I was a big fan of the original Škoda Superb in terms of its looks and the excellent VAG quality package it offered at very appealing prices, so out of all the press cars lined up for January, I must admit that the Škoda Superb was the one I was especially looking forward to. My heart leapt when the delivery driver pulled up in a beautiful, dark-coloured Škoda Superb Estate equipped with the DSG gearbox and an attractive leather interior.
The figures… the spec!
I would be spending the next week with this, a 2.0 TDI CR 140PS DSG DPF model in Elegance trim, costing £26,410 on the road, which includes the 18” Themisto alloy wheels (our test car mysteriously had unidentifiable but nevertheless attractive 6-spoke alloys fitted), a multifunction steering wheel, bi-Xenon headlights with Adaptive Front-Light System, the Columbus colour touchscreen sat nav with voice control, SD card reader and 32GB storage for music, full leather, Bluetooth phone system and all kinds of other brilliant kit. So the three optional extras fitted to my press car seemed quite low-key, they being heated rear seats at £195, an upgrade to the sound system at £320 and a space saver spare wheel hidden under the boot floor for £85, bringing the total price of this test car to £27,010.
Let’s stick with price for a moment and look at equivalent, comparable models from the VAG stable. I spec’d up a Volkswagen Passat Estate with the same 140PS 2.0 diesel unit and 6-speed DSG gearbox as in the Superb, and added all the same options on, and it totted up to just over £34,000, so about £7k more than the same-spec Superb. Audi didn’t seem to have a configurator available, so going by their published prices, an A6 Avant with their slightly more powerful 177PS 2.0 diesel engine and Multitronic gearbox costs £33,630 in basic SE form, before any of the Superb-equivalent options are added, so chances are the final price would be nudging £40k. So in VAG terms, if you’re not badge-conscious, I believe the Škoda Superb makes a resoundingly strong case for itself, offering tremendous levels of kit, great build quality, a great engine and gearbox for much less ‘brass.’ The badge-conscious or those loyal to Volkswagen or Audi may turn down the Superb in favour of its some-might-say more posh siblings, but hear it from SimonsCarSpots – the Škoda’s build quality is more or less the same, for a cheaper price. Alternatively, you could save a couple of thousand or more here and there by looking at the Ford Mondeo Estate, Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer or similar.
What do we reckon to its looks?
In short, elegant (which is fitting, as it was in Elegance spec!), statesmanlike, sophisticated and different, in a way which blends imposing road presence with understated discretion. A great mix, in our opinion. The Škoda Superb Estate is as long as a proverbial canal boat and its exterior dimensions inevitably mean it’s spacious inside too (more on that later). Škoda’s family grille looks its best on the Superb, we feel. The car has a very confident air about it, but doesn’t shout, holding its head high discretely. It would look at home in all kinds of settings from company car parks and ferrying MPs and maybe even Eastern European Presidents around, to sat on the driveway of an average 2.4 family, or parked in the basement car park of a bachelor’s apartment building. And yes, there are a few new Škoda Superb taxis dotted around the UK. Good on them, we say!
The striking alloy wheels and low profile tyres really gave the Škoda Superb Estate an added impression of sportiness and the brown colour looked fantastic, although in all truth looked like dark grey a lot of the time. The swage lines and exterior trimmings finish the Superb off really well and it certainly has a premium image to it. As per the Škoda Yeti we tested last month, the Superb also had its name etched onto the headlight enclosures. Okay, to some it may be a gimmick, but I really feel it adds a new air of modern ‘cool’ to the Škoda range. A Škoda Superb in my view is now a car to aspire to own. Perhaps unthought-of in the company’s past, the words ‘want’ and ‘desire’ could actually be used in the context of the Superb. The only slight let-down in terms of its exterior looks is that the rear of the Superb Estate does look very similar to its smaller relative the Octavia, whereas the saloon version looks in a class of its own.
Is the quality as good on the inside?
After opening the solid doors I was greeted by a full black leather interior which very much looked the part on first impressions. The front seats had sporty side supports whilst still managing to be wide enough to really get comfortable in. After having driven a month’s worth of different press cars lacking fully electrically adjustable seats, it felt good to be in a Superb in which the seats could be tweaked comprehensively both in terms of position and lumber support. They did feel a tad on the firm, thin side at random moments, but overall proved very good. The quality of the leather was oh-so-soft and felt reassuringly durable and being a big fan of autos, I was smitten by the big, manly gear shifter with its 6 speeds, manual shift option and S sport mode.
The dashboard was up to typical VAG quality with the now commonplace MFD (multifunction device) display sandwiched between the speedo and rev counter. The dark dash did perhaps look a bit sombre but on the plus side it will be easier to keep clean and the chrome inserts felt and looked decent quality.
On the whole, the buttons and other controls felt very well made, not at the very height of the scale but certainly near the top. I love the lime green hue behind some of the rotary knobs which flank the central screen, the green giving the Škoda some individuality. Many manufacturers have gone down the route of fitting electronic parking brakes, but not so in the Superb, which uses a normal handbrake. Many buyers may really appreciate this decision, as one leading Germany manufacturer is going back to normal handbrakes for their latest model which launches this month.
The cabin felt very solid, by and large, but if you explored some of the plastic surfaces in detail, some of them did feel a bit cheap and plasticy, noticeably the door bins, the very top of the dashboard as it curves off to meet the windscreen, the central storage compartment and the sides of the transmission tunnel. In Škoda’s defence, only French manufacturers tend to cover the transmission tunnel in thick carpet-like material, and not many owners are going to run their hands over all the surfaces very often, if at all – so I only make this comment in case you’re very particular. The Superb isn’t quite an Audi, Mercedes-Benz or Lexus, but it gives them a very good run for their money. The door handles are back-lit for that extra ambience and ease of operation and although one couldn’t fit a largish dictionary in the central storage compartment, the glovebox is fairly large and there are one or two other storage facilities dotted around the cabin, so overall it works well. And one of the outstanding things I found about the Superb is its quiet ride, so Škoda must have put a lot of effort into the sound-proofing.
And for the kids or others who sit in the back?
In the rear of the Škoda Superb Estate, there is loads of space and legroom to really stretch out, even when a tallish driver and passenger are sat in the front. Rear occupants have their own display and controls for the Climatronic climate control system. This particular press car was fitted with heated rear seats for that extra bit of luxury. Being the Estate version, headroom won’t be a problem for back-seat passengers and visibility is great.
How does it compare for practically carrying loads?
The boot is one of the revered features of the Škoda Superb Estate. Like the legroom in the rear, the boot is also huge to say the least. The actual opening to the boot is nice and wide and square, making loading that little bit easier, with no nasty lip to navigate. The parcel shelf retracts all the way, simply by pressing the handle down once, which is a nice feature. The boot is well lit by conveniently located lighting and it goes without saying that you could fit more or less any estate-sized loads into the Superb Estate, from four full-size suitcases plus hand luggage for your family’s holiday, to the weekly shop or even a sofa or chest of drawers if the need ever arises.
Again, Škoda have continued the theme of immense practicality by fitting convenient shopping bag hooks, nets and lashings into the Superb Estate’s boot. And the real party piece in this department is the Partition and Tether system, allowing you to position cordons wherever you wish, along the two aluminium runners integrated into the boot floor. You can move the extendable metal bar up and down in parallel or asymmetrically, and then use the extendable tethers to further secure the items in the boot. This really is a brilliant system, but if you strangely don’t agree for whatever reason, it’s always removable. For me, the only slight let-down with the Superb Estate’s boot was the cheap-feeling handle for pulling it down, which conjured up images of pulling a cow’s tongue. So you’ll be pleased to know that this remarkably practical boot is available with an optional electronic mechanism, operated from a button adjacent to the gear shifter, or on the keyfob.
Capacity-wise, the Škoda Superb Estate’s boot gives you an available 633 litres when the rear seats are up in position and 1,865 litres when they are folded down. By comparison, figures for other estate cars are published as 490 litres/1,430 litres (seats-up/seats-down) for the Audi A4 Avant, 565/1,680 litres for the A6 Avant, 554/1,745 litres for the Ford Mondeo Estate, 1,510 litres from the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer with the seats down and 603/1,731 litres from the Volkswagen Passat Estate. The Superb Estate leads in terms of boot capacity, providing yet another reason as to why it has won so many coveted awards from motoring magazines and the like since its launch.
Fit for a demanding businessperson?
Our car was fitted with the Columbus satellite navigation system with its fantastic-looking colour touchscreen in pride of place. The touchscreen unit also controls the radio, telephone, media and general settings. Columbus is Škoda’s top of the range system, the version sitting beneath it being the Amundsen as fitted in the Yeti we drove. Columbus proved fast-loading and fairly easy to use, but although the display looked great in artistic terms, it wasn’t quite as easy to follow as some other sat nav systems. Selecting alternative routes wasn’t so obvious at a quick glance, but the split screen option proved rather useful.
I managed to pair my Galaxy S with the Bluetooth in the Yeti more easily than I could in this Superb, which is strange as I assume they are the same system. It could have been the phone’s fault on this occasion, who knows, and the times when my phone did work I can vouch that the quality and ease of operation were very good. But the voice activation was woeful and obeyed neither my BBC ‘RP’ kind of voice, nor any of my friends’ accents – but I don’t think many owners would use this feature anyway, as the touchscreen and steering wheel controls are so excellent to start with.
So all in all, aside from a couple of dashboard rattles which reared their heads intermittently on a few occasions, and the perhaps idiosyncratic way the rev needle let out a rattlesnake sound whenever you abruptly took your foot off the gas pedal, the interior really did impress me in many ways and would suit many kinds of buyers.
A good driving experience?
The engine fired up nice and discretely with not much of a tell-tale diesel note and as soon as I engaged Drive and set off for the first time, I was smitten by the Škoda Superb’s wonderful smoothness. Sound-proofing seemed to be very good indeed at speeds of up to 50mph. The soft and supportive leather seats, the quiet ride and the generally very smooth gearbox and suspension really did impress me.
The 6-speed automatic DSG (twin-clutch Direct Shift) gearbox performed remarkably well and would suit business users and general motorway high-milers, but also short-trippers too – as it is just as refined around town as it is on the motorway. The only slight criticism of the DSG ‘box is that it occasionally found itself in too high a gear and sounded a bit boomy , causing a resonance in the cabin. But otherwise, it provides extremely quick and fluid gear changes and actually betters the economy of the 6-speed manual.
The 2 litre, 140bhp engine also performed very well and its sound didn’t penetrate into the cabin much at all. It worked with the DSG gearbox in great harmony, both of them delivering pace in a very smooth way, making acceleration quite good fun at times. The actual amount of poke (sorry, I should say torque!) seemed pretty good too. Admittedly it’s not an uber-diesel in both its displacement and BHP, but let’s face it, 2 litre diesels are the most popular choice for businesspeople these days, and this one’s a winner.
The leather steering wheel may be a bit on the thin side for some, but I personally really liked it. And the steering itself felt nice and precise. Some may say the Superb doesn’t have the most engaging driving experience when it comes to the steering, but I found the light and sometimes floaty steering to actually compliment the car and add to its light-as-a-feather feeling overall, belying the car’s large dimensions and giving it a sporty feel at times.
The turning circle was pretty good, as was all-round visibility front and rear, which I didn’t find to be a problem at all. Even on low profile tyres, the Škoda Superb Estate handled pot holes, speed bumps, dips and the like very well and felt sturdy in the bends. Road and cabin noise really were surprisingly low, but on the motorway became a bit more apparent.
And how about the economy?
For some, this section may be the most important to them – and it’s easy to understand why, in this day and age of long commutes and constantly rising diesel prices. Well good news, the Škoda Superb came relatively close to its quoted combined MPG figure of 47.1mpg. After a week of driving 50 miles a day in miserable stop-start motorway traffic, plus a couple of longish drives up and down winding country lanes, the Škoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI CR 140PS DSG DPF averaged 42mpg. Bearing in mind the fact that it got driven quite hard and uneconomically at times and hardly got any decent leg-stretching runs during the week it was with me, I was impressed by this figure, which isn’t a million miles from the quoted figure. When I took it on a trip around the entire M60 at a steady 70mpg, it averaged 52mpg for what it’s worth. And in terms of the other main figures, the Superb Estate in 2.0 TDI 140PS DSG guise lets out 158g/km of CO2, can do a top speed of 126mph and is capable of taking you from 0–62 mph in 10.3 seconds.
So I like it?
Indeed I do! I apologise – I promised myself I’d try infinitely hard to resist any of the ‘superb’ clichés, but I admit defeat and simply have to say it – the Skoda Superb Estate really is superb! It’s certainly worth comparing against the estate versions of the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Renault Laguna III, Toyota Avensis and even against the Volkswagen Passat and the Audi A4 – and even perhaps against the A6 Avant, C-Class Estate and 3-Series Touring for that matter, if you’re watching the pennies. If the Škoda Superb Estate’s price doesn’t put you off considering the huge amount of kit you get for your money, then the badge definitely shouldn’t!
© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
Specification of Škoda Superb Estate 2.0TDI CR 140ps DSG DPF Elegance Tested:
Engine: 2.0 TDI (4-cylinder in-line)
Cubic Capacity: 1,968cc
Max Speed: 128mph
0-62mph 10.2 seconds
Max Torque: 320/1,750 – 2,500 (Nm/rpm)
Quoted MPG: 37.7 Urban, 65.5 extra urban, 47.9 combined
Emissions: 154g/KM CO2
Length: 4,838 mm
Width: 1,817 mm (2,009mm including mirrors)
Height: 1,510 mm (inc standard roof rails)
Wheelbase: 2,761 mm
Luggage capacity: 633 litres with the seats up; 1,865 litres with the seats folded
Our test car came with the following options fitted as part of Elegance spec:
4-spoke multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls
Bi-Xenon headlights with AFS (Adaptive Front-light System)
‘Columbus’ colour touch screen satellite navigation
Electrically adjustable driver and passenger seats
Full leather upholstery
Heated front and rear seats
Integrated headlight washers
Premium GSM III telephone preparation with Bluetooth (UHV and rSAP)
Protective chrome side mouldings
Tyre pressure monitor