Speedy Skoda turns

to petrol power

Skoda Kodiaq vRS, 1
Skoda Kodiaq vRS, 2
Skoda Kodiaq vRS, 3
Skoda Kodiaq vRS, 4
Skoda Kodiaq vRS, 5
Skoda Kodiaq vRS, 6

IT was brave of Skoda to line up the firm's latest higher performance machine against the car that started a modest revolution two whole decades ago.

Back in 2001 the Czech car maker unveiled the vRS version of its then Octavia saloon - and it was a bit of a revelation; properly punchy when you put your foot down and a delight on the corners.

That was the start of a whole succession of vRS variants of follow-on Skodas, the latest of which is the big and bold Kodiaq SUV, just relaunched with a mild mid-life facelift and a touch more power, and yours from £45,170.

Both nicely aged Octavia and spanking new Kodiaq were unleashed over a demanding hilly test track at a middle England proving ground where disguised Aston Martins and gleaming but still secret McLarens shared road space - and phone camera lenses were covered with security stickers.

That double-decades Octavia was a delight; its comparative light weight and 177bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing sprightly performance (144mph/6.7 seconds to 62mph) that wouldn't disgrace a current car. It also felt nimble on the corners and thoroughly connected to the road.

But how times have changed in the way cars are finished - and equipped - with the Octavia's interior now feeling low rent, with lots of hard plastics, and with a list of standard kit that may have felt generous in 2001 but looks mean today.

By contrast, the Kodiaq vRS simply drips with standard equipment that wasn't even a glint in the Octavia designer's eye a couple of decades ago. From full LED headlights and rear view camera to satellite navigation, four-wheel drive and seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.

Also, and probably more significant as the world moves away from diesel engines, the previous diesel powerhouse in the old Kodiaq vRS is replaced with a 2.0-litre petrol unit, punching out 242bhp, up six from before and helping this now lighter car to touch 62mph in 6.6 seconds.

That, you may have noticed, is barely faster than the less powerful Octavia of 20 years earlier; thank the seven-seater bulk of the Kodiaq for that. Top speed is an identical 144mph.

It still felt plenty fast enough on the sweeping- swooping demands of the test track's hill course, where the blind uphill corners might have been designed to turn a tester's legs to jelly.

The more car related readers may know how it's become a badge of honour for a new model to set an in-class record for racing round the Nurburgring's demanding race track in deepest Germany.

Well, the now obsolete diesel version of the Kodiaq earned the title of fastest seven-seat SUV after its own energetic lapping. You may find this either a promise of fun to come or deeply irrelevant in the context of a spacious family-focused SUV with modest sporting pretentions.

In the real world, this sportingly inclined SUV looks decent value and will enliven the dullest journey from home to school gates, with the prospect offun to come when you holiday somewhere with open roads and space to play.

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