What is it?
The new Skoda Superb is pitched directly against the new Ford Mondeo, Renault Laguna, Honda Accord, Citroen C5 and, the new Vauxhall Insignia. Not so long ago the so-called family-car class accounted for a quarter of all European cars. Now it seems to have stabilised at around 15 percent, but that’s still well over a million car sales a year across Europe.
The new Superb combines suspension and floorpan parts from the VW Passat and Skoda Octavia. It’s 35mm longer than its generously proportioned predecessor, but 42mm shorter in wheelbase because the engine now follows the Passat’s transverse layout. Despite the shorter wheelbase rear kneeroom is now 19mm longer and unrivalled in its class.
What’s it like?
Six engines are offered in the new Skoda Superb, mostly familiar from the VW Group range. The highlights are a sweet and frugal 1.4-litre petrol turbo producing 125bhp, and the car tested here, the new 2.0-litre, common-rail 172bhp turbodiesel (available either with six-speed manual or six-speed twin-clutch paddle-shift).
This is Skoda’s first common-rail diesel, adopted because it’s quieter, and meets forthcoming Euro 5 emissions standards better than other VW-sourced engines. Some of the less powerful engines can be had with a new seven-speed DSG, but it has a limited torque capacity. There’s also an Octavia-style 4x4 system available that uses a Haldex clutch to send torque to the rear axle depending on traction available.
The Superb looks a little awkward from some angles, but it is an impressive all-rounder. Three spec levels will be offered in the UK (S, SE and Elegance) and we’ll get all of the engine options, though local dealers expect the 140bhp and 172 bhp 2.0 litre diesels to do most of the business. Prices will start slightly north of £15,000, and spread to about £25,000 for a full-spec 3.6-litre, 260 bhp V6 Elegance.
On the road, the car feels big but shrinks around you. It has a general Audi-VW air of quality and solidity (Skoda believe their standards are every bit as good as the others) but there is a pleasantly independent quality to the interior design, which has a considerably deeper equipment spec than other family members.
All cars get nine airbags, and some models offer a unique adaptive headlight system (AFS) that changes the shape of the forward beam according to conditions (city, highway or bad weather).
The car has light, accurate controls, but lacks the agility or steering accuracy of the standard-setting Mondeo. But its forte is comfort: road and wind noise are kept low even at a 100mph cruise, and the 172bhp diesel is inaudible (though it does contribute a remarkably sporty sound when accelerating 0-62 mph in a highly impressive 8.8 seconds.)
The Skoda Superb’s best feature is its ride quality, well worthy of the name. Czech roads are very like Britain’s: bitumen potholes, lots of strangely varying cambers and rough railway crossings. The big Skoda soaks them all up with quietness and ease not always replicated in stiffer-legged Audis and BMWs.
Should I buy one?
Equipment levels are impressive compared to its competitors. If handling is a priority then remember that the new Superb hasn’t knocked the Ford Mondeo off its perch. But if it’s comfort you’re after then make your way to the nearest Skoda dealer in September.