Toyota Kluger VS Skoda Kodiaq
- Quiet and refined
- GX is well-specified
- GXL and Grande are pricey for not much benefit
- Deeply ordinary entertainment system
- Great handling (on the track)
- Excellent value for money
- Practical for storage and people
- More grunt please
- Diesel only
- Doesn't get here until 2020
Like the statues of Easter Island, the Toyota Kluger casts a huge shadow over the Australian motoring landscape. It's a strong seller for Toyota, having been around for ages and is one of three large SUVs in Toyota's armory next to the evergreen Prado and disappointing Fortuner.
Competition, of course, is growing ever more fierce. Hyundai is about to drop a new Santa Fe, the Kia Sorento gets better every year and more manufacturers are joining the party. Most notably, Mazda's CX-9 is also loaded with safety gear and a potent 2.5-litre turbo engine.
The intensity of the battle became apparent in my esteemed colleague Matt Campbell's recent comparison test where the Kluger came last behind the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-9, thanks largely to Toyota's reluctance to fit the same advanced safety features.
They heard Matt (that's what he reckons, anyway) and recently added some important safety tech to the 2018 Kluger. Let's have a look to see if it's enough.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Fastest seven-seater around the Nürburgring Norschileffe. Most powerful diesel engine in the Skoda armory. Umbrellas in the doors. Three rows of seats. Is there anything the new Skoda Kodiaq RS can’t do? Yes: it can’t be here in Australia right now.
That’s right, the Kodiaq RS doesn’t arrive locally until March 2020, but luckily Skoda arranged for an overseas version to be brought into the country for us to dive… at a race track.
So, while we can’t tell you what it’s like to pilot on Australian roads, we can tell you what the Kodiaq RS is like to belt around a track… and whole lot more.
Here’s what we know so far in this special preview drive of the Kodiaq RS.
The 2018 Kluger is still a very solid car, with tons of room for you and your things. And your family and their things. It remains way out in front (although the new Santa Fe is lurking menacingly) and the boost in safety gear will help ensure it stays there.
The pick of the range is still the GX which is now a much stronger proposition with the extra safety features. There's little of real interest in the higher models, you can't get better headlights (a curious state of affairs) or a better stereo, so it's difficult to understand the appeal.
The Kluger will serve you and your family well in a solid and unspectacular way. Given most of us like that in our cars, it's easy to see why it's a hit.
Does the Kluger's new safety focus do enough to lure you away from the competition? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Skoda Kodiaq RS is as practical and clever as a regular Kodaiq only faster, safer and tougher looking. The price also just undercuts the luxury tax threshold making it superb value, too.
If only it could be here sooner so that we can drive it on local roads - which we will. So for now, we'll reserve our judgement and just say the Kodiaq was outstanding for its class on the circuit - which is why it scores so well in the driving section.
Keep an eye out for the Australian launch review in 2020 where we'll be able to score it for its on-road, real-world performance, too.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The Kluger is handsome in a squared-off, what-are-you-looking-at kind of way. That big bluff front-end makes the car look rather bigger than it is, which is quite an achievement because it's pushing two metres wide and 1.73m tall. It's not the longest in its class, though, coming in at 4.89m.
Despite it hailing from the US, it's not too blinged-up, but neither is it CX-9 pretty. Some might find the grille reminiscent of a krill-hoovering whale or Bane from Batman, but it's certainly distinctive.
The cabin is like the exterior - nothing flash, but what you see is what you get. Materials are mostly pretty good and it leans towards thoughtful and practical rather than sexy. Normally I'd say, "just like me", but I'm none of these things.
The interior dimensions of the big bruiser match its eclipse-causing exterior. No matter your size - well, within reason - you'll find plenty of space in the first or second rows. The third row features decent space for kids and very patient adults for short trips.
I’m on the record (in my Kodiaq Sportline review) saying the Kodiaq is the best-looking Skoda, with its stance, blacked-out cheesy smile grille and paper-fold sharp creases .
And the RS toughens up the look further. There’s the same grille as the Sportline, but an RS-specific front bumper, side skirts, 20-inch alloy wheels with red brake calipers at the front, and dual exhaust.
The Kodiaq RS’s interior features leather and Alcantara seats with a quilted pattern and RS badging, an RS steering wheel, and the digital instrument cluster has a carbon effect.
The Kodiaq RS’s dimensions are 4699mm long, 1882mm wide (2087mm with mirrors) and 1664mm tall.
Some people may call it a large SUV but the Kodiaq RS is more than 300mm shorter than a Mazda CX-9 and only 100mm longer than a Toyota RAV4. Really, it’s in the Goldilocks zone between large and medium, which will suit many families perfectly.
The big question people ask me about the Kluger is "How many seats are in there?" - every Kluger packs seven seats, with two flip-up seats in the boot. Boot space dimensions are obviously dictated by whether they're up or down. With the seats down, you've got a decent 529 litres, leaving you with good luggage capacity and a cargo cover to keep it all hidden away. Lift the seats with the straps and you've got just 195 litres, about the same as a small hatchback.
Put the second and third rows down and Toyota says you'll have 1117 litres, but I reckon that's conservative.
The cabin is well-planned for families. Every row features cupholders - front and middle rows have a pair each, while those banished to the third row score two each, a total of eight across the car.
Back in the front row, the tectonic split in the dashboard is lined with a soft rubbery material, making it a great place to sling phones, keys and odds and ends. Between the seats is a massive 24-litre storage bin that a small grandparent could ride in. On second thoughts, that's probably not a great idea.
Skodas are known for their practical side and the Kodiaq, even in RS guise, is no exception. All Kodiaq RSs come standard with seven seats, but it’s squishy for me at 191cm tall in that third row, so they’re only for children or smaller adults.
Second row seating is excellent – I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm of space between knees and the front seatback, and headroom, even with the optional sunroof, is good.
Space up front is ample as well, even for me with my two-metre wingspan.
Boot capacity with the third row in place is 270 litres, and with those rear seats folded flat you have 630 litres to fill up to the cargo cover.
With all seats folded (not the front ones obviously) you’ll have 2005 litres (to the roof).
Cabin storage is also excellent with a top- and bottom-opening cooled glove box, a large centre console storage area and another hidey hole in front of the shifter.
There are six cupholders (two in each row) and bottle holders in the doors (1.5-litre in the front and 1.0-litre in the rear).
For power and media connection you’ll find a wireless charger, three 12-volt outlets, and a USB port.
The Skoda Kodiaq RS comes standard with a pop-out torch in the cargo area, umbrellas hiding in the front doors at the ready, sun blinds for the rear windows and on all doors there are edge protectors that leap out when you open them to shield them against walls and other cars.
Price and features
There are three models in the Kluger range and how much you pay will vary depending on your thirst for standard features. Our price list features RRP prices and are a guide only - your dealer might be convinced to reduce the cost.
The GX opens with the lowest price - $44,500 for the 2WD and $48,500 for the 4WD. Specs include six-speaker stereo, 18-inch alloys wheels (no 17-inch alloy wheels anymore), front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth, forward and reverse camera, active cruise control, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights, power windows and mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.
The GXL adds an lazy 10 grand in comparison to the GX - $54,950 (2WD) and $58,950 (AWD). The GXL adds a GPS navigation system, DAB digital radio, rear-cross traffic alert, keyless entry and start, partial leather seats, and electric tailgate with separate glass hatch.
The Grande - again, for a further 10 grand plus, is available for $65,646 (2WD) or $69,617 (AWD). You'll get the same satellite navigation as the GXL, 19-inch rims, electric sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system with 9.0-inch screen and Blu-Ray and heated and ventilated front seats.
The entertainment system is powered by a 6.1-inch touch screen in the GX and 8.0-inch in the other models, which also include satellite navigation. The software package is distinctly 2006, painfully so in the GX. The system includes AM/FM radio, CD player and USB. There's no DVD option, however.
Colours include 'Crystal Pearl' (white), silver, 'Rustic Brown' (looks better than it sounds), 'Predawn Grey', 'Rainforest Green', 'Merlot Red' (dahling), 'Deep Red', 'Cosmos Blue' and 'Eclipse Black'. All but the black are $550 extras, which is not modest but not extortionate either.
Toyota's accessories list is well-stocked, with items like nudge bar (which is remarkably well integrated), side steps, cargo barrier, roof racks (no roof rails, though) and various plastic shields, driving lights, floor mats, towbar, parking aids and blind spot monitor.
You're out of luck if you want a Toyota-branded seat belt extender or bull bar.
For comparison, the cheapest CX-9 is $700 less (than the GX), but with a higher spec level, while the fully-loaded Azami is also around $800 cheaper (than the Grande) but - again - better-equipped.
The Korean rivals, while older and slightly smaller, are significant cheaper - the Kia Sorento is priced from $42,990 to $46,990 while the Santa Fe starts at $40,990 and finishes at $57,090 (albeit not a petrol V6). All these cars are well-equipped, with more modern features and tech.
The Skoda Kodiaq RS is expected to arrive in Australia in March 2020 and will have a list price of $65,990, before on-road costs, which is $14,500 more than the Sportline grade below it.
At the time this review was published Skoda had yet to finalise the full standard features list but it will include: a 9.2-inch screen, fully digital instrument cluster, paddle shifters, three-zone climate control, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, drive mode selection, adaptive chassis control, auto tailgate (with kick open function), proximity unlocking, leather and Alcantara seats, front and rear heated seats, auto parking, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights and a 360-degree camera.
Without even seeing the rest of the features it’s clear the Kodiaq RS is good value. There are prestige cars with half this amount of equipment at twice the price.
Keep in mind, too, that the Skoda Kodiaq is closely related to its Volkswagen AllSpace cousin – the 162TSI is a petrol variant, but look at it, too.
There are only three options available to the Kodiaq RS: metallic paint ($770), panoramic sunroof ($1900), and side steps ($1300).
Engine & trans
Across the range, Kluger buyers are treated to the same engine specifications - a 3.5-litre V6 petrol. The big unit devlops 218kW/350Nm to help move the two-tonner.
As to whether the V6 features a timing belt or chain, it's the latter. The engine uses standard (OW-30) oil and 0-100km/h acceleration times are around nine seconds.
Towing capacity is the same for each model, coming in at 700kg for unbraked trailers and 2000kg braked. We haven't yet carried out a towing review.
Power output is 176kW (at 4000rpm) and torque is 500Nm (1740rpm-2500rpm).
The Kodiaq RS I tested was an overseas model and could only be driven on a race circuit. So, while I’m not able to report on the engine and transmission’s behavior in traffic I can tell you that on the track the diesel unit and dual-clutch performed seamlessly.
That said, I wouldn’t call the Kodiaq RS high performance, not compared to say a Porsche Macan, but more on that in the driving section a bit further down.
For its engine size and overall weight, fuel economy is always going to be marginal and continues to be the Kluger's weak spot. For the front-wheel drive, Toyota claims 9.lL/100km on the combined cycle. The heavier 4x4 version recorded an official combined fuel consumption figure of 9.5L/100km.
These mileage figures would be a stretch - in a week of gentle suburban running around in a GX AWD, we copped a figure of 13.7L/100km.
The fuel tank capacity is a handy 72 litres, meaning a decent run between fills, especially when you're out on the open road.
Obviously, without a diesel engine, there are no diesel fuel consumption figures.
Skoda says the Kodiaq RS should only sip diesel at 6.4L/100km during a combination of open and urban roads.
Given our testing took place on a racetrack there’s no way for us to verify that figure until we do our own testing when we drive it on Australian roads.
What we do know is that diesel engines are known for their frugalness and you can expect the 2.0-litre engine and seven-speed dual clutch automatic to form an impressively fuel-efficient team.
You never really forget that the Kluger is a big unit. Ground clearance is a not-inconsiderable 200mm and the turning circle a fairly lazy 11.8 metres. People don't seem to mind that it feels big, and is one of the few in the segment that I feel like I'm climbing up into with my 183cm (six-foot) frame rather than stepping in.
From behind the wheel you can practically see the curvature of the Earth you sit so high. Fire up the near-silent V6 and you're struck by how incredibly smooth it is. Also smooth is the ride - the long travel suspension is probably exactly the same as it is for our American cousins vs, say, Hyundai's habit of setting up its cars for Australia.
Everything is soft and squidgy but in a reassuring way, even the warning beeps aren't too shrill or irritating. The steering is light and with the occasional moment of vagueness but again, it's all very predictable. The brakes, though a bit spongy at the top of the pedal, are more than up to the task of washing off speed in the unlikely event you've overcooked things.
The engine continues unchanged. There's enough horsepower to get you going and hold a decent clip, it will keep you out of trouble and do what Toyotas generally do - look after you. Performance is hardly the key point of the Kluger - it weighs in at a fairly unapologetic 2005kg in AWD form - but, as I say, there's ample power to keep you moving.
We're yet to perform an exhaustive off-road review, but our experience is that the Kluger has reasonable off road ability.
If you’ve just skipped straight to this bit I need to let you know that because the Kodiaq RS doesn’t arrive in Australia until about March 2020 the one that we tested was an overseas model (a New Zealand version actually).
The Kiwi Kodiaq RS brought into the country was almost identical to Aussie specification, but it did mean we couldn’t drive it on the road… but we could on a race track.
Which is fitting because the RS the sportiest of the Kodiaqs. But how sporty? Well, in May 2018 it broke the Nürburgring Norschileffe lap record for a seven-seater SUV with a time of nine minutes and 29.84 seconds. That was done in a standard Kodiaq RS, too – the same one that will be in dealerships.
So, it’s pretty darn sporty, but I wouldn’t call it high performance. The 0-100km/h time is officially 7.0sec. Look, that is fast compared to most family seven-seaters, but if Skoda could get that below five seconds we’d be getting into high performance territory.
That would involve a stack more grunt and then upgrades to suspension, tyres, brakes.
To be fair, the rear brakes on the RS have bigger and thicker discs and the adaptive suspension is calibrated to be firmer in the Sport setting. Skoda told me apart from the turbo-diesel engine, these are the only performance upgrades.
That diesel engine sounds a bit ‘diesely’ with its clatter-clatter truck-like tune, but put the Kodiaq RS into Sport using the drive mode control, and you’ll be treated to a beefy, low exhaust note.
The sound comes from an electronic device located at the rear of the car. Skoda calls it 'Dynamic Sound Boost'. I call it fake noise. Either way it sounds delicious and Skoda is honest and up front about it.
I’m selling the Kodiaq RS’s performance capabilities a bit short here, but please don’t get me wrong – it’s outstanding compared to a garden variety family seven-seater.
On the track it handled impressively. I did about 30 laps around Luddenham Raceway (in Sydney's west) in dry, cool weather and this 2.0-tonne seven-seater turns in well with only a sniff of understeer.
It washes off speed damned quick under brakes and stays composed and flat when most regular seven-seaters would be completely out of their depth and probably upside down off the track.
Steering is accurate, but a little light, and pedal feel is superb. Combine that with a very decent amount of torque for powering out of corners and the Kodiaq RS inspires confidence, encouraging you to keep pushing it harder and harder. All I wanted was more mumbo.
It’s unlikely Kodiaq RS owners be pushing it to the limit on a race track, so the grunt and handling will be more than adequate for a fun and engaging drive on Aussie roads.
The Kluger arrives from the US with seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and rear parking sensors.
The 2018 Kluger is really about the battery of new safety features in the lower models. Added to the GX and GXL are pre-collision warning, forward AEB, lane departure warning, active cruise and auto high beam. GXLs also pick up a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. As you can imagine, the Grande has the lot.
There are three top-tether anchors for the middle row as well as two ISOFIX points.
As before, the ANCAP safety rating stands at a maximum five stars, awarded in November 2016.
The Skoda Kodiaq was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2017. In my review of the Skoda Kodiaq Sportline I mentioned that while nine airbags cover all three rows, there was some advanced safety equipment such as rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control which wasn’t standard.
It’s great to see these advanced safety features are standard on the RS, along with AEB.
For child seats you’ll find three top tethers and two ISOFIX points across the second row. Third row seats don’t have anchor points.
Toyota's three year/100,000km warranty also comes with a fixed price servicing plan. It seems the Japanese company can get away with the short warranty because of the long-held reputation for reliability and few problems or faults.
I've certainly never heard complaints from Kluger owners, or Toyota owners generally for that matter. Having said that, Hyundai and Kia both smack Toyota out of the park for warranty length and in Hyundai's case, lifetime fixed price servicing.
Service costs are fixed via Toyota's 'Service Advantage' pricing. For the Kluger you'll pay $180 per service for the first 36 months or 60,000km. You'll have to visit the dealer every six months or 10,000km for the stamp in your owners manual, which is always good for resale value.
Few owners report any genuine issues, such as engine problems or tranmission problems.
The Kodiaq RS is covered by Skoda’s five-year/unlimited km warranty. While Skoda has not released a guide to the servicing costs (expect this closer to the SUV’s arrival in March 2020) the Sportline grade below the RS needs to be serviced every 15,000km/12 months, with the first visit priced at $331, the second at $421 and the third at $601.