Skoda Superb Estate Review
Skoda continued its understated rise up the ladder with a car that was called Superb. It’s a big self-claim to make – but arguably justified. But does last year’s upgrade continue its ascent? We drove the latest model to answer the all-important question.
- Vastly improved looks
- Huge amount of space
- Comfortable and refined ride
- Rivals remain nicer to drive
- Depreciation likely to be big
- Interior is still a little dull
Skoda has been discreetly climbing the ladder over the last two decades. In case you’ve missed it, the news is that Skoda ought to be higher up your list than it is. A lot higher. Unlike the 80s Rapid, the Superb is well and truly a car that lives up to its name.
So, is the latest facelifted version even more Superb? The boring, dull exterior is gone, with far more refined edges and an aggressive-looking front end, so already it’s looking promising.
But is the new character all just for show? We took it for a drive to find out if Skoda is continuing to defy expectations…
On the Road
The Superb isn’t a car for people who primarily make buying decisions based on 0-62mph times. But it’s no slouch either. It’s light for its size and handles well, though the engines are built for economy rather than out-and-out grunt - so you’ll need a bigger engine if performance is a priority.
There’s an entry level 1.4-litre petrol (125PS, 49 mpg) and a 1.6-litre diesel (120PS, 62 mpg), but these feel a little lacking, so the best compromise is likely to be what we’re testing here: the 2.0-litre diesel SE DSG automatic (150PS, 62.8 mpg).
The 150PS engine has got sufficient performance while still retaining the fuel economy needed to ease the burden on your wallet. It’ll get you to 62mph in 9.1 seconds and top out at 133mph. And it’s quieter than its predecessor.
You can get the top-of-the-range 2.0-litre petrol (280PS), which shifts from 0-62 in 5.8 seconds, but it's nearly £37,000 and that's knocking on the door of premium money, which somewhat defeats the point.
The DSG seven-speed automatic gearbox makes life easier, too, though the manual is six-speed, should you choose it.
The Superb is a car built for refinement and comfort. This will be a popular company rep car, so it’s been built to waft effortlessly on the lengthy motorway drives.
Everything but the entry-level S range can have adaptive suspension as an option, which means you can directly adjust the ride from ‘Comfort’ to ‘Sport’ – though it’s standard with the top-of-the-range (and luxury fashion-brand-sounding) Laurin & Klement trim. In reality, you might be satisfied just by choosing smaller wheels for comfort and larger wheels for a sportier feel. After all, it is a comfortable car to drive regardless.
The Superb is available in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive (higher trims have four-wheel drive as standard) and both handle well, with plenty of grip, though if you’ll regularly be frequenting muddy and slippery roads, the latter may be best as it helps improve traction. It isn’t the most enthralling car to drive, though – if you want a car that generates g-force, you’ll be disappointed.
Bear in mind that four-wheel drive will dent the fuel economy slightly.
This is what the Skoda Superb is supposed to be about. It’s Skoda’s flagship model and is worthy of its top of the range status. With asking prices for the entry-level starting from £22,015 it is excellent value for money.
It’s classy and, compared with its rivals, well-equipped, too. But, though the interior doesn't feel tacky or cheap, it lacks the feel of a brand's flagship model. It's a big vehicle for comfort and practicality, though it's no limousine in terms of luxury either.
All Superbs come with a touch-screen in the middle of the dashboard, with a 6.5-inch display on entry-level cars and a 9.2-inch screen on middle-of-the-range and upwards models.
The automatic DSG gearbox is smooth, too.
In the car
There is a bit of wind roar, and the road noise seems to be proportional to the size of the wheels – the 19-inch alloys should be avoided if you want to maximise the comfort.
The engines are quieter than their predecessors and, while the petrol is very smooth, the diesel can be a bit agricultural after start-up and when accelerating. Most of the time, though, it’s fine and not worth deciding against the diesels for that reason alone.
The steering is accurate, though lacks any real feel – certainly there are more fun cars to drive.
Comfort is to be found in the seats, too – they are height-adjustable, with mid-range and higher trims also getting lumber adjustment.
This is the Superb’s party piece. It has more room than any of its estate rivals – including the Volkswagen Passat. Even the Mercedes E-Class can’t match it.
The boot space is 660 litres, expanding to 1,950 litres if you put the rear seats down. The only downside is they don’t fold completely flat.
But there is still a lot of attention to detail to boost your confidence in the design. There’s a magnetically-attached rechargeable torch in the boot, which also provides the boot lighting, so fans of late-night shopping can see where to put the groceries. What’s more, there’s an ice scraper stored in the fuel filler cap.
And, speaking of ice, there’s the icing on the cake: you get umbrellas in the doors. Yes, you heard that right. They are stored in a cylinder-shaped hole inside the front doors – and you’ll struggle to get the same feature on anything less than a Rolls Royce.
Really, the only challenge you’ll have with practicality is how to fill the space – there’s so much of it.
Being a Skoda, you should expect lower maintenance costs than you would from higher-end brands. As for day-to-day running, though, the engines are economical. Our mid-range Superb claims 62.8mpg with the DSG ‘box, but in manual guise Skoda says you’ll get 65.7mpg. Expect high 40s or early 50s in the real world. In all honesty, fuel economy is about how you drive, as much as what you’re driving.
Due to their notorious history, Skodas still carry a stigma, as undeserved it may be nowadays. Even the name itself is very unappealing. But don’t let it put you off, because it’s a mere blotch, and the reputation of the Superb’s Czech ancestors simply isn’t justified anymore.
Skoda has actually been a division of the Volkswagen Audi Group since 2000 (which is why the original Superb looked incredibly similar to a VW Passat) and the renowned German reputation means you are getting a quality car at a budget price. And nearly two decades attached to the Bavarians means you’re effectively getting premium technology for knock-off prices.
Skoda gives you an unlimited mileage warranty for the first two years, with a third year up to 60,000 miles. This is extendable up five years and 100,000 miles, while all Skodas come with a 12-year body protection warranty, though the brand’s build quality should mean you never need to use it. Of course, a warranty adds peace of mind, but you may not require it at all – Skoda’s reliability is more than a match for any of the big daddies of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Some surveys have actually ranked Skoda higher.
The engines are quieter than their predecessors, and economy is to be found in abundance (even the top of the range 280PS engine manages nearly 40mpg). The DSG gearbox changes up and down completely trouble-free and the car glides along gracefully.
Its old looks were conservative, dull and boring. The face-lifted version, though, really pushes the boat out, with more rigid lines adding a more dynamic, characterful and imposing look – the influence of the newer Audi models, which have followed a similar, rigid theme to their looks, is clear to see.
The facelifted-Superb is one heck of a step forwards. In fact, given the upgrades – especially the improved exterior looks – you would be forgiven for thinking this was a brand new model, not a mere ‘mid-term upgrade’ of the existing one.
The interior, sadly, is the real let down. It is dull and there is very much a sense that it’s been made to be ‘sufficient’ but nothing more, so as not to trouble Audi’s sales figures. But the lack of interior enthusiasm is made up for by the little touches. Never has an umbrella seemed so appealing!
With self-driving cars on their way, the Superb dons its cap to the future with lane-assist, which stops you creeping out of lanes on motorways, and traffic jam assist helps with accelerating, braking and steering at low speeds.
It has DAB radio as standard, with full Bluetooth support for your phone. SE trim and above also adds multi-zone climate control and rear parking sensors to make sure you don’t back into anything.
Pick a model above SE trim and you’ll be introduced to SatNav, an electric driver’s seat and Skoda will fit some parking sensors to the front, too, to protect the bumper from the nearest wall.
On the subject of accidents, the Superb is the highest scoring Skoda ever made, in terms of NCAP safety, easily getting a five-star rating. It comes with seven air bags. But that’s the boring bit. The excitement is in the gadgets on board, which include warnings of oncoming traffic when reversing, plus a blind-spot detector, which can warn you if it senses something you haven’t as you change lanes.
It’s unlikely us mortal humans will get to a point of ‘crashing with confidence’, but this car comes about as close as you can get. Not that you’re ever likely to have a collision with the number of systems on board preventing it. In fact, if you did manage to crash, you’d probably feel like a right wally, wondering how you missed the Superb waving its virtual arms at you in the seconds beforehand.
And the good news is that the safety gizmos are only likely to send your insurance premium down.