It’s true, there is nothing that attracts the Indian SUV buyer more than a third row of seats. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable those sixth and seventh seats may be or how much they eat into the boot space. They need to be there and can sometimes be the deciding factor in the purchase decision. So it goes like this. I’m moving up in life and doing well in my career. And now I want to move up from that regular premium SUV that I own. I’m still not at the point where I automatically head to an Audi showroom but I certainly want my first taste of luxury. So I opt to shortlist from brands that are just below the creamy layer formed by the German trio and the lone Brit. At some point during my brochure shopping I realise that two of the vehicles I’m considering offer seven seats while the rest are lovely five-seaters, not considering genuine SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner or the Ford Endeavour that feature a body on ladder construction. And suddenly the task is so much easier for I now have two SUVs – the Honda CR-V and the Skoda Kodiaq – that will give me the luxury I want along with seven seats for my family of four! Inexplicable, isn’t it? But such is life.
Between the Skoda Kodiaq and the Honda CR-V, there’s precious little to choose between the third rows. Barring marginal differences, you’ll be equally uncomfortable in either unless you’re still in junior high or a hobbit. Your butt will be on the floor, your knees kissing your chin and of course you’ll have to have the skills of a gymnast to be able to clamber in and out without embarrassment. So on that count, the Skoda and the Honda score equally abysmally. The good part about third row seating is that there’s only so much you can ramble about them before breathing a sigh of relief and quickly moving on.
“The Honda’s seats feel plusher and are wider but the Kodiaq seats seem to be better bolstered and more supportive, and of course you get multi-way electric adjust on both front seats”
As you move from the third to the second row, things improve. Suddenly there’s so much more space for your knees. And smack in the middle of its wheelbase, which is where you have the second row of seats, the CR-V is ahead of the game. It has a lot more legroom on offer even though head and shoulder room seem to be similar. This, despite the Kodiaq’s edge in dimensions over the CR-V for the Skoda is bigger than the Honda. Once you’ve factored that in, the CR-V’s second row room is impressive. What isn’t, is the boot space with all three rows in use. Here, the Skoda bounces back.
Up front, the differences aren’t as stark where space is concerned. They’re similar. The Honda’s seats feel plusher and are wider but the Kodiaq seats seem to be better bolstered and more supportive, and of course you get multi-way electric adjust on both front seats. That’s a thumbs up from us lazy bums who prefer that others (electric motors in this case) do our work. The Skoda also gets memory function for the driver’s seat, so you don’t have to remember anything.
The shut lines on the Skoda are immaculate and there’s a general air of solidity here that eludes the Honda. The doors of the Kodiaq shut with a nice and reassuring thud that implies a robust build. The only thing that somewhat messes up the Kodiaq’s stylish exterior is the bright chrome Laurin & Klement badging that seems to break the smoothness of the surface when seen in profile.
Inside too there is a difference in quality levels with the Kodiaq’s interiors feeling a little more premium than the Honda’s. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if you feel shortchanged with the CR-V. Far from it in fact with the wood finish inserts on the dash, the plushness of the interiors feel very nice. It’s roomy and ergonomics couldn’t be better. And those buttons that replace the gear selector lever, look cooler than Pierce Brosnan in a suit. The other cool gadget on the Honda is the blind spot camera for the left. Switch the left indicator on and a blind spot camera under the left ORVM beams a nice clean feed on to the touchscreen infotainment system. Once you’ve turned in and the indicator stalk is back in position, you get the regular infotainment screen right back. If you need to use this lovely feature when you’re parking, Honda has thoughtfully provided a button on the headlamp stalk to switch it on. What the CR-V could use however is a bit more of sound deadening because you do get to hear a lot of the outside world.
That said, this entry level 2WD diesel CR-V with the 9-speed auto is Rs 3.84 lakh more affordable at Rs 30.65 lakh (ex-showroom), than the entry level Skoda Kodiaq Style. And this price gap grows further to Rs 5.34 lakh if you consider the range-topping L&K trim we have on test here. In fact, even the top-of-the-line CR-V diesel with AWD is cheaper to buy than the entry level Kodiaq by Rs 1.74 lakh. So if you want that feel of robustness and that European polish then you’d better be prepared to shell out quite a bit more than you would for the Japanese SUV.
These two go hand in glove. To quote an automotive cliché, there is no replacement for displacement. So it really doesn’t come as a surprise that the Kodiaq’s peak output of 147bhp and 340Nm is more than the CR-V’s more modest 118bhp and 300Nm. After all where the Skoda is powered by the VW Group’s 2.0 TDI that displaces 1968cc, the Honda makes do with a smaller 1.6 i-DTEC with an actual displacement of 1597cc. Transmission in the Kodiaq is VW’s excellent and yet-to-be-beaten 7-speed DSG that transmits the output to all four wheels. In the CR-V you get two extra cogs with the 9-speed AT sending power only to the front wheels.
“The Kodiaq is also the better handler of the two, showing better body control and a lower inclincation for roll. What you end up with is greater confidence”
So not only does the Kodiaq enjoy a capacity and therefore output advantage, it also enjoys a transmission advantage in spite of the two extra cogs in the Honda’s gearbox. The result is of course a more thrilling experience from behind the wheel of the Skoda naturally. She will easily out accelerate the CR-V and will go on to post a higher top speed too if one cared about such things in entry level luxury SUVs. The Kodiaq is also the better handler of the two, showing better body control and a lower inclincation for roll. What you end up with is greater confidence. Now, to be honest, yhe CR-V isn’t a bad handler in its own right and does the job quite ably. But she falls short in comparison to the more accomplished Kodiaq and you miss the tautness of the chassis and the firmness of the suspension. That said the Honda’s softer suspension setup does make for a better ride quality. Especially at slow to medium speeds where less force is required for the shock absorbers to do their job.
In the real world of traffic, slow speeds and coasting however, the differences in performance are less stark. Both the Honda and the Skoda are equally convenient and neither feel very cumbersome in the real world. Besides we would do well to remember that while the Kodiaq is only available as a 4×4 and the CR-V is also available in AWD form, neither are anything more than soft roaders.
I’d honestly be surprised if you haven’t got it by now that the Skoda feels like a superior product to the Honda. Product to product, the Kodiaq packs in a bigger thwack with its punchy motor, lovely dynamics, better build quality, more equipment – hell! The L&K even gets blankets for the second row and the customary umbrella in the door, and a generally more premium feel. Price no bar, there’s no question where your money should go.
However, we do live in the middle of reality where money has to be earned and spending cannot be an irrational act. No matter how much you earn every expense needs to be measured and on that count rupee for rupee, both products are not entirely unmatched. So do we have a winner? Sure, and it is the Skoda Kodiaq with all its finesse and abilities. But that doesn’t make the Honda CR-V a loser. In fact, for Honda fans, the new CR-V with its offer of 2WD as well as 4WD options isn’t a bad deal at all.