Skoda Superb review
Skoda's flagship Superb ditches the old car's awkward looks for sleek styling, plenty of space and value for money
The Superb is Skoda’s flagship model, designed to offer all the space and refinement of a large premium saloon, but with Skoda’s trademark value for money thrown in. It arrives taking aim at the likes of the VW Passat, Ford Mondeo and Mazda 6 family cars.
The first Skoda to be based on the modular MQB platform it weighs up to 75kg less than its predecessor despite being longer, wider, taller and with a longer wheelbase. Rear passengers 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 – plus there’s an even larger estate version coming soon.
The all-four-cylinder petrol and diesel engine line-up is focused on low-running costs, and can be fitted with a manual or DSG auto gearbox and front or four-wheel drive.
In true Skoda style the interior is crammed with clever ideas, like umbrellas built into the doors and ice scrapers hidden in the petrol filler flap, while the latest safety technology such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and park assist is all available.
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.
Our choice: Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 150 SE Business
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 bold in the style stakes.
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 C-pillar, while at the rear you’ll find LED tail-lamps. All versions get alloy wheels as standard.
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 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 our choice SE Business models add dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, a touchscreen sat-nav system, adaptive cruise control and privacy glass for the rear windows.
The Superb’s mission is to be a Mercedes S-Class for the masses, so the focus is firmly on comfort and refinement ahead of pin sharp 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, but front-wheel drive models feel just as planted the rest of the time.
Adaptive dampers are an option, costing around £800, and have 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, 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.
The diesel engines don’t clatter, but buzz away under the bonnet and provide good in-gear punch - we’d go for the 148bhp 2.0 TDI that strikes the best balance between performance and economy. The pick of the petrols is a 148bhp 1.4 TSI with cylinder deactivation technology as it’s whisper quiet, pulls strongly and has the best BIK rate for company car users at 18 per cent.
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.
The new Superb is also the most technologically advanced and safest Skoda ever built with a vast range of crash-prevention systems.
These include blind spot detection, to prevent you changing lanes when another car is there, and Lane Assist that nudges the steering wheel automatically to keep you within the lines in your lane. Lane Assist 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 warns you, then brakes the car if something is coming, when you’re reversing out of a parking bay.
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.
The boot 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 that increases to 1,760-litres, which is 323-litres more than the Ford Mondeo hatchback. 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.
Other 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, are useful to have, as are cupholders in the pull-down central armrest in the rear. Features like lane assist, that nudges the steering automatically to keep you between the white lines, and traffic jam assist that steers, brakes and accelerates for you at slow speeds in jams, help to take the stress out of long journeys.
For such a large, luxurious car, the Superb shouldn’t cost much more than an Octavia to run. The most efficient Greenline model won’t be available until mid-2016, and will be powered by a 118bhp 1.6 TDI with CO2 emissions as low as 95g/km.
Until then the 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.
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.
All Superbs come with a three-year, 60,000 miles warranty, and are available with a variety of fixed-price servicing packs to help manage costs.