What is it? Third-generation of the Skoda range-topper.
Key features: New design, upgraded quality, more efficiency.
Our view: Improved residual values, and the affordable finance offers that result, make it easy to see why there are very high hopes for the new Skoda Superb.
In 1934, Skoda was a manufacturer of high-quality cars for its home Czechoslovakian market. The Superb, launched that year, was one of the best, driven by the very well-to-do. Around 600 were sold, which for the time was very impressive.
Roll forward half a century, to 2001 – Skoda, ten years on from being acquired by the Volkswagen Group, revives the Superb badge on a new range-topping saloon, aimed at the fleet-dominated large family car segment and rivalling such core models as the Ford Mondeo.
After 13,000 UK sales, a second-generation Superb launched in 2008, with the big change being the arrival of an Estate variant. This quickly became the more popular of the two, boosting Superb sales from 1,000 to 6,000 a year, totalling 29,000 until the present.
So now we have an all-new third generation Superb, and its challenge is tougher than for its predecessors. Skoda is on the march, the fastest growing brand on the UK market for the past three years and having doubled its volumes in just four years. The Superb is expected to maintain that growth, not necessarily by mushrooming its own sales, but by being the brand’s halo model, debuting a new era of style-led Skoda’s.
The car is seen as a game-changer, Skoda product manager Rebecca Whitmore dubbing it “a car with no compromise – no longer do you have to choose between style and space.”
What she means is the new Skoda design language, unveiled on the Vision C concept at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, now appearing for the first time in production form on the Superb, and set to be replicated on future Skoda models.
Visually it is certainly bolder, the shell a series of clean lines and sharp creases, intended to tug at the heartstrings while still appealing to the head. “In the past people have bought Skodas for all the rational reasons, what they get for the money, the good residual values and the like – we now want to be a more emotional choice too”, says Skoda UK head of sales Martin Barrow-Starkey.
So while the Superb looks much better, it still remains practical. Not surprisingly it is yet another VW Group product to be based around the brand’s seemingly all-inclusive MQB platform, while the latest aluminium-intensive construction techniques also make a big difference, slicing 75kg from the shell weight, with obvious advantages in efficiency and handling.
The car is 47mm wider than its predecessor, while the hatch is 28mm longer and the estate 23mm, but the wheelbase stretches by 80mm, resulting in improved interior space even though the roomy insides were already a major plus of the old Superb.
Boot space is just one of a swathe of best-in-class trophies claimed by Skoda for its newcomer. The hatch accommodates 625 litres with seats up, 30 litres better than before, the estate 660 litres.
The Superb’s rivals in the segment, notably Ford’s latest Mondeo, have been worked on very hard to move their interior quality upmarket, targeting that imposter from the premium sector the BMW 3 Series. Skoda insists, however, that the Ford is its target, not the BMW, but nonetheless dubs the Superb “the best car we’ve ever built” and the interior certainly demonstrates this. The combination of plastic and leather surfacing works well, and said plastics are pleasingly soft to the touch – it certainly more than matches the standards of its rivals.
The other notable aspect of recent Skoda models has been the range of ‘Simply Clever’ features – lots of “why wasn’t that thought of ages ago?” touches, and the Superb has a host of them. So the signature ice scraper remains handily placed behind the fuel filler cap, the interior lights unclip to become rechargeable torches, and perhaps neatest of all not one but two umbrellas are neatly stored in the front doors.
Seven engines are currently on offer for the new Superb, four petrol and three diesel units, all turbocharged, all improved in efficiency over predecessors and all Euro-6 emissions compliant.
The petrol options range from 1.4 units of 123 and 148bhp to a pair of 2-litre variants with either 218 or 276bhp – the latter around 20hp up on the significantly less efficient 3.5-litre V6 engine it replaces.
Diesel choices for the company car drivers who will form the majority of Superb buyers encompass a 1.6-litre of 118bhp alongside 148 and 187bhp 2.0-litre variants.
Curiously the 1.6 and less-powerful 2.0 both claim to be the current cleanest engines, with CO2 emissions of 108g/km in manual form, but they will be beaten by a Greenline eco-model launching later in the year and dipping below the magic 100g/km barrier to 95g/km.
Transmission-wise, six-speed manual or DSG gearboxes are on offer, while all-wheel-drive can also be specified, with either of the 2.0-litre diesels.
While the engines are proven VW Group units and as efficient and eager as has already been proven in a host of recent products from the German giant, the Superb’s ride does raise the odd eyebrow. In general progress there is nothing wrong with its comfort – the car offers everything that the rival Mondeo, Insignia or i40 can. But in the driving seat it can feel a little over-soft and floaty, unless one plays with the adaptive dampers and selects Sport as the preferred option over Comfort or Normal. While stiffer in this mode, the car feels more planted and assured, even on rougher road surfaces.
Overall it’s hard to argue against Skoda’s contention that the Superb is a new-era car. But it also offers some more basic attractions to attract buyers, such as an entry price £50 cheaper than the outgoing car despite an extended specification – DAB radio, for example is now standard even on entry-level S cars.
New to the trim options is SE Business – building on the second SE level and adding features designed to appeal to fleet drivers, such as Alcantara upholstery, sat nav, the SmartLink that integrates app-based smartphone operating systems, and from 2016 the ability to wirelessly charge phones.
Improved residual values and the affordable PCP and contract hire offers that result, make it easy to see why there are very high hopes for the new Superb – Skoda’s best yet? Very possibly…
Skoda Superb – key specifications
Model tested: Skoda Superb 2.0 petrol, 1.6 diesel
On sale: First deliveries Sept 2015
Range price: £18,640-£38,940
Insurance group: TBC
Engines: Petrol 1.4×2, 2.0×2. Diesel 1.6, 2.0×2.
Power (bhp): 123/148, 218/276. 118, 148/187.
Torque (lb/ft): Not stated
0-62mph (sec): 9.9/8.6, 7.0/5.8. 10.9, 8.8/8.0.
Top speed (mph): 119/137, 152/155. 128, 137/147.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 52.3/57.7, 45.6/39.8. 68.9, 68.9/68.9.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 125/115, 143/160. 108, 108/107.
Key rivals: Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, Hyundai i40
Test Date: July 2015
All figures with hatch, manual gearbox where available