Skoda Superb review
The Skoda Superb is a large family car that lives up to its name: it's well equipped, extremely practical and great value for money
The Skoda Superb offers Volkswagen Group build quality at a much lower price than equivalent VW or Audi models, as well as loads of standard equipment and much more practicality for families. We think that represents everything that has made the company so successful in recent years. Passenger comfort, build quality and the efficient engine range are all top-notch – this is simply one of the best big family cars you can buy. It would take a very determined badge snob to be put off by the lack of an upmarket logo on the nose.
The Superb is named after a historical Skoda model that was sold in the thirties and forties, and is the largest car in the brand’s current range. The original, launched in 2001, was based on the VW Passat, but this MkII car – which arrived in 2008 – uses an extended previous-generation Octavia platform. A 2013 facelift not only added Skoda’s new corporate nose, but sa the engine range updated with lower emissions and improved fuel economy. The trim levels have also been simplified to four choices: S, SE, Elegance and plush Laurent & Klement flagship.
Our choice: Superb 2.0 TDI 140PS SE
The Skoda Superb looks slightly unsual in profile thanks to its unique roofline, and overall it isn't quite as neat and resolved as its VW Group stablemate the Passat. However the facelifted 2013 model has a completely new front-end designed to push the Superb further upmarket. It’s instantly recognisable as a Skoda thanks to its simple, no-nonsense lines, but the wide back doors, long roofline and stepped rear mean it looks more awkward than the smaller Octavia.The update introduces a squared-off grille and lights up front, while the rear number plate has been moved from the bumper to between the revised tail-lights.
Overall, it looks tidier than before, but if you want style from your Superb, we suggest you check out the better-proportioned estate. The interior tweaks are even more subtle than those on the outside. There’s the same layout as before, and a classy wood finish for the dash, but again the cabin is smart rather than stunning. Leather is standard on the Elegance, and gives a more upmarket feel – especially in the spacious back seats. Interior quality is fantastic and the cabin on SE trim and above there is plenty of equipment as standard, while top-spec Laurin & Klement models feel suitably luxurious inside with plush leather heated seats, a TV tuner, panoramic glass sunroof (on the estate version) and aluminium track and a partition system in the boot all as standard.
The 138bhp 2.0 TDI has 35bhp less power than the 6, but in isolation feels responsive. The Skoda trails the Mazda 6 by less than half a second from 0-60mph – with a time of 9.2 seconds – helped by a smooth and precise six-speed box. Slightly longer ratios mean it was slower in-gear, too. You’ll get more performance from the 168bhp version of the same engine, for an extra £930. Under braking, the Skoda took longer to come to a halt and felt less stable than the 6, as its mass shifted as it decelerated. In corners, again it trailed its rival, as there’s more body roll and the controls aren’t as responsive. Still, the steering is well weighted and there’s lots of grip, while the car never feels as big as its bulbous lines would suggest.
The ride is very comfortable thanks to the Superb's long wheelbase and light controls. This soft set-up should make for a more comfortable cruiser, but the Skoda isn’t much more relaxed than the Mazda 6, despite its smaller alloys. The suspension fidgets over rough surfaces, while big bumps cause the car to shake. The Greenline eco model has been updated and now comes with a six-speed manual gearbox which improves cruising refinement and also features a 15mm lower ride height to improve aerdynamic performance - but the ride is quite firm.
Skoda's record in our annual Driver Power survey speaks for itself: the Superb finished second overall in 2012, beaten only by its fellow Skoda, the Yeti. The company as a whole topped the manufacturer's charts as well, so there really is no more satsifying car to own. Reliability of both petrol and diesel engines, as well as electrics, is almost bulletproof, and electronic stability control is standard across the Superb range. Owners praised the Superb’s space, quality and reliability in our Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey, and the latest car should live up to this record. Euro NCAP gave the Superb five stars for safety – although it was tested back in 2009. The twin boot opening defaults to its saloon setting, and a heavy-duty latch ensures that the hatch won’t open of its own accord in a smash.
The Superb has an advantage over the 6 here, although the margin isn’t as great as you’d imagine. Its bootlid opening is narrower than the Mazda’s, but it also has its clever hatch.The simple system’s two buttons let you open the boot or also lift the hatch. It takes a second for the hatch function to engage, but the benefits are clear, with uncompromised access to the big boot. Its 595-litre capacity is 112 litres up on the Mazda 6’s, although that advantage falls to 68 litres when you fold the Superb’s seats to free up 1,700 litres. To do this involves using levers in the cabin. What’s more, the boot lip is high, the threshold wide and there’s a step in the floor when the seats are folded. Another minor niggle is that there’s no rear wiper. When it comes to rear space, the Skoda is very impressive. There’s acres of legroom, while B-pillar vents provide fresh air. A centre console display shows the time and outdoor temperature, and an umbrella sits in one of the doors. Apart from that, the rear cabin majors on space more than luxury.
The Skoda Superb has slightly poorer economy than the Mazda 6 – although a lower price means cheaper company car tax bills.The Skoda is about £900 less than the Mazda, and it comes with sat-nav and a DAB radio as standard, so it's great value. However, a USB connection costs extra and you only get parking sensors at the rear. As it’s a newer car, the Superb has better residuals, at 42.8 per cent. As with other Skodas, there's an eco-special GreenLine version of the Superb available. It uses a 1.6 TDI diesel engine and various aerodynamic and gearbox tweaks to deliver 67.3mpg fuel economy and very low 109g/km CO2 emissions - the same as the EfficientDynamics BMW 3 Series. It is now available on each trim level rather than as a standalone model and comes with the same high-level of kit so is better value than before. All diesel versions and the 1.4 TSI petrol now come with stop/start and braking energy recuperation as standard to help save fuel.