Skoda Superb review
Skoda's flagship Superb ditches the old car's awkward looks for sleek styling, plenty of space and value for money
Skoda’s handsome new Superb is a revelation if you’re looking for a large family car with a premium feel and an affordable price-tag.
To drive, it’s comfortable, quiet and relaxing whether you’re in the front or the back, and can even be hustled along at a fair pace with the optional adaptive dampers set to sport mode.
It’s easy to live with too, with a hatchback that opens onto an enormous boot. The practical interior has an upmarket feel, and there's a range of efficient and refined engines.
Throw in generous equipment levels, an array of safety tech and the all-important five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and the biggest Skoda becomes hard to fault. It was even honoured as the 2016 Family Car of the Year at the Auto Express New Car Awards.
The Superb, as the name might suggest, is Skoda's flagship model. It sits at the top of the range and is designed to offer all the space, refinement and quality of a premium saloon, but at a cheaper price than you may expect.
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The Superb takes aim at the more usual family fare of the VW Passat, Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6, but the massive space and premium feel mean it can compete quite happily with the likes of the BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E-Class - despite those cars being much more expensive. Don't be fooled by the practical hatchback design of the Superb, as it's every bit as much an executive saloon as the competition.
This is the first Skoda to have its underlying architecture based on the VW Group’s modular MQB platform, which means it weighs up to 75kg less than its predecessor, despite being longer, wider and taller. In fact, this is the third generation of Superb we’re reviewing here. The first (2001 – 2008) and second (2008 – 2015) generations were both built on stretched versions of contemporary VW Passat platforms.
Rear passengers in this latest version can enjoy masses of rear legroom, while the boot on the saloon-shaped hatchback model is enormous - offering up to 1,760-litres of space with the rear seats down. If that fails to accommodate your goods and chattels there’s an even larger estate version available too.
The Superb’s four-cylinder petrol and diesel engine models are focused on low-running costs. They can be fitted with a manual or DSG auto gearbox, and front or four-wheel drive.
A 1.6 TDI Greenline option has longer gears (it comes as a manual only), low rolling resistance tyres and aero tweaks to improve economy and drop C02 emissions below 100g/km.
In true Skoda style, the Superb’s interior is crammed with clever ideas, like umbrellas stored in spaces in the doors (as per the latest Rolls-Royce models), and an ice scraper hidden in the petrol filler flap. The latest safety technology (adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and park assist) is all available on this Skoda flagship model too.
The Superb comes in five trim levels, starting with the S entry model. This is not lavishly equipped but does feature electric windows and mirrors, height adjustment on the front seats and manual air conditioning, plus a DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and a five-inch colour touchscreen.
The SE ups the ante significantly with a chrome grille, climate control air-con, cruise control, rear parking sensors, an upgraded 6.5-inch touchscreen-operated infotainment centre – and the all-important brolly in the door.
SE Business and SE L add Alcantara and leather upholstery, plus sat-nav and drive mode selection, while the range-topping Laurin & Klement model has an even bigger touchscreen, plus a 10-speaker sound system, electric front seat adjustment, dynamic chassis control and a host of other luxury features.
Engines, performance and drive
The Superb’s mission is to be an executive limousine for the masses, so the focus is firmly on comfort and refinement ahead of pin-sharp driving dynamics. And whether you’re wafting around town or cruising quietly along the motorway, it’s clear that Skoda has done a great job.
Refinement is noticeably better than its predecessor, especially with the quieter petrol engines under the bonnet, making it a relaxing way to cover big miles. Four-wheel-drive versions grip harder when the weather turns nasty, but front-wheel-drive models feel just as planted the rest of the time.
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Adaptive dampers are an option that cost around £800 and offer a dramatic effect on the Superb’s behaviour as you toggle through the three settings – Comfort, Normal and Sport.
In Comfort it floats over crests and dips, while the nose has a tendency to bob, and body control is too slack for fast cornering. Sport tightens everything up, but feels a bit too brittle on poor surfaces and with the 18-inch wheel fitted to top-spec cars. Normal mode, then, is the best compromise for everyday driving.
If you want to save money then the manual gearbox is perfectly adequate, but we’d recommend stretching to the £1,400 DSG auto that adds another layer of sophistication to the driving experience and suits the Superb’s laid-back character.
There’s a decent range of engines available in the Superb, but they’re all small-ish four-cylinder units and mostly focused more on economy than out-and-out performance – which isn’t surprising as at least 70 per cent of customers are likely to be fleet users.
Diesel options start with a 119bhp 1.6 litre engine, which takes 9.9 seconds to reach 62mph and has a top speed of 129mph. The sprint slows to 11 seconds with DSG auto transmission or in tax-efficient Greenline trim.
The 2.0-litre TDI comes in 148bhp and 188bhp variants, the former offering 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds with manual gears, 8.9 seconds with DSG, or 9.0 seconds with four-wheel-drive. Top speed for all three options is comfortably over 130mph.
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The punchier 188bhp 2.0 TDI does 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds with a maximum speed of 147mph. The 0-62mph sprint time drops to 7.7 seconds with DSG, or 7.6 seconds with 4x4.
Generally speaking, the diesel engines don’t clatter, but buzz away under the bonnet and provide good in-gear punch. Our favourite is the 148bhp 2.0 TDI, which strikes the best balance between performance and economy.
Petrol options include 124bhp and 149bhp 1.4-litre TSI variants that do 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds and 129mph, or 8.6 seconds and 137mph respectively. A 2.0-litre TSI unit is available in 217bhp or 276bhp guises (both with DSG, the latter with 4x4 only), which offer 0-62mph in 7.0 or 5.8 seconds and 150mph+ top speeds.
Our pick of the petrols is the 1.4 TSI with cylinder deactivation technology as it’s whisper quiet, pulls strongly and has a decent BIK rate for company car users.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
For such a large, luxurious car, the Superb shouldn’t cost much more than an Octavia to run. The most efficient Greenline model is powered by an 118bhp 1.6 TDI with CO2 emissions as low as 95g/km, and can be had for as little as £20,900 in basic S trim, although for greater value we’d recommend the SE Business trim level at £22,255. The economy potential is excellent too, with 76.4mpg quoted for the combined cycle.
The next cleanest Superb is the DSG-equipped non-Greenline 1.6 TDI with fuel economy and emissions of 68.9mpg and 105g/km. The manual version has the same fuel economy but emits 3g/km more, identical figures to the 148bhp 2.0 TDI model with a manual gearbox.
Looking further up the range, even the 187bhp 2.0 TDI manual model returns 68.9mpg and 107g/km, although that jumps to 61.4mpg and 119g/km with the DSG ‘box and 56.5mpg and 132g/km if you want four-wheel drive.
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The entry-level petrol model is a 123bhp 1.4 TSI, which manages 52.3mpg and 125g/km and costs from £18,640 (£50 less than the previous-generation entry-level model).
A clever new 148bhp version of the 1.4 TSI featuring cylinder deactivation technology is also available, returning from 57.7mpg and 115g/km, while the least economical models in the range are 217bhp and 276bhp versions of the 2.0 TSI.
The 1.6 TDI is the cheapest Superb to insure thanks to a group 12 rating, although the Greenline is group 13. The mid-range performers fall into groups 18/19, while the 187bhp TDI is group 24 and the performance flagship 276bhp 2.0 TSI is group 27.
In June 2015, CAP compared the likely depreciation of the Superb to the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40, Vauxhall Insignia, Citroen C5, Toyota Avensis and Peugeot 508 – declaring the Skoda the clear winner. Depending on model you can expect to keep 40-49 per cent of the original price after three years.
Interior, design and technology
In the past, the Superb has been the ugly duckling of the large family car class, as Skoda’s efforts to maximise interior space left its flagship with some ungainly exterior proportions. However, the latest version has shaken off its predecessor’s dowdy image and gone for a bold new look.
At the front you get a pair of eye-catching swept-back headlamps – which feature distinctive LED signature running lights if you specify the £1,295 optional bi-xenon units – set above distinctive trapezoidal openings. Look down the flanks of the Superb and you’ll spot a number of bold creases, as well as the brand’s trademark kink in the rear pillar, while at the rear you’ll find LED tail-lamps. All versions get alloy wheels as standard.
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In profile, the newcomer has a sleek and stylish look, yet despite its saloon car proportions the Superb features a versatile hatchback tailgate – Skoda has ditched the old car’s Twindoor mechanism, which was complicated and heavy. Overall, the newcomer has its VW Passat sister car beaten hands down for kerb appeal.
The company hasn’t just limited the upmarket push to the exterior, because inside the Superb is more than a match for the VW. It features a slick design, a thoughtfully laid-out dashboard and plenty of high-grade materials, and has a real premium feel.
Look closely and you’ll find much of the switchgear has been carried over from the Passat, while all the plastics you can see and touch have a soft feel. The fit and finish is first rate, while a wide range of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel makes it easy to find the perfect driving position.
As you’d expect from Skoda, there’s plenty of standard equipment. All models get DAB radio, air-conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity, while SE Business models (our choice of the trims) add dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, a touchscreen sat-nav system, adaptive cruise control and privacy glass for the rear windows.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
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All cars come equipped with a dash-mounted touchscreen, with S models getting the basic five-inch version, SE’s getting a 6.5-inch unit and SE Ls and L&K models boasting a superb eight-inch affair with a feature-packed Columbus sat-nav. The L&K model also gets an impressive 10-speaker Canton sound system, but audiophile owners of lesser models can upgrade for £600.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Once you’ve got over the acres of space that make sitting in a Superb feel like relaxing in your living room, it’s time to cast an eye over some of the clever ‘practical’ touches.
Useful features include a parcel shelf that can be slid behind the rear seats when you need it out of the way, a removable LED torch in the boot and a grippy cupholder in the front so you can unscrew bottle tops with one hand. Like the Octavia and Fabia there’s an ice scraper hidden in the fuel filler cap, while iPad holders can be fitted to the back of the front seats and there’s an iPad cradle in the storage bin between the front seats.
Big storage bins in the front doors, and slightly smaller ones in the rear doors, improve thing further, as do cupholders in the pull-down central armrest in the rear. Features such as lane assist (which nudges the steering automatically to keep you between the white lines) and traffic jam assist (which steers, brakes and accelerates for you at slow speeds in jams) help to take the stress out of long journeys.
The Superb’s roomy interior is one of its most attractive features, but
Skoda hasn’t employed any trickery – the Superb is a big car on the outside as well. At 4,861mm it’s nearly as long as the 4,899mm BMW 5 Series. By comparison the Passat is 4,767mm, and although the latest Mondeo is actually a few mm longer than the Skoda, it can’t match it for rear passenger- or boot-space.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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If you thought the previous Superb was cavernous, prepare to be surprised. This new model is larger in every direction, and while there’s no more legroom (there really wasn’t any need to add any), elbow room and headroom have increased both in the front and the rear, so three adults can sit in the back with space to spare. In fact, the only car the VW Group produces with more space in the back is the long-wheelbase Audi A8 limousine.
The boot in the third-generation Superb has grown by 30 litres to 625 litres with the rear bench in place. Fold the split rear bench down using two levers in the boot and space increases to 1,760 litres, which is 323 litres more than the Ford Mondeo hatchback.
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The space is deep, wide and extremely long with the rear seats down, so chucking a couple of bikes in there would be easy, even with all the wheels attached.
Unlike its predecessor, which had a tailgate that could be opened like a saloon or a full hatchback, there’s now a much simpler and lighter one-piece hatchback that’s electrically operated as an option, and can be opened by waving your foot under the bumper.
Reliability and Safety
The Superb is the first Skoda to be based on the VW Group’s modular MQB platform, which brings with it the benefits of producing components and engines on a huge scale. Because it shares many of its mechanicals with other models throughout the SEAT, VW and Audi ranges you can rest assured that any deficiencies have been ironed out by now.
The previous-generation Superb came an impressive twelfth overall in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey with a score of 94.5%, and there’s no reason to doubt this new model won’t be better still once it makes it into the survey.
The new Superb is also without a doubt the most technologically advanced and safest Skoda ever built, with a vast range of crash-prevention systems. This resulted in a strong five-star performance in the EuroNCAP crash tests, when adult and child occupant protection were both awarded an 86 per cent rating.
The Superb’s roster of available safety features include blind spot detection, to prevent you changing lanes when another car is in the danger zone, and lane assist, which nudges the steering wheel automatically to keep you within the white lines demarking your lane.
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Lane assist also works with the adaptive cruise control system for the traffic jam assist function that accelerates, brakes and steers the car for you in jams. Rear traffic alert first warns you, then brakes the car if something is headed your way when you’re reversing out of a parking bay. You can also get Skoda’s crew safety system which closes windows and tightens belts if an imminent disaster is predicted.
All Superbs come with a three-year warranty but unfortunately – in common with VW Group stablemate Audi – the cover is capped at 60,000 miles. That sort of mileage will be covered easily by many of the big Skoda’s fleet users, but an extension to five years or 100,000 miles will cost £630.
It costs £139 for an intermediate (10,000 mile) and £259 for a full (20,000 mile) service at your local Skoda dealer, which is competitive. Alternatively you can opt for one of the manufacturer’s fixed price service plans, starting at £479 for three years/30,000 miles.