Skoda Superb

Our early drive confirms Skoda's new Mondeo rival is an attractive alternative to mainstream family models.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Our early drive confirms that Skoda is soon to have another great car on its hands. The Superb is an intriguing alternative to mainstream family models. It’s very comfortable, has limousine levels of rear seat space and, unlike its predecessor, the practicality of a hatchback. Add lots of standard kit and, if Skoda prices it right, the Superb could steal sales from more established family cars. We look forward to driving the finished model!

It’s no secret – Skoda’s all-new flagship is nearly out of the bag! Auto Express has gained exclusive access to this prototype version of the Superb, which the Czech company hopes will give Ford’s Mondeo some tough competition when it hits the road in 10 months’ time.

We caught up with the car in Death Valley, California. But, unlike our spy photographers, we weren’t miles away behind a long lens. We were behind the wheel!

Building on the strengths of the current Superb, the new model will offer buyers even more passenger space, technology and equipment, Skoda says, plus a sharper driving experience and a new engine range.

While its predecessor never really stood out from the crowd, and although our test prototype wore a disguise, we already know that the next Superb is going to have a bold, new look. Our spy shots in Issue 949 showed that under the cover lies a distinctive face, with the chrome grille first seen on the firm’s Roomster MPV. Classy swept-back headlights and a raised bonnet with neat, chiselled edges add to the appeal.

With a relatively tall ride height and significant overhangs, the styling still isn’t quite as dynamic or youthful as that of rivals, but the car is set to be more practical. The saloon has been replaced by a hatchback – and an estate is coming, both of which are firsts for the Superb range.

We couldn’t open the boot on the prototype, but it should offer class-leading luggage space. Being based on a stretched version of the latest Volkswagen Passat’s platform, it’s even longer than the new Mondeo.

So there is more rear seat space than before, and two six-footers fit in with leg and headroom to spare. Add supportive seats and a handy fold-down centre armrest with neat cup­holders, and it’s every bit as good as VW’s luxurious Phaeton to travel in. The cabin builds on the firm’s themes of simplicity and quality with a clean layout featuring a touchscreen centre console. The stereo is iPod compatible, and there’s a hard drive to store music.

Another first for Skoda – and indeed the whole VW Group – is the adaptive headlight system, which varies the range and direction of the beam according to the car’s speed and steering angle. It works incredibly well, and with neat interior illumination of the door handles and centre console, there’s a real quality feel to the car after dark.

Although our test model was a well used prototype, early impres­sions from behind the wheel are excellent. The ride is comfortable, and the suspension soaks up minor bumps and undulations with ease.

It’s not sporty like a Mondeo or Mazda 6 – the steering is precise but lacks feel, while the body control is not as taut. Yet, for a big car, the Superb handles well. More importantly, it cushions and cossets occupants better than many luxury vehicles costing twice as much. It’s very refined, too, even at speed.

The petrol engine line-up will comprise five VW-sourced units inclu­ding an entry-level 120bhp 1.4-litre TSI super-turbo, a 158bhp 1.8 turbo, a 200bhp 2.0 turbo and a flagship 3.6-litre V6 with VW’s Haldex four-wheel drive. Diesel options include 140bhp and 170bhp 2.0 common-rail turbos and a 2.7-litre V6 TDI.

Our prototype was fitted with the 158bhp 1.8 unit and while it’s quiet and coped well with the Superb’s size, it’s no firebreather and lacks torque. Clearly, the diesels are going to be the powerplants to go for.

Skoda has high hopes for the next Superb, expecting UK sales to leap from 3,000 a year to 4,500, and we see no reason to doubt that. The new model offers luxury car-style comfort, space and equipment at a fraction of the cost. Based on the evidence of our drive, it deserves to do very well.

Rival: Ford Mondeo 2.0 As our current Car of the Year and the reigning class leader, Ford’s latest Mondeo has the Skoda beaten when it comes to the driving experience. However, if you’re looking for large family transport with acres of rear legroom and a comprehensive equipment list, the Superb is a strong contender. The bargain price tag makes it even more attractive.

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