Hot Cakes - Four-Way SUV Shootout Part One

 

These SUVs are Kiwi favourites at present, swarming in the most popular area of the market. We gather four of the most recent arrivals and let them scrap it out.

Words: Kyle Cassidy   |   Photos Tom Gasnier

It’s kinda funny, but a car manufacturer’s best seller isn’t generally a car any more, it’s some kind of SUV. Buyers love ’em, so marketers keep serving them up, and none is more popular than the so-called medium, the segment where these four vie for your hard earned.

Mazda’s CX-5 is popular, featuring in the top sellers list for the past few years. Honda has been in this game for more than 20 years with the CR-V, and Honda NZ says its new model will become its best seller this year. The European brands are playing catch up in this arena but are arriving well armed, the new Kodiaq Skoda’s first (real) attempt at an SUV (the Yeti, really?) and will also become the brand’s top model (if they can meet demand).

Even the French are branching out, Peugeot’s new 3008 arriving here with its recently awarded Euro COTY crown, which is the first SUV to win the top gong in the award’s 64-year history. Told you the Euros were playing catch up. So how do these new Euro offerings match up with those more established Japanese models? We gathered a quartet, two from each camp and each a fresh arrival on the scene this year. They are the top dogs within their respective ranges, all with at least one turbocharger, and a replete spec sheet.

But which to choose? Though they all compete in the same sphere, there are some marked differences between them, and so they will appeal to slightly different buyers in the end. But what’s our choice?

Though they all compete in the same sphere, there are some marked differences between them, and so they will appeal to slightly different buyers in the end.

Though they all compete in the same sphere, there are some marked differences between them, and so they will appeal to slightly different buyers in the end. But what’s our choice? One way to stand out in a crowd is to look good, and that’s the 3008. It’s the most interesting to gaze upon, those alluring curves of the sheetmetal are matched by the avant garde interior. Its style will woo buyers with design concepts not usually seen at this price point. Inside, there’s the configurable 12-inch instrument display which you can set to reflect your mood, and it’s positioned high with the squished steering wheel sited below.

The cabin is crafted in a cockpit fashion, encapsulating its occupants with the high-rise central console, complete with its joystick-style gear selector. Then there are the materials; quality plastics, alcantara for effect, lined door pockets even, and suave looking seats that you can set to massage. Hard plastics are scarce, and it’s all squeak-free. A pity the electric adjustment on the driver’s seat worked intermittently, meaning some simply couldn’t get comfortable at the wheel. The warranty period extends to three years and 150,000km on this 3008.

Most controls default to the large central screen, which means a few taps are needed to set things up, but the claw-like buttons below it lend a few shortcuts to various menus. Navigation and smartphone connection are sorted. There’s a charge pad, and though the glovebox is filled with fuses and a perfume dispenser, and the cup holders are too small, the centre storage bin is useful. Peugeot’s ancient cruise control wand is still in use, yet it has been successfully adapted to the needs of active cruise.

There’s the suite of safety helpers, though the active lane keeping function puts up a fight for the steering so is best switched out, and while there’s active cruise, it lacks the helpful stop and go function in traffic queues. The 3008 is the cosiest of the quartet inside with just enough room in the rear quarters, though the seat is comfy, and there’s sufficient headroom even with the full-length sunroof (which we could probably live without). It has the smallest usable boot space, even when you position the variable boot floor to its lowest setting. The seats fold easily enough with remote levers, which all the vehicles here have, but the Peugeot’s squabs sink down to present a flat load space.


This is the lone one with a hands-free tailgate, waggling your foot about beneath the rear bumper will activate the powered tailgate. All the others share the powered fifth door facility. The Pug will tow a maximum of 1600kg.

The GT is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel featuring 133kW and 400Nm. It’s a Euro6 compliant unit, rated at an optimistic 5.1L/100km but a figure in the mid eights, even the sevens, is achievable. It works via a six-speed auto, and is the lone model here to employ the front wheels solely for motivation, as no 3008 offers AWD. So it’s unlikely to find much favour outside main city centres this, but it’s more of an urbanite anyhow. The diesel is responsive from both low revs and in the mid-range, with little lag to speak of. And while there’s some torque reaction at the wheel, the front wheels manage to deploy most of the substantial squirt efficiently.

The stop/start system is quick to kill the engine, even before you’ve come to a halt (not so great when you are trying to park) but is also quick to refire the action. The town ride is smooth for the most part, though more troublesome bumps ruffle the rear end, and amongst this company, the 3008’s torsion beam set-up can be exposed both in and out of town. Activating Sport mode improves the 3008’s reactions out in the wilds, and it gets along well, the engine revving to about 4500rpm, quite vocally thanks to a sound enhancer, but there’s also some road roar evident in the Peugeot.

It has a reasonably entertaining chassis, untoward movements well controlled and Peugeot adding its passive rear steer knowhow to get it round corners nicely - just when you think the front is about to let go, there’s a shimmy from the rear to ease the burden on the front, tightening the line. The steering is a little too aloof, even in Sport mode. Its small wheel is good for cruising and commuting, promoting a relaxed but assertive grip, but it lacks leverage in the turns, the weighting and feedback light too.

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Skoda make practical vehicles, and the Kodiaq’s no different there. To that end, it sports a function-over-form design which leads to big proportions and this is a substantial rig amongst this company. It’s big, but it also provides seating for up to seven, and AWD. Other seven seaters in this space, think X-Trail and CR-V, are front drivers only. Kodiaq is smart but not flashy, which usually suits Kiwi buyers, and for a first effort, this is a well executed SUV.

Inside it’s spacious up front, utterly conventional yet modern. It has the best infotainment system with a big, clear and responsive touchscreen. The functionality is deep, with smartphone link-up and voice control. Docking the Kodiaq isn’t hard with a self parking function and a rear view and surround view camera too, while all around vision is sound. The seats up front will suit most body types, and come with both ventilators and heaters, though a little more padding would be nice. There’s no lack of storage, the centre bin and door pockets sizeable, and lined too. There are hideyholes and little everyday solutions everywhere, like the removable torch in the boot and umbrellas in the doors.

There’s a helpful infusion of tech too; a charge pad, easily accessible aux and USB points, two SD slots in the glovebox and all the driver assist features. While lacking any real design flair, the build and materials used are quality. The space theme continues in the rear with leg room aplenty, especially with the seat, the only one here on sliders, positioned all the way rearward. In the boot are some handy load securing features, and a pair of foldaway seats. The space is limited however, more suited for kids but you have the added versatility if you need it. These rob a little load space, especially height wise, but you’ll still fit plenty of stuff inside. To meet demand, Skoda NZ is doing the five-seater version for those that have no need for the extra seats. They still charge the full whack, but you do get extra cargo volume, the five pew model rated at 720L to the seven’s 630L.

In the top Style model you can go petrol or diesel, this one being the 2.0-litre oiler. We might suggest the petrol more worthy however. The diesel makes good numbers, 140kW and 400Nm, but it’s not as responsive below 2000rpm as the others here, with a bit of a wait for the goodness to arrive, before coming on in a great surge. It’s strong in the midrange but with seven gears in the economy-minded twin-clutch gearbox, it’s often hovering around 1500rpm, and so requests for added urge take a moment as the box changes down. The diesel is said to be Euro6 compliant, 5.7L/100km on average the claim, though low eights are more the reality and easily achievable with a mix urban and motorway cruising. Skoda quote service intervals of up to two years and 30,000km, depending on your use.

Helped by a multitude of drive modes and adaptive dampers, Kodiaq is one competent drive, but you do need to fiddle with those settings to get the best of it. Comfort delivers as intended, the ride quality in town and on byways of real note, as is the lack of road noise. The transmission can be a tad too relaxed, but this is quickly remedied by pulling back on the lever to access Sport mode when snappier reactions are desired, which is helpful in both town and country running.

Full Sport mode for the suspension puts a firmer control on roll, but you feel those bumps too. You can configure the Individual mode to amp up the drivetrain and steering while relaxing the suspension to eases the bumps but still maintain control. Some steering heft helps in negotiating those faster bends, though the Kodiaq succumbs to cornering forces sooner than the 3008, and the Mazda too. Like all products off this VW platform, it’s safe and secure if a tad sterile. There’s an off-road mode for the traction and on-demand AWD system, and with the right tow hook it can haul a maximum of 2000kg.

There’s also an optional trailer backing assistant. The active cruise is easily set, and features low speed assistance, but a smoother approach to stopping and starting wouldn’t go amiss, as would some polish on the idle stop’s restart action. There’s a lane keeping assistant too, which is pretty strict on the use of indicators; fail to use them when merging and it’ll tell you about it.

Stay tuned for part two where we continue our investigation with the Mazda CX-5 and the Peugeot 3008, and we find our verdict.

The Stats

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Model Peugeot 3008 GT  Price TBA

Engine 1997cc, IL4, TDI, 133kW/400Nm

Transmission 6-speed auto, front-wheel drive

Vitals 9.30sec 0-100km/h, 5.5L/100km, 124g/km, 1634kg

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Model Skoda Kodiaq Style TDI  Price TBA

Engine 1968cc, IL4, TDI, 140kW/400Nm

Transmission 7-speed twin-clutch, on-demand AWD

Vitals 8.13sec 0-100km/h, 5.7L/100km, 151g/km, 1873kg