Skoda Superb Estate: Fourth report

Our trusty estate has one last trick up its sleeve – it’s started talking!

  • I can't condone texting while driving, but the ability to safely read incoming messages using the small screen between the speedo and rev counter is really useful. Press a button on the stereo and the infotainment system will even read them out loud for you, so all you have to do is listen.
  • After a break from driving the Skoda, I noticed its front tyres weren’t providing their usual bite. A quick inspection of the rubber showed that 14,654 miles had taken their toll. They’re still legal, but heavy wear is common on cars fitted with the 18-inch alloys on our Elegance model.

After nearly a year on the fleet, our long-term Skoda Superb still has the power to surprise. We’ve all been there – you’re busy driving and your mobile buzzes as a text message arrives. Picking up the phone to read it is against the law and hardly the most sensible option, so you have a choice. Do you wait until you get to your destination or stop the car to find out who’s trying to get hold of you?

Luckily for me, our Superb Estate avoids this dilemma, as Elegance trim includes Skoda’s Columbus entertainment system. It allows you to read texts using both the central touchscreen and the dot-matrix display on the instrument panel. It will even read out the message for you if you want, for the ultimate hassle-free SMS experience.

But it doesn’t end there, as I discovered on a recent road trip. Midway through a long drive, I received a message, and read it using the large central display. You can imagine my surprise to see an option to reply to the text on the screen. Surely not?

Toyota caused a stir recently when it announced the new Yaris would be available with text-on-the-move capability, and I doubted my one-year-old Superb was able to perform this trick. But it can. Selecting the Reply option presented me with a full A-Z keyboard on the touchscreen. Had I wanted to, I could have typed a 160-character missive there and then, cruising down the outside lane of the M25 at 70mph.

I’ve never noticed this option before, so can only put it down to a recent phone upgrade. My latest mobile is clearly able to access more of the functions provided by the unit. And although texting while driving is not permitted if you have to hold the phone to operate it, the car’s Bluetooth system gets around this problem.

Yet while I’m sure composing messages using the built-in infotainment system is safer than using the tiny keypad on the phone itself, I’m not convinced that it should be encouraged.

I’d like to see the system operate like in-car televisions, which go blank when the car moves. Then you’d be able to key in a message when stuck in traffic, but not while negotiating Hyde Park Corner in rush hour. Even better, how about the option to speak a reply?

It’s worth noting that, while it’s legal to send texts using the screen, you could still be charged with careless or even dangerous driving, if using it causes you to have an accident.

Aside from the Skoda’s technology, it has been business as usual for the big estate. It continues to provide brilliant everyday transport, fantastic long-haul comfort and huge amounts of space. Mind you, muddy winter roads mean the screenwash reservoir has been emptied at an even more furious rate than normal – it sprays the headlights as well as the windscreen.

Otherwise, the Skoda is travelling serenely towards the end of its time on our fleet, and I’m really struggling to think of a suitable replacement.

Extra Info

“Simply put, the Skoda Superb is one of the best cars on the Auto Express fleet. No other model can match its impressive blend of space, comfort and engaging driving dynamics. It’ll be a sad day when Skoda comes to take it away.”

James Disdale, Deputy road test editor

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