Skoda Superb Hatchback Review
By Tim Barnes-Clay, Motoring journalist – tweeting @carwriteups
What do you call a Skoda that makes it to the top of a hill? A miracle. How do you double the value of a Skoda? Fill it full of petrol. And my personal favourite: What goes on pages 2 and 3 of a Skoda’s user manual? The train and bus timetable.
Yes, we all remember the cheesy jokes of the late 1980s and early 90s – and those of us who remember the Skoda Rapid of the 80s will also recall that it was anything but. However, the truth is, Skoda has been discreetly climbing the ladder over the last two decades. In case you’ve missed it, the news is that Skoda ought to be higher up your list than it is. A lot higher. Unlike the 80s’ Rapid, the Superb is well and truly a car that lives up to its name.
So, is the latest facelifted version even more Superb? The boring, dull exterior is gone, with far more refined edges and an aggressive-looking front end, so already it’s looking promising.
But is the new character all just for show? I took it for a drive to find out if Skoda is continuing to defy expectations.
The Superb isn’t a car for people who primarily make buying decisions based on 0-62mph times. But it’s no slouch either. It’s light for its size and handles well, though the engines are built for economy rather than out-and-out grunt – so you’ll need a bigger engine if performance is a priority.
The best compromise is likely to be what is being testing here: the 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG. The engine has got sufficient performance, while still retaining the fuel economy needed to ease the burden on your wallet. It’ll get you to 62mph in 9.0 seconds and top out at 135mph. And it’s quieter than its predecessor.
The smooth DSG seven-speed automatic gearbox makes life easier, too, though the manual is six-speed, should you choose it.
As well as efficiency, the Superb is a car all about refinement and comfort. This will be a popular company rep car, so it’s been produced to waft effortlessly on the lengthy motorway drives.
Everything but the entry-level S range can have adaptive suspension as an option, which means you can directly adjust the ride from ‘Comfort’ to ‘Sport’ – though it’s standard with the top-of-the-range (and luxury fashion-brand-sounding) Laurin & Klement trim. In reality, you might be satisfied just by choosing smaller wheels for comfort and larger wheels for a sportier feel. After all, it is a comfortable car to drive, regardless.
The Superb is available in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, and both handle well with plenty of grip. It isn’t the most enthralling car to drive, though – if you want a car that generates g-force, you’ll be disappointed.
The SE L Executive model I was given for appraisal, boasts a classy and well-equipped interior. All Superbs come with a touch-screen in the middle of the dashboard. You get a 6.5-inch display on entry-level cars and a 9.2-inch screen on middle-of-the-range and upwards models, such as this one.
Behind the wheel, there’s a bit of wind roar, and the road noise seems to be proportional to the size of the wheels. Indeed, the 19-inch alloys, fitted as an option to my test car, should be avoided if you want to maximise comfort.
The diesel can be a bit agricultural after start-up and when accelerating. Most of the time, though, it’s fine and not worth deciding against the oil-burner for that reason alone.
The steering is accurate, though lacks any real feel – certainly there are more fun cars to drive.
Comfort is to be found in the seats, too – they are height-adjustable. And on this SE L Executive you get an electrically powered driver’s seat with memory and lumber support.
But the Superb’s party piece is space and practicality. Room for legs and heads is immense in the front and rear. What’s more, boot space is 625 litres, expanding to 1,760 litres if you put the rear seats down. There’s also a rechargeable torch in the boot, which provides the boot lighting, so fans of late-night shopping can see where to put the groceries. What’s more, there’s an ice scraper stored in the fuel filler cap. Really, the only challenge you’ll have with practicality is how to fill space in the Superb – there’s so much of it.
Being a Skoda, you should expect lower maintenance costs than you would from higher-end brands. As for day-to-day running, though, the engines are economical. My mid-range Superb SE L Executive hatchback claims 61.4mpg with the DSG ‘box. Expect high 40s or early 50s in the real world. In all honesty, fuel economy is about how you drive, as much as what you’re driving.
Forgive the obvious pun, but Skoda has well and truly made a ‘Superb’ car. Granted, it will never have the appeal of the premium brands, but what you do get is a heck of a lot of car for a humble amount of money. That means it scores very highly – it is genuinely one of the best hatchbacks out there. Unless you’re adamant you must have a premium badge, you really should be considering this car.
The verdict: the jokes are well and truly in the history bin. This is a classy, quite brilliant Skoda – get used to it!
Pros ‘n’ Cons
- Spacious √
- Comfortable √
- Equipment √
- Gearbox √
- Divisive badge appeal X
Fast Facts (SE L Executive 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG Hatch – as tested)
- Max speed: 135 mph
- 0-62 mph: 9.0 secs
- Combined mpg: 61.4
- Engine layout: 1968cc four-cylinder diesel turbo
- Max. power (PS): 150
- CO2: 118 g/km
- Price: £28,760