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Skoda Superb First Drive

By raccars Published

RAC Cars / April 2015 / Tim Pitt

The Superb is Skoda’s flagship – an upmarket hatchback at a mid-market price. We were first behind the wheel at the launch in Italy.

Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 150 DSG

-Price: £23,490

-Gearbox: Six-speed DSG semi-automatic

-0-62mph: 9.0 seconds

-Top speed: 134mph

-Fuel economy: 62.8mpg

-CO2: 118g/km

-On sale: June

-Insurance group: TBC

Three Skoda Superb facts

1: The Superb is available with four-wheel drive if you choose the 2.0 TDI diesel engine.

2: An estate version is due in 2016. If past performance is anything to go by, it will outsell the five-door hatchback driven here.

3: It has pop-out umbrellas inside both front doors – just like a Rolls-Royce.

What is it?

Skoda’s third-generation Superb doesn’t mess with a successful formula. It’s essentially a stretched version of the Volkswagen Passat, offering more space for a lower price than its in-house rival.

The new Superb is has grown in every direction, and has a roomier cabin and bigger boot. With prices starting at £18,640, the only way to get more metal for your money is to buy an MPV.

Buyers have a choice of turbocharged, four-cylinder engines: three TSI petrol (125-280hp) and four TDI diesel (120-190hp). A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, or you can pay £1,400 for the DSG semi-automatic.

All Superbs come with air conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB radio and city emergency braking, which hits the anchors if it detects an impending collision.

Step up from the entry-level S to SE and you’ll get cruise control and rear parking sensors. SE L Executive adds xenon headlights, leather seats and sat nav, while the fully-loaded Laurin and Klement includes keyless entry, park assist (the car steers itself into a parking space) and a thumping 10-speaker audio system.

If you’re getting a Superb as a company car, it’s also worth knowing about the fleet-only SE Business trim, which is the same price as SE but adds sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, and suede-effect Alcantara upholstery.

Styling and interior

There’s something quite Audi-esque about the Superb’s crisp, sharply-pressed lines. But that’s no bad thing. It may even persuade some A4 buyers into Skoda showrooms.

And there’s no denying this is a handsome beast. Its bulbous wheelarches and strong shoulder-line (running from the front to the rear of the car, underneath the windows) give it a muscular look and plenty of rear-view-mirror presence.

Inside, the Superb is sober but functional, with plenty of straight edges and some less-than-premium plastics. We can’t fault the build quality, though – or the amount of space.

Ah yes, the interior space. There’s enough room for five gangly adults to travel in comfort and rear-seat legroom to shame a Range Rover. It really is huge in there.

The boot is cavernous, too. It holds 625 litres (up 30 litres from the previous car) or 1760 litres with the seats folded flat. That’s far more than a Ford Mondeo (541 and 1437 litres respectively) and enough to make you question the need for the forthcoming Superb Estate. Unless you’re in the house-clearance business, the hatchback will probably suffice.

A 5in touchscreen media system comes as standard, but our test cars had the higher-spec 8in Columbus system. It boasts bold, clear graphics, although it’s less intuitive to use than Audi’s excellent MMI system – particularly while driving.

There are some clever details, too, such as a grippy front cupholder that allows you to open bottles with one hand, or the removable torch in the boot. You can also set the tailgate so that it won’t open above a certain height – handy if you have a low-roofed garage.

Performance

We started in the likely bestseller of the range: the 150hp 2.0 TDI diesel. It feels punchy and decently powerful, even when the car is packed with passengers and luggage. There’s no mistaking this is a diesel, though – it sounds quite rattly when worked hard.

The 150hp 1.4 TSI petrol is a much sweeter engine. It features Skoda’s ACT cylinder deactivation, so it switches – imperceptibly – from four to two cylinders at low throttle loads.

The 1.4 TSI lacks the low-down torque (puling power) of the diesel, but it’s easier on the ears and more eager to rev, and thus more fun to drive. It’s a pity so few buyers will choose it; the bias towards fleet sales means 93% of Superbs are expected to be diesels.

We actually preferred the six-speed manual gearbox to the DSG twin-clutch automatic. The DSG (it stands for ‘direkt schalt getriebe’, in case you were wondering) felt slow to respond and was often caught in the wrong gear on the undulating roads of our test route.

Handling

Let’s be frank, the Superb won’t have you grinning from behind the wheel. It’s competent and safe, with plenty of grip, but it doesn’t have the dynamic prowess of a Ford Mondeo, let alone a BMW 3 Series. The steering doesn’t offer much feedback and you’re always aware of the car’s sheer size.

Both cars we tried were SE L Executive-spec and featured Drive Mode Select. This allows you to adjust the suspension, steering and auto gearbox between four settings: Eco, Comfort, Normal and Sport. As you might expect, Normal seemed the best compromise.

The Superb’s ride is on the firm side for a luxury car (more so in Sport mode) and it thuds uncomfortably over speed humps. Straight-line stability is excellent, however – this car feels made for the motorway.

Price and value

Prices at launch start at £18,640 for the 125ps 1.4 TSI. The cheapest diesel is the 120ps 1.6 TDI, at £20,040.

A mid-range 2.0 TDI manual in SE-spec costs £22,090 and the same car with a DSG gearbox (as tested) is £23,490. To put that into perspective, you’ll pay around £4,000 more for an equivalent VW Passat, and over £6,000 more for a BMW 318d SE.

Given that the Superb is bigger and better equipped than either car, it represents excellent value for money. The only downside is depreciation; Skoda’s public perception as a ‘budget brand’ means the car may lose value more quickly than ‘premium’ rivals. That means the difference in price between a Skoda and a BMW on PCP finance deals might be less than you expect.

Fuel economy

If you’re opting for a diesel, the 150hp 2.0-litre engine looks like a no-brainer. Its fuel economy of 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 108g/km (with a manual gearbox) are exactly the same as the basic 120hp 1.6 TDI. And the bigger engine costs just £500 more to buy.

The petrols are pretty economical, too – especially the 150hp 1.4 TSI we sampled. By shutting down two of its four cylinders when they’re not needed, it achieves an impressive 57.7mpg and 115g/km CO2.

The 1.4 TSI also costs £900 less to buy than the equally powerful 2.0 diesel. At current pump prices, we calculate that it would take the diesel driver nearly seven years to make up that difference in reduced fuel costs (assuming he/she drove 12,000 miles a year).

Verdict: Skoda Superb (2015)

One of the Skoda executives we spoke to likened the VW Group’s platform-sharing strategy to the old-fashioned art of coachbuilding. Many of the cars share the same engines, suspension components and so on, he said, but it’s the bodywork and interiors that make them different.

He might also have added the badges. Because while the Superb is bigger and better value than a Passat, it doesn’t carry the kudos of a VW roundel.

To some people that will matter. But look beyond the budget branding and the Superb is an accomplished luxury car with a family-car price tag. It really is good enough to make Audi drivers think twice.

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