Estates go head-to-head in Autocar's twin test
15 January 2010

The Volvo V70 has been the suburban load-lugger of choice for a generation, but its supremacy is now being challenged by the Skoda Superb.

Autocar pitted the two estates against each other, to see which is better. On paper, the V70 and Superb Estate are well matched. The Skoda is lighter but the cars are virtually the same length and they have similar power, fuel economy and 0-62mph times.

Volvo V70

In practice, though, they could not be more different. We have long been critical of the V70's so-so ride and lacklustre handling. And the SE-spec V70 gets sports suspension as standard, making things worse.

Sadly, Volvo has got most things wrong when tuning this car. It is plagued by a lack of precision and poorly weighted controls. The R-Design chassis is both too stiff on poor surfaces and short of body control in most other situations.

At least the distinctive five-pot engine is reasonably smooth; it has plenty of punch and feels cultured. But the chassis is prone to a surprising amount of torque steer and a touch of front-end lift under hard acceleration.

It's not all bad news, though. The V70 feels liek a premium car, especially inside, where the dashboard is a triumph of upmarket Scandanavian simplicity.

Also, there's impressive details such as an excellent heating system, a totally flat and wide load bay, folding front seat and underfloor storage in the boot.

Skoda Superb

In contrast, the Superb feels as if it has been developed purely for the great British back road. Where the V70 struggles, the Superb's handling is crisp and accurate without being overly 'sporting'.

Thanks to exceptional body control, even during brisk cornering the Skoda practically surfs across broken road edges, allowing side forces to build progressively and helping the driver to flow the car along at an impressive rate.

The engine helps here too, revving freely, more like a petrol unit. The Superb also benefits from good pedal weights and shift action. The main downside is some tyre roar on coarsely chipped surfaces.

The Skoda also has exceptional interior packaging. Rear leg room is extraordinary, and it feels extremely spacious up front thanks to the wide cabin and deep footwells.

The interior lacks the clean modernism of the Volvo, but our tester, Hilton Holloway, was more comfortable in the Skoda's cabin. It does lose out to the V70 under the tailgate, though. Seats up, the Skoda has more useable space, but its taller load bay is offset by being narrower. Worse still, teh Superb's rear seats don't fold flat, but you can retract the back of the front passenger seat until it's flat.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the Superb runs rings around the V70. The Skoda is a much more satisfying driver's car and one extraordinarily well suited to teh UK's roadscape. It also offers much more passenger room and build quality that's at least the equal of the Volvo.

The fact the Skoda is also £5500 cheaper than the similarly specified V70 seals the deal.

The full test is available in this week's Autocar magazine, on sale now.

Twitter - follow autocar.co.ukSee all the latest Skoda Superb reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Volvo V70 reviews, news and video

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