Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI CR Elegance DSG

Clever saloon is an established success. Can it fight off new rival?

Few cars have won as many plaudits from the Auto Express team as the Skoda Superb. It beat big names such as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia to claim the large family car crown at our 2009 New Car Awards, and saw off 43 other hopefuls to land our Family Car World Cup earlier this year.

But while you wouldn’t back against the big Czech, the Saab does steal a march on its rival in terms of styling. The Skoda’s imposing nose and elongated  body is let down by an awkward rear end, which is compromised by the TwinDoor boot. We actually prefer the look of the sharper Estate. Elegance spec does make the most of the styling, though, with chrome exterior trim and a set of attractive alloys.

The Skoda isn’t as visually appealing as its rival inside, either; while the Saab has a swooping, sporty design, the Superb is full of conservative, straight lines. Impeccable build quality and top-grade plastics give it a higher-quality feel, though. And the Elegance will leave 9-5 buyers feeling distinctly short-changed when it comes to kit.

Despite its lower price tag, the Superb features sat-nav, full leather upholstery and no fewer than seven airbags as standard.

The momentum is maintained further back. The back seats give even more legroom than in the Saab and the 565-litre boot trumps the 515 litres of the 9-5. Fold the rear seats and this liberates an incredible 1,670 litres of load space. Plus, you get that option of opening the bootlid as a hatch.

After a sluggish start, the Skoda has edged ahead of the 9-5 – so does it press this advantage home on the road? Armed with the best common-rail diesel and gearbox technology the VW Group has to offer, it leaves its newer rival trailing.

Our figures tell only part of the story, because the Superb sprinted from 0-60mph in a fuss-free 8.6 seconds – that’s 1.4 seconds faster than the 9-5. Our in-gear tests were even more revealing. The Skoda’s 3.4-second advantage from 50-70mph in sixth highlights its lower ratios; the Saab got into its stride only at motorway pace.

Away from the confines of the test track, the Superb underlines its superiority with a more polished dynamic performance, too. On undulating roads where the Saab floats and bounces, the Skoda retains its composure.

Its confidence-inspiring chassis delivers precise steering and a compliant ride, leaving its poor braking performance the only black mark. The DSG gearbox is smoother and faster to respond than the conventional auto of its rival, and the Skoda’s more controlled suspension also provides better ride comfort. All of which leaves the Saab fighting an uphill battle for honours.

In detail * Price: £24,875 * Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl in-line * Power: 168bhp * 0-60mph: 8.6 seconds * AE economy: 37.9mpg * Claimed CO2: 159g/km

Details

WHY: Diesel Skoda offers cracking blend of pace and economy. There’s also a vast, high-quality cabin, distinctive styling, huge spec levels and great customer service.

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