaging matters more than rearwheel drive. When adaptable cabin storage assumes greater import than adaptive damping. Sigh.
At which point we could recommend you an MPV. The new Renault Grand Scenic is most agreeable. But more and more people stick their fingers in their ears when they hear that sort of advice. Cars overtly designed for big families are going fast in one direction only. Out of fashion. No, the big family cars people actually want are the ones that look like 4x4s for the free-roaming outdoorsy buyer – virility symbols. As opposed to MPVs which are evidence of proven virility.
So you want a seven-seat crossover or a 4×4. Despite the fact they are generally not very well packaged. If the third row is suitable for humans, there will be no boot, or a tiny fuel tank. They’re mostly liable to use more fuel and accelerate less ably than you’re used to because they’re heavy. And they’re expensive.
Don’t dissolve into a fug of depression. Because we now bring you the antidote to that counsel of despair. Our Best Car for Big Families, the Skoda Kodiaq.
The Kodiaq’s cabin is as spacious and cannily practical as an MPV. The version we’re testing has 4×4 and a tow bar, so it can pull a boat up a slipway or a horse out of a field, yet it does better than 50mpg in the official test. And stood beside any crossover that might be called a rival, it’s good value to an almost hilarious degree. The one I drove was a poshed-up “Edition” version, with a diesel 4×4 drivetrain – albeit not DSG – and I thought there was a misprint with the price. Shouldn’t it have read $52,000 not $40,000? I checked and it shouldn’t.
It looks like a big 4×4, but that’s a deception. A lowish roof stretches it visually, but in truth it’s only a scant 4cm longer than an Octavia estate. Therein lies the cleverness of the packaging, as well as of the design. I parked it next to an Audi Q7, and it’s like a perfectly scaled-down version. So it isn’t intimidatingly bulky for urban schoolrun work or multi-storeys. Its compactness also brings lightness. It starts at under 1,500kg for a front-drive 1.4 petrol, but adds another 200kg if specced with all of 4×4 and DSG and a 2.0-litre diesel. Plus you could be carrying an extra half-tonne of human meat, so factor that in when deciding how many horsepower you should be ordering.
Under the skin, it’s all about the VW Group’s MQB parts, in this case running the wheelbase of a VW Passat, and all versions have the proper multi-link rear axle. (You might remember low-end MQB cars have a torsion beam, but there’s none of that here.) Engines and transmissions come from the same selection box. This tells you a lot about the way it drives.