What is it?
The Skoda Superb is the Czech brand’s rival to fleet large car stalwarts from Ford, Volkswagen – and BMW…
Upmarket styling, strong safety spec, large luggage space
The Skoda Superb is today seeing its range-topping status seriously challenged by the brand’s new Kodiaq SUV. But for those who prefer large saloon-styled, but hatch-practical car over SUV, the Superb ticks very many boxes.
The car offers lots of space, high quality in both build and performance, and pleasing amounts of tech – though these may require spending extra. But for fleet buyers in particular, the Skoda Superb is as valid a consideration as a Ford Mondeo, a Volkswagen Passat – or a BMW 5 Series.
It is remarkable that even today, some still snigger when the Skoda Superb is mentioned, incredulous that the two words could be combined.
Anyone who has driven the Superb, however, know that as the Czech brand has steadily increased its reputation for quality under the stewardship of the Volkswagen Group, its halo model has become an ever more prominent player in the fleet market.
In that, the Superb is only repeating history – the name comes from a much earlier time, from 1934, when Skoda was a renowned maker of luxury cars in its home market and the Superb its most upmarket car of all.
Today, the Superb is not only a car routinely chosen as a motorway muncher in preference to a Ford Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat, it is also being given more attention by those who previously would have driven Audi, BMW of Mercedes-Benz, but who can no longer justify the price premium with comes with such upmarket badges.
The current Superb, the third-generation model, launched in 2015. Since then it has racked up a swathe of awards, especially in the business car market. And its success continues despite the opposition upping its game, particularly in the areas of technology.
It certainly looks the part – whether in hatch form, as we are testing here, or the even more practical estate. The new 2015 model introduced a bolder but also more mature styling treatment, based on distinctive lines and creases that give the car prominence on the driveway and in the company car park.
Notably, while a hatchback, visually the Superb evokes an executive saloon – directly targeting those Audis and BMWs that have been stealing sales from the more mainstream contenders in the segment.
Buying and owning a Skoda Superb
The current Superb is a substantial car – both longer and wider than the car it replaced. But its aluminium-intensive construction on the VW Group MQB platform, effectively one of the first examples of the modern trend to modular building, allows significant weight over the previous model – 75kg from the shell alone.
Superb buyers choose from three petrol and three diesel powertrains. Entry-level is the 1.4-litre petrol unit with 150hp on tap – it’s not as overwhelmed as one might think in such a large car and returns 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km. This is impressively frugal for a petrol unit, and achieved by means of active cylinder technology that shuts down two of the four pots when they are not under load.
Those who need more power and must have petrol can go for the 2-litre with 220hp, or the range-topping 280hp variant, which is matched to a DSG auto gearbox and all-wheel-drive as standard. Remarkably this engine is 20hp more powerful than the larger and heavier 3.6 unit it replaced, yet up to 24 per cent more fuel efficient.
Of course the diesels will still be of core interest to fleet buyers. Our test car is fitted with the 2-litre 150hp unit, which sits midway between a 1.6 120hp unit and a 190hp version of the 2-litre.
The Superb gained a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating when it was tested back in 2015. A wide-ranging suite of safety systems is available for the car, including autonomous emergency braking which is standard on all models. Other safety technology is typical of that becoming the norm across the market, blind spot assistance (for the first time on a Skoda), traffic signs, park assist et al. However how much is included depends how far up the trim levels one goes.
Our SE Technology model – effectively the third of the six trim levels, is well equipped. Highlights on the long standard list include adaptive cruise control, bi-xenon headlamps, an infotainment system based around a 9.2-inch touchscreen and including sat nav and DAB radio, electric boot opening, heated electric mirrors, leather upholstery and the Drive Mode selector allowing one to change the driving characteristics of the car.
Inside the Skoda Superb
The interior of the current Superb is one area in which Skoda has made major inroads to the advantages formerly enjoyed by its rivals.
For a start, there’s a lot of space for people and for their luggage. Head, leg and shoulder room is generous in front and back, particularly in terms of width – the previous car was uncomfortably narrow in this respect. The boot appears cavernous – at 625 litres it is 30kg better than its predecessor and knocks many rivals firmly into touch, though it could be a little more practical in its interior layout.
Inside, one enjoys quality surroundings. The leather is well stitched, the plastics of a high-level, tactile finish. It’s easy to get comfortable in this voluminous interior.
Ahead the driver faces a typically efficient and thoughtfully laid out VW Group cockpit – digital displays abound, while the touchscreen is easy to use and the graphics of high quality, particularly on the satellite navigation.
And then there are Skoda’s much-hyped, but also very useful, ‘Simply Clever’ items. While more familiar now, such features as the umbrella tucked into the door shell, an ice scraper under the fuel filler cap, and a boot light that unclips to become a torch, are brilliant little ideas.
Driving the Skoda Superb
With big cars, one fears barge-like driving characteristics, but not this Skoda. This is a car designed for racking up many a motorway mile in great comfort, and it totally fulfils the brief.
While the petrol engines offer the most refinement, purring along in near silence, the 150hp diesel in our test car runs them close, smooth in its plentiful power delivery, never harsh in tone. And while some might prefer the direct changes of a manual transmission, it’s difficult to fault the proven DSG unit in our test car.
The chassis also lives up to its billing, especially with the adaptive dampers of the Dynamic Chassis Control – a £750 option on our car – dialled into the Comfort setting. If one’s daily life requires long-distance motoring, the Skoda is a compelling proposition.
It’s not quite so accomplished when the roads turn twisty. While still composed, this is not a car you can corner with too much gusto. Comfort is too floaty, Sport a little harsh with the body roll just not controlled enough to prevent the driver being reminded just how large this car is. Dial up normal on the selector, and it’s a compromise, but a satisfactory one for day to day use.
The Skoda Superb is – superb… While perhaps its range flagship status is now under significant threat from the Kodiaq, not everyone wants an SUV and the Superb offers lots of space, high quality in both build and performance, and so long as one steps above the entry-level model, pleasing amounts of tech.
More than ever before, the Skoda Superb will provide those in the market for a large executive car with all they will require – whether they are stepping out of a Volkswagen Passat or a BMW 5 Series.
Have you driven the Skoda Superb? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.
|Make & model||Skoda Superb||Volkswagen Passat||BMW 5 Series|
|Specification||SE L Executive Hatch||SE Business TDI||520d SE|
|Price (on-road)||£27,950 (range starts £20,695)||£28,515 (range starts £22,025)||£36,815 (range starts £35,835)|
|Engine||2.0-litre diesel||2.0-litre diesel||2.0-litre diesel|
|Power||150 hp||150 hp||190 hp|
|Torque||340 Nm||340 Nm||400 Nm|
|0-62mph||8.6 sec||8.7 sec||7.5 sec|
|Top speed||135 mph||135 mph||146 mph|
|Fuel economy (combined)||61.4 mpg||62.8 mpg||68.9 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||118 g/km||113 g/km||108 g/km|
|Euro NCAP rating||5 stars (2015)||5 stars (2014)||5 stars (2017)|
|Country of manufacture||Czech Republic||Germany||Germany|
|TCE rating||7.6 / 10||Not yet rated||8.4 / 10|