SUVs: Skoda Kodiaq, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Toyota Land Cruiser

Seven-seater SUVs have well and truly usurped people carriers for anyone looking at buying a practical family car. They’re cooler, more versatile and offer a much broader selection of styles, trims and driving characteristics than their outmoded counterparts. The latest model to reach the market is the much-anticipated Skoda Kodiaq, which is said to offer all the attributes of its more established rivals for a bargain sum.

Can it do what its maker claims? We pitch the £34,895 top-spec diesel auto four-wheel-drive Edition against two, more established alternatives: the £39,800 Land Rover Discovery Sport and £40,330 Toyota Land Cruiser. Can the latter pair’s pedigree see off the newcomer’s chutzpah?

Despite its large 2.8-litre engine, the Toyota is the heaviest, least aerodynamic car here and hence more than three seconds slower than the Land Rover from 30-70mph. Meanwhile, the Kodiaq betters them both – and its engine is the smoothest on test, too. The Discovery Sport’s motor is less refined, and the Land Cruiser’s is the noisiest and vibrates the most.

The Kodiaq is also the smoothest contender to drive. Our test model’s adaptive dampers help deliver a plush ride in all but irritable Sport mode, while the Toyota’s grabby, unsettled feel makes it somewhat tiring from behind the wheel. The Land Rover’s confidence-inspiring handling feels good but it fidgets rather at slower speeds: the Skoda is more nimble.

Luckily, the Land Cruiser’s admittedly awful on-road cornering skills are offset against its superb off-road skills. It leaves the Kodiaq stuck in the mud and betters even the Disco Sport. Nice to know – even if, as we all must surely realise by now, all-terrain work is not the chief remit of all-terrain vehicles these days…

Surprisingly, the quality of the Skoda’s modern cabin is the best of the trio here. It’s smart and has the best finish, although the Land Rover’s feels more rugged. While the Toyota’s dash appears bombproof, in fact it seems cheap and has too many buttons. It has the roomiest rearmost seats though, while second-row passengers fare equally well in all three models. The Skoda has the most space with all seven seats in use.

When it comes to infotainment, the Toyota’s old-fashioned set-up features a diminutive screen, laggy software, no standard sat-nav even at this price tag, and a distinct lack of advanced smartphone connectivity. The Land Rover’s is better, although a wide-format upgrade costs the best part of £2000. You get this as standard on the Skoda, along with optional Wi-Fi. That’s the way to do it!

The Kodiaq is still too new to get dealer discounts on the purchase price, but even so it is still cheaper to buy than bartering for the Toyota or Land Rover. The Skoda has better running cost over three years, too, even if the Discovery Sport’s superb residuals means it can match its rival’s PCP costs. Business users should ignore the Land Cruiser;…

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