24 Sept 2022

Long-term report: Is there no such thing as the perfect family car?

Long-term report: Is there no such thing as the perfect family car?

There’s no such thing as the perfect family car. There’s a bold statement for you, but one I’d be happy to debate with anyone who thinks there is.

Why’s that? Well, because when it comes to choosing which model’s right for you doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll also be right for someone else.

Car buying is a game of compromises and you have to weigh up your decisions on a myriad of choices, weighting those you favour over others you find less important.

Take our new long-term Skoda Kodiaq. For some, this seven-seat, reasonably priced SUV would be perfect. For others, less so.

It’s got van-like levels of space when you lower the two rows of rear seats for dump duties and has the ability to carry your loved ones and their five-a-side football teammates with them.

But there are downsides to the practicality it offers. The diesel engine isn’t the friendliest on your wallet when it comes to refuelling and while its huge size means it’s very capable when it comes to carrying stuff, it’s not the nimblest when it comes to parking in tight spaces.

While it might cost more than £100 to fill up, the Kodiaq balances this out with a huge 600-mile tank range and near 50mpg on motorways.

I’m a big fan of the equipment our Sportline model comes with as standard too. The list is long and plentiful and includes many things other brands would charge you extra for.

However, while the 2.0-litre diesel engine has a punchy 200bhp and is good for 133mph and 60mph in 7.9 seconds, I struggle to accept the lag from the gearbox.

VW group diesel models have been beset with hesitance from the gearbox from a standstill ever since the emissions scandal. Rumour has it, that this lag has been built in to reduce emissions around town. In reality, it equates to a sluggish getaway which, at times, can be downright infuriating.

I find myself driving around the problem, feathering the throttle at junctions to trick the gearbox into thinking it’s still rolling.

What I find most annoying about the problem is it’s manufactured in. Roll back the clock to before we’d even heard of the Dieselgate saga, and VW Group diesel engines with automatic transmissions were superb. I ran a 2018 Audi A6 with the DSG gearbox and it was brilliant.

It feels like the resolution was a knee-jerk reaction to the emissions issues and one which I’m very surprised engineers haven’t found a way to eradicate yet. Sometimes I wonder if they actually drive their own cars.

While I’m moaning, I’m going to get a couple of other gripes out of the way. The cruise control is equally befuddling. On a cross-continent trip to the Alps earlier this year, and on several long-distance motorway journeys, I’ve set the cruise control only for it to override the speed and begin breaking in anticipation of an upcoming bend.

In France, this would reduce speed from motorway cruising speeds to sometimes as low as 38mph when it detected a bend ahead – but these bends it was anticipating were junctions off the motorway and nothing to do with the road I was on. I thought it was a temporary glitch, but it does it everywhere.

And finally, the multimedia system is incredibly glitchy. Sometimes it displays a completely blank screen for minutes at a time.

Right, that’s the moaning over. Let’s move on to the good stuff. Overall, the Kodiaq is a very well-thought-out car. From the huge door bins to the umbrella in the door, the designers have clearly taken the time to work out what family drivers want.

The seat set-up works really well with the middle bench able to pull forwards to give the pop-up sixth and seventh seats from the boot floor a little more room. I love the way you can collapse the central row from a handle in the boot too – very useful when you’re filling it up from the rear.

The Kodiaq has really come into its own during a major house renovation with copious tip trips. It swallows a gigantic amount of junk and always brushes up beautifully afterwards. Not since I ran a Volvo estate have I been so impressed with a car’s ability to swallow large loads.

The Sportline model is good-looking too. Its chunky dimensions and black grille are imposing and it looks smart.

While the £47,630 list price for this model looks punchy, when you compare it to other seven-seaters of similar size, it’s actually very good value and when you add in the extras you get for free you’d be shelling out for with other brands, it stacks up as a sensible choice.

Chargeable options fitted to our test car that I’d specify include the panoramic sunroof – pricey at £1,255 but worth it for the way it lightens up the cabin. The winter pack is worth the £675 extra too for heated front and rear seats and a hand-warming steering wheel.

But is it the perfect family car? Well, with a little one on the way in a couple of weeks and the associated paraphernalia that babies come with already filling my house, I’ll soon be testing its carrying capabilities to the limits. I’ll reserve judgment for a little longer until then.

  • Price as tested: £47,630
  • Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
  • Power: 200bhp
  • Torque: 400Nm
  • 0-60mph: 7.9seconds
  • Top speed: 133mph
  • Emissions: 179g/km CO2
  • Mileage: 3,459

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