Long-term tests

Skoda Superb iV: long-term test review

Second report: the spacious Skoda Superb iV plug-in hybrid hatch boldly goes where no family car has gone before

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Verdict

It’s not been without its faults, but the Skoda Superb iV has proved effortless to live with, whether that’s been pushing its practicality to the limits, or letting it soothe away the miles. This is car that still more than lives up to its name.

  • Mileage: 6,879
  • Economy: 72.3mpg

Plug-in hybrids are endlessly fascinating. They’re generally sold on the promise of rock-bottom running costs, and the potential of spectacular performance. The trouble is, that even for these models, those two areas are mutually exclusive.

While it’s fun to have bragging rights that a family-friendly SUV can out-run a hot hatch, it all feels rather incongruous. For me, where PHEVs really shine is when a petrol engine and electric motors combine to deliver truly impressive economy and a relaxed drive. Over the past 10 months, the Skoda Superb iV has delivered precisely that.

My time with it really has been something of two halves. In the early days I saw frequent charging, but as time went on, the cables spent more time in the boot, so fuel economy suffered. But not by as much as you’d think – the trip computer rarely dipped below the mid-forties. But since the New Year I’ve been religiously charging – and taking advantage of a green energy tariff – to try to match claimed of between 156.9mpg and 256.8mpg –admittedly, a wide range.

I didn’t come close to those heady figures, but after a lockdown-limited 509 miles since Christmas, a real-world peak of 86.3mpg isn’t too shabby. However, these figures lay bare the reality of running a PHEV. If you don’t charge, you’ll be making reasonably frequent trips to the pumps.

Plug it in, and the economy benefits are clear – and if you buy your electricity from a green energy provider, the environmental benefits are there, too. Of course, a full EV would be even better in this regard, but that’s a discussion for another day. For me, right now, being able to balance electric power and fossil fuel works, as we’ve tried to highlight in these pictures.

The Superb did everything I’ve asked of it, too. It took the family on several post-lockdown camping holidays, hauled big, heavy materials for DIY projects, cosseted on long motorway jaunts, and even proved surprisingly good fun on my local country lanes. But it wasn’t entirely painless.

Last summer, the engine management light flicked on, and was often accompanied by a mechanical whirring noise. A failing gearbox oil pump was to blame, but it had damaged the DSG gearbox beyond economical repair, so a new one was sourced. I’d be lying if I said that it hadn’t taken the shine off my time with the car, but it did give me an opportunity to try a 1.5 TSI-powered Superb. It was a fine car, but it simply didn’t have the refinement, finesse and all-round appeal of the plug-in.

With the iV back in working order, I resolved to improve its economy. So for the last few months I religiously charged it at every opportunity. As any EV or PHEV driver will tell you, stretching the range is addictive, especially since the Skoda’s all-electric maximum dropped from around 30 miles to a little over 20 in winter. That peak return of 86.3mpg was mightily impressive by any stretch; I just needed to ensure that longer journeys were in hybrid mode, not EV, to eke out the mileage. It’s nice to know there are real savings to be had: it cost around £1.80 a charge to drive 24 miles in December, compared with around £2.70 to cover the same miles using petrol.

Away from the pragmatics, the Superb remained equally satisfying. The matrix LED headlights beat away the winter gloom brilliantly and the wireless Apple CarPlay worked seamlessly, to the extent that I rarely used the built-in sat-nav or phone connection. But while the connection was wireless, it still required a cable to charge, which is odd.

Overall, I’ve loved my time with the Superb iV. The integration of the engine and e-motor is sublime, and maximises the Skoda’s already-stunning refinement. The switch between power sources is almost imperceptible, and the car is nothing other than absolutely serene when on the move. It’s not particularly sporting – the car’s Dynamic driving mode was rarely engaged – but it’s all the better for it.

Gearbox issues aside, the Superb is a genuinely hard car to fault. It’ll be a sad day when Skoda arrives to take it back.

Skoda Superb iV: second report

The spacious Skoda Superb iV plug-in hybrid hatch boldly goes where no family car has gone before

  • Mileage: 5,881
  • Economy: 45.1mpg

Lockdown. It’s a funny old thing. There’s plenty to get frustrated about, but in the Milne household, it’s meant finding new hobbies, and rediscovering old ones. As you can see in our pictures, space has played a big part – in more ways than one.

What could be more socially distanced than loading up my Skoda Superb with a compact telescope, a flask of coffee and some astronomy books, and heading out to the back of beyond for a few hours of stargazing? It’s a great way to get away from it all, and the bootlid is even big enough to perch the telescope on. Those dark nights have been a great test of the Superb’s matrix LED headlights, too. I’m a huge fan of the tech, which allows you to use the main beam more of the time without dazzling traffic. Even more pleasingly, they’re standard-fit on my Superb SE L model.

It’s not just space in the celestial sense, either. Our Superb was loaded to the gunwales several times last year for family camping trips. With two young children, both requiring child seats and toys, these journeys have been the Superb’s toughest test yet. And they’ve also laid bare the plug-in hybrid Superb iV’s biggest shortcoming: its reduced boot capacity.

The regular Superb’s boot is a gargantuan 625 litres, but 140 litres is lost to the hybrid powertrain. The resulting capacity of 485 litres is satisfactory rather than stellar. No matter, because for £210, Skoda will sell you a set of roof bars and, for a further £375, a 380-litre roofbox. Both are straightforward to fit, and should take two people about 10 minutes. I was impressed with how little wind noise it all generated, with no whistling and only a slight grumble in crosswinds.

Even with 865 litres in total, it was a huge task to pack our kit for a summer week away, despite using extra underfloor boot storage, plus cubbies in the centre console, doors, glovebox, and aft of the rear wheelarches. The electric tailgate is also a worry with a chock-full boot, because it’s hard to shut it gently to coax any protruding luggage out of the way and avoid a shattered window. Even so, the car was an excellent camping partner.

Comfortable seats, a quiet cabin and simple, straightforward smartphone connectivity meant the three-hour each-way journey was as easy as it gets. Around the New Forest roads the Superb was sublime, offering the comfortable, hushed driving experience that a family holiday demands.

The typically British weather meant the umbrellas stowed in the front doors saw their first outing, and the plastic clip in the windscreen allowed us to clearly display another central part of any holiday in Britain – the car parking ticket.

I’m rather ashamed to admit that over the last month or so, the Superb has run more or less exclusively on petrol, because a mix of poor weather and driveway logistics has meant it’s not been acquainted with my Pod Point wallbox. Even so, it’s still returning 45.1mpg, which I think is pretty healthy given that the Superb weighs 1,752kg – and an awful lot more laden with camping kit.

The only other thing? In the wintry weather recently the lack of a rear windscreen wiper has become a bit of an issue. It’s a no-cost option on every Superb, which seems like a strange decision.

Skoda Superb iV: first report

Plug-in hybrid tech promises to be a great match for the Skoda Superb iV

  • Mileage: 2,740
  • Economy: 44.5mpg

It’s hard to improve a package that’s as well rounded as the Skoda Superb. This is a car that ticks all the pragmatic boxes: it’s smooth, stylish and spacious. Choose one of the diesels and it’s also economical.

However, earlier this year Skoda released a plug-in hybrid variant, and given what electrification does for comfort and refinement in other cars, the Superb iV, as it’s known, could just well be the sweet spot in the range. I’m spending an extended period with one to discover if it is.

First impressions are great, because it looks, feels and drives just like any other model in the range. Keen-eyed Skoda fans will notice the iV badge and the solid front ‘grille’, which hides the well positioned charging port. But in all other respects, visually, it’s just another Superb. 

There’s not much change inside either, apart from a few PHEV-specific displays on the optional Virtual Cockpit fitted to our test car. In fact, the only real difference you’ll notice is a slightly smaller boot; the battery robs 140 litres seats-up, but with the capacity at 485 litres, it’s still not exactly what you’d call compromised. Plus, there’s underfloor storage to keep the charging cables out of the way, a feature that’s not as common among PHEVs as you might expect. 

Not that I’ve had to charge it all that often, even before lockdown, because the Superb iV has an official electric range of 34 miles. It’s a figure that’s proving to be reasonably accurate if I drive gently and make use of the most aggressive brake regen mode.

Impressively, it’s not been hard to keep fuel economy around 50mpg most of the time, even without religiously charging the car, and that’s despite the iV weighing more than 200kg on top of the lightest Superb. 

The first thing that struck me is that the Superb is both sensationally refined and supremely comfortable. Although my SE L model is the entry-point to Superb iV ownership, it’s still the pick of the range. Standard kit includes excellent Matrix LED headlights, heated leather seats, a powered bootlid and an eight-inch touchscreen.

That last feature is worth dwelling on for a moment. It’s slick, responsive, and the menus are logically laid out. It has myriad features, but it’s the Superb’s wireless Apple CarPlay set-up that is, for me, a complete revelation. Apple’s brilliant platform is instantly accessible as long as the phone is connected to the car via Bluetooth, and it has rendered the native sat-nav redundant for me. 

However, although the system operates wirelessly, there’s no wireless charging in the car, so topping up your phone’s battery on the go still requires a lead.

My test car has a few easy-to-justify options, which despite a price hike earlier this year, keep the car as-tested under the £40,000 VED threshold. The £395 LED Package Plus features ambient interior lighting, including some of the most effective puddle lights I’ve seen. The rear parking camera is a worthwhile £385, and the £475 Virtual Cockpit is a must-have feature. The only extra which the jury is still out on are the 19-inch alloys. They look fantastic, without doubt, but the 40-section tyres give a slight brittleness to the ride that you might not expect.

Other weak spots? I’m not totally sold on the Superb’s looks; it’s far from ugly, but can seem a little oddly proportioned from some angles. And now I’ve set up a user profile for the Skoda Connect app, the system takes a bit too long to boot up. I’m not yet able to complete the registration, either, because it needs the unlock button to be pressed on two keys as a sensible security message. It’s hardly a critical issue, although it would be nice to remotely monitor the battery charge. 

Model:Skoda Superb iV 1.4 TSI DSG SE L
On fleet since:March 2020
Price new:£36,090
Engine:1.4-litre 4cyl petrol, e-motor, 215bhp
CO2/tax:35g/km/£140
Options:19-inch Canopus alloy wheels (£850), LED package plus (£285), Moon White metallic paint (£595), rear-view parking camera (£385), Virtual Cockpit (£475)
Insurance*:Group: 26 Quote: £448
Mileage/mpg:6,879/72.3mpg
Any problems?

Replacement gearbox

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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