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Skoda Superb review: First drive

The Good

  • Great, contemporary looks
  • Drives fantastically
  • Lots of tech

The Bad

  • Too many options?
  • Idiots may mock
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Rory Reid reviews the 2015 Skoda Superb. Does the company’s premium offering live up to its name?

Skoda’s secret has been out for some years now; the company offers fabulous cars that are fabulously good value for money. Its flagship offering, the Skoda Superb is no different. It’s the very embodiment of a large, high-quality family saloon that provides a premium driving experience of the sort you’d expect from the likes of Audi or Volkswagen, at far more sensible prices. We hopped into the latest iteration of the Superb to see just how good it really was.

Design

“Everything on this car looks like it could be fashioned into a weapon if you were to remove it.”Sharp, is perhaps the best way to describe the new Skoda Superb. Its designers have clearly lavished lots of attention on this new car, endowing it with a veritable orgy of angular design elements. The headlights look sharp enough to cut, as does the grille, window line, the list goes on. Everything on this car looks like it could be fashioned into a weapon if you were to remove it.

Not that we’re experts, but it seems many of the individual design elements could probably stand alone as pieces of contemporary art. The bonnet, with its myriad lines and sharp angles, could easily be mounted on a wall in a gallery. Indeed, that’s exactly what Skoda did at one of the venues playing host to the car’s launch in Tuscany.

It’s not just a collection of incisive creases. There’s plenty of fascinating detail throughout, including the crystal-inspired elements inside the light clusters, which also play host to vertical strokes of light, resembling eyelashes.

The angular theme continues inside, with sharp-looking elements almost everywhere you look, from the door locks to the air vents.

Practicality

“Movable blocks that stick, Velcro-style, to the boot floor, allow you to create custom-sized partitions to keep your luggage in place.”The new Skoda Superb is incredibly spacious inside. It has acres of leg room, head room and elbow room in all seats – far more than any of its competitors, according to Skoda, and we can believe them.

Its boot is a gigantic 625 litres, increasing to 1,760 with the seat backs folded – nearly twice as big as you’d find in an ordinary hatchback, for example.

It’s so big, in fact, that you’ll think twice about putting even suitcases in there for fear of those objects flailing about as you drive. Fortunately Skoda provides movable blocks that stick, Velcro-style, to the boot floor, allowing you to create custom-sized partitions to keep your luggage in place.

The boot lid operates electrically at the push of a button, or a wave of a leg underneath the rear bonnet.

Inside, there are plenty of clever touches that make life in a Superb pleasant – 29 in all, Skoda says. The cup holders in the centre console have a grippy rubber section at its base that lets you open bottles one-handed; there are a pair of umbrellas located in each of the two front doors; tablet holders in the rear; a tablet storage compartment; an ice scraper in the fuel filler compartment, a magnetic LED torch in the boot and a that’s just the start.

Performance & handling

“It’s all too happy to indulge the hooligan inside you. It’s surprisingly good fun and very capable.”The Skoda Superb is, essentially, a Volkswagen with a Czech badge on the front, so you won’t be surprised to learn that it drives fantastically. The car is based on VW’s MQB platform, which is both lighter and stiffer than the platform used previously. This translates into impressive driving behaviour.

It rides in impressively smooth fashion, gliding across roads in the manner you’d expect from a far more expensive car.

The Superb uses the VW group’s Dynamic Chassis Control feature, which allows the driver to select from a range of driving modes; eco, comfort, normal, sport, or a customisable individual setting. In eco and comfort, the suspension is especially forgiving – too much so, in some instances. At motorway speeds, the car can bob over subtle undulations in the road, displaying excessive suspension travel. It feels much like a jetski bobbings over waves, giving the impression you’re ‘catching air’. The normal setting firms up the suspension noticeably, giving a more satisfying ride.

Impressively though, the comfort setting doesn’t cause excessive bodyroll through bends. The Superb may be happy to bob vertically, but it resists the temptation to pitch or roll.

The sport setting firms the dampers up noticeably, giving the Superb a surprisingly agile character.

Driven enthusiastically, the car feels incredibly responsive despite its size, and it’s all too happy to indulge the hooligan inside you. It’s surprisingly good fun and very capable, offering plenty of grip through bends.

The Superb comes with a choice of four petrol and three diesel engines, with a choice of mnaual and automatic transmissions, as well as two- or four-wheel drive.

The cheapest car uses Skoda’s 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol. It is the weediest, on paper, offering just 125PS with 200Nm of torque, with a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds. However, it feels surprisingly rapid, offering more than enough grunt for fast starts, overtaking or motorway cruising. If saving money is a priority then you needn’t be put off by its specs – it’s very impressive.

The bigger 2.0 TSI is more powerful, sprinting to 62mph in 5.8 seconds, with a strong 350Nm of torque. If you like your saloons fast, this is the model to get.

Economy & environment

The entry-level petrol car returns a claimed 52.3mpg with 125g/km. Pay a little more for the 150PS petrol and you’ll be rewarded with 57.7mpg and 115g/km – for lower fuel bills and lower tax. The Superb’s diesel engines offer similar economy across the range – just under 70mpg – aside from the most powerful diesel with the 4×4 transmission, which manages similar economy to the petrol engines.

Equipment & value

“The spec list is somewhat bewildering.”The Skoda Superb has an almost bewildering spec list. It’s available in S, SE, SE Business, SE L Executive and the top-end Laurin & Klement spec, named after the company’s founders.

S cars get air con, Bluetooth, DAB radio, auto emergency braking with pedestrian protection, trip computer, stop/start, five-inch touchscreen, USB and an SD card slot. You also get autohold, 16-inch alloys and LED rear lights.

SE spec (£21,190) upgrades you to a more powerful (150PS) and more frugal version of the 1.4-litre engine, 17-inch alloys, adds manual lumbar support, dual-zone air con, electric folding door mirrors, twin umbrellas in the doors, rear parking sensors, cornering front fog lights, adaptive cruise control, an upgraded radio with 6.5-inch touchscreen and SmartLink, which lets you see your smartphone’s menus on the car’s infotainment screen.

The top of the range Laurin & Klement model, starting at £28,740, includes 18-inch alloys, an excellent 10-speaker sound system, heated windscreen, piano black interior inserts, tri-zone climate control and a suite of fancy tech. This includes blind spot detection, lane assist, park assist, TV tuner, gesture-controlled boot opening, auto parking, dynamic chassis control and a huge list of other features we couldn’t possibly list here. 

Safety

The Superb promises a stronger body than ever, six airbags and city emergency brake, all as standard, so you’re in good hands should the worst happen.

Skoda also offers a healthy array of electronic safety systems including adaptive steering, which steers the car automatically between lane markings (although you do need to have your hands on the wheel), adaptive cruise control, which lets you follow the car in front at a safe distance, plus various radar sensors that warn you when you’re about to run into something – either when driving or exiting a parking space.

Verdict

The Skoda Superb lives up to its name – it’s a genuinely brilliant car in just about every way. It’s lovely to look at, drives impeccably, offers more space than you’ll know what to do with and has so many clever touches, it’ll take you weeks to discover them all. What’s most impressive is the fact Skoda is able to deliver such a package at such a low price. The Superb is fabulous value for money and more car than most of us will ever need. Audi who?

Specification

Engine1.4-litre petrol
Power125PS
Torque200Nm
Acceleration0-62mph in 9.9 seconds
Emissions125g/km of CO2
Economy52.3mpg
PriceFrom £18,640

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