Skoda plots to grab a bigger slice of the pie with its likeable and hugely practical Superb range

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Of all the Volkswagen Group oddballs nurtured under the Skoda badge, the Skoda Superb surely ranks as one of the most intriguing.

Originally a product of VW’s mania for economies of scale (the manufacturer having already produced a lengthened version of the Volkswagen Passat for China), Skoda’s modern flagship saloon landed in 2001, offering vast rear leg room for not a lot of money. Despite being a resolutely old-fashioned four-door (the engines went in longways and plans for an estate were dropped), it struck a chord.

The new Superb is lighter than the previous model, despite a 28mm growth in overall length

The second-generation Skoda Superb, launched in 2008, went much further. Along with a capacious wagon, the regular model received what Skoda dubbed the ‘Twindoor’, a tailgate that could be opened as either a saloon-style boot or a full hatchback, making it as prodigious a handler of luggage as it was knees and feet. Accolades followed, bolstered by the decision to add an extensive list of optional extras to the Superb’s already generous kit list in higher trim levels.

Skoda has cemented this approach with the most recent version, which was introduced in 2015. Where previously it was recognisable as a flagship for its incontrovertible size, the latest, sharper-suited Superb is intended now fills out the role on style, too, its angular and elegant looks given a subtle refresh in 2019 in an effort to draw a closer family connection to the brand’s big-selling Kodiaq and Karoq SUVs

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For our test it’s the cavernous estate version that looms large in our crosshairs, offering a maximum boot volume of almost 2000 litres, which makes the wagon variants of everything from a BMW 5 Series to the soon-to-die Ford Mondeo look meagre. 

The hatchback starts at just over £25k, with the estate incurring a £1280 premium, a price that’s increasingly attractive in an ever dwindling pool of large family cars from mainstream brands.

Our test car is a 148bhp 2.0 TDI in SE spec, the entry point of a four-strong range and fitted with the oilburner that is likely to prove the most popular choice in both hatch and estate forms despite the recent dip in diesel sales.



2 Skoda Superb Estate 2021 RT update hero side

The modular potential of Volkswagen’s MQB platform continues to surprise us. The Volkswagen Golf’s platform has been deployed beneath the new Superb, and although the finished Skoda may be only 23mm longer than its predecessor, its wheelbase has sprouted by a far more considerable 80mm.

Much of the additional length appears to have been concentrated in the voluminous boot, where Skoda claims the largest luggage compartment in the class, at 660 litres, which is 85 litres more than before with the rear seats up, more than offered by Ford Mondeo Estate and BMW 5 Series Touring, and just bigger than the equally cavernous Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate. This is of particular benefit to the hatchback version, which offers an improved 625 litres as recompense to buyers for losing the aforementioned Twindoor boot access.

Sharp shoulder line adds definition to the Skoda Superb's bodywork and breaks up its visual mass

Ignoring its weight and complicated manufacturing process, the double-jointed hatchback wasn’t the old Superb’s prettiest feature, and its junking improves the normal hatchback’s appearance significantly. So do overhangs that were easily shrunk in the redesign, thanks to the MQB underpinnings.

The Superb is a nicely-proportioned machine, helped no end by a lower front end and almost 50mm of additional width. Unlike rear leg room, which is said to remain constant, the greater width does transfer inside, with Skoda claiming additional elbow room for passengers in both front and back rows.

Predictably, again because of the MQB’s cleverness, none of this comes with a weight penalty. Skoda suggests that a saving of 75kg separates the new Superb from the old. A proportional doubling of the high-strength steel content means the car is now 13 percent stiffer, too.

The suspension is fairly familiar fare for this class. Furthermore, Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) three-stage adaptive dampers are available as an option on SE L and Sportline models, and standard on the flagship L&K.

The Superb’s handling response is helped along by the latest version of VW’s XDS+ electronic stability control system, a torque vectoring system that now activates at a lateral acceleration of just 0.15g to subtly brake the inside wheel when cornering. As an alternative to front-wheel drive, the Superb can also again be had with all-wheel drive on the more powerful engines; its adaptive torque split facilitated by a fifth-generation Haldex clutch.

Power comes from the broadest selection of engines yet offered with the Superb. All are four-pots and all – save the 268bhp version of the 2.0 TSI that replaces the venerable petrol V6 – are shared with Skodas elsewhere.

The 148bhp 1.5 TSI with cylinder deactivation technology props up the range, but it’s the updated 2.0-litre diesels that dominate sales. The 2.0 TDI is available in 148bhp and 197bhp variants, both of which can be had with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, while the latter is also available with four-wheel drive. The entry-level 1.6-litre TDI has been phased out under the latest WLTP regulations and is replaced by a detuned 120bhp version of the 2.0-litre and is only available with the seven-speed DSG gearbox.

The Superb is also available with a petrol-electric plug-in powertrain. Using the same unit as the Passat GTE, the dual-fuel Skoda is badged as the Skoda Superb iV


9 Skoda Superb Estate 2021 RT update dashboard

Credit must be given to Skoda for making the Superb’s cabin an upmarket, well-equipped and materially pleasing place in which to travel, but your primary motivator for buying the car is still likely to be space.

In either hatchback or estate bodystyles, this is a big family car in the truest sense. The previous version had celebrated quantities of leg room and boot space, but this one emphatically completes the picture.

A large glazed area and a widely adjustable driver's seat make for a good view out in all directions

Although previous Superbs have been long but disproportionately narrow cars, our tape measure confirms the presence here of a wider interior across the second row of seats than either a Ford Mondeo or a Volkswagen Passat – both rivals deserving recommendation as relatively spacious models.

Better still, the Superb wipes the floor with the Ford on back-row leg and head room, to the tune of 50mm in both cases.

In the cargo bay – and never has the term been more accurately applied to a volume-brand estate car – you’ll find significantly more carrying space than those rivals, the Skoda’s advantages measurable in inches rather than millimetres. The hold is both long and deep. You get up to 820mm of loading height, whereas a Mondeo wagon provides fully 120mm less.

As for width, the Superb’s load bay could actually be more generous, but removing the covers on the two side cubbies just inside the main aperture would allow you easily to accommodate a couple of sets of golf clubs crossways.

But here’s the catch: all that space could have been made even more usable. Amazingly, on all Superbs, remote seatback release latches at the boot opening is an optional extra, while cargo netting, a retractable parcel shelf and variable boot floor are options on all grades of the estate. A powered tailgate is optional on SE models but standard on SE L, Sportine Plus and Laurin & Klement trimmed cars, which also gets ‘Virtual Pedal’ hands-free opening that uses a motion sensor under the rear bumper to detect a waggling foot.

The folding second-row seatbacks are split 40/60 – the wrong way around, we’d argue, for optimal carrying practicality in a right-hand-drive car – and a 40/20/40 split isn’t offered on the options list. There’s also nowhere on board to stow the load bay cover once you’ve removed it.

All of which, for us, takes the edge off the Superb’s practicality score. Our test car’s load bay had handy carrying hooks near the back of the car, a 12-volt power supply, a battery-powered torch and some clever flexible plastic load bay dividers that velcro to the boot floor – nice touches, but you’d swap all of them for just a couple of items from the preceding list as standard kit.

Skoda Superb trim levels explained

As for the standard equipment you get on the Superb range, there are five trims to choose from. Entry-level SE models come with 17in alloy wheels, LED headlamps, rear LED lights, tinted rear windows and front and rear parking sensors, plus electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors and autonomous emergency braking. Inside there is dual zone climate control, manually adjustable front seats, a cooled glove box and Skoda's Bolero infotainment system complete with a 8.0in touchscreen display, DAB radio, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. Crucially, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also present thanks to the brand’s Smart Link connection.

Next rung up the ladder is the SE Technology, which is primarily aimed at the fleet market. Visually identical to the SE, it adds travelling rep favourites including the 8.0 Amundsen infotainment with sat-nav, privacy tint for the rear windows and leather trimmed and heated seats.

Upgrade to the SE L trim and you’ll find 18in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, two umbrellas that slide out of the front door panels and LED matrix headlamps with scrolling indicators. There’s also keyless entry and start, and a powered tailgate.

The racy Sportline Plus models effectively mirror the SE L for equipment but add a sporty bodykit, 19in alloy wheels, Alcantara upholstery, three-spoke steering wheel and a 9.2in Columbus touchscreen infotainment system complete with ‘Performance Monitor’.

The range-topping Laurin & Klement gets numerous additional luxuries including tri-zone climate control, all-round heated seats, a Canton sound system, adaptive dampers and a range of Skoda assistance systems – such as lane assist, self-parking mode and an automatic opening bootlid. It also features a 10.25in TFT instrument cluster known as ‘Virtual Cockpit’, plus its two-spoke steering wheel is heated.

Skoda can be rightly proud of the multimedia features of its new flagship, with even the standard Bolero getting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For most customers, this seamless smartphone integration will be enough as it gives them access to numerous sat-nav apps, but the Amudsen and full-house Columbus multimedia system do over wi-fi tethering to the list of useful upgrades, although the latter’s larger screen does away with physical volume and menu selection rotary controllers, making it look slicker but less intuitive to use on the move.


17 Skoda Superb Estate 2021 RT update engine

For a bigger-than-average, cheaper-than-average, workaday 148bhp family holdall, the Skoda Superb Estate performs very stoutly indeed. It recorded a sub-9.0sec sprint to 60mph on our timing gear, which is what you’d expect of, say, a Jaguar XE or Mercedes-Benz C-Class with a 25 percent power advantage. It’s certainly well above and beyond your expectations for the humble front-driven bargain Czech.

More important for a big load-hauler, the Superb proved flexible, taking 12.1sec to haul itself from 30-70mph in fourth gear, whereas the like-for-like Ford Mondeo wagon we performance tested needed almost 14 seconds.

Fifth-generation Haldex clutch-based four-wheel drive is offered as an option

All of which comes as a bonus in the Superb, a car that’s fairly and squarely configured to be refined, unobstructive and easy to use. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is very seldom noisy, pulls cleanly from as little as 1200rpm and overcomes its initial turbo-lag-related hesitancy smartly before 1600rpm is past.

From there on up, the engine’s 251lb ft of torque feels more than enough to handle a fully laden cabin, a heavy load or a biggish trailer in the shorter intermediate gears. The engine revs cleanly to 4500rpm before it starts to run out of puff, and it feels smooth and well isolated at all times.

There’s a little bit of notchiness in the car’s manual gearchange, but not enough to make the shift lever baulk. Like the clutch pedal, the shift quality itself is light and the action quite short. The brake pedal action is also well tuned, with good initial response transforming into progressive retardation without the need for too much pedal pressure.

Although estates can struggle to match saloons for cabin refinement, the Superb doesn’t, suppressing road roar and chassis noise well on the 17in wheels of our test example.


18 Skoda Superb Estate 2021 RT update on road front

The Skoda Superb has always been a congenial old beast. With people-carrying duties in mind, Skoda has tuned the model to be soft and serene under most conditions, making it an effortless and easy-going companion. 

On the standard passive suspension, it’s easily pliant enough to ride with the kind of fluid, big-boned flounce that makes a lot of miles pass with little suffering. The comfort levels are possibly not superlative – the muffled rolling refinement of a Ford Mondeo certainly rivals it for general contentment – but it’s utterly convivial nonetheless.

The Superb copes admirably with UK roads, thanks to a supple ride and ample grip

Go about your business a little quicker and the qualities we equate with most MQB-based models come readily to the fore, with a familiar composure and keenness to change direction. Its proportions remain a factor in your reckoning, as does the continued nose-heaviness of such a long car, but it reacts to inputs consistently, grips keenly and, despite its suppleness, conveys enough feedback to make you well aware of its broad limits.

Consequently, the Superb copes with most British road surfaces admirably well. Of all those we tried it on, only particularly challenging stretches of aged B-road asked questions of the car’s comfort-orientated springiness, the occasional sudden elevation change – or a series of them – exposing the amiable dampers’ ultimate lack of restraint in a meandering reluctance to settle. 

But because this effect requires an indelicate amount of speed to become disagreeable, it won’t trouble most buyers. Certainly, it did nothing to dial back our conviction that, among large mainstream cars, the Superb’s fitness for purpose is irrefutable.

It is telling that the occasional choppiness experienced on the road was seldom a problem on Millbrook’s smooth asphalt. On both the flat outer handling circuit and hill route, the Superb proved well mannered, predictable and not unduly inhibited by its scale and forgiving chassis. Weight transfer and body roll are noticeable, of course, but never in the sense of being poorly managed.

The steering’s rate of response is appropriate, although it’s possibly slightly more engaging with the added heft of the car’s Sport mode. It manages to be decently communicative, too — certainly enough to note the slightly inorganic effect of the XDS+ system as it intercedes to pull you around a corner.

Beyond the limit of the software and the generous mechanical grip, there is understeer, but it’s easily tamed or else tidied up by the stability control (which, unlike the traction control, will not switch off) if you choose not to lift.


1 Skoda Superb Estate 2021 RT update hero front

Three facts make it tough to argue for anything but a perfect score in this section: the Superb offers more space than almost every other car of its type, costs less than almost all of its direct rivals and retains its value very strongly indeed.

In as-tested spec, it is predicted by our market experts to retain more than 50 percent of its value over three years and 36,000 miles – good enough to shame a BMW 3 Series or a Mercedes C-Class, never mind a Volkswagen Passat or a Ford Mondeo.

The cheapest 2.0-litre diesel Superb Estate is expected to have the strongest residuals, better than those of the Mondeo and Passat

The line-up is now sufficiently broad to start at just over £25k in entry-level SE trim and finish north of £42k for the priciest wagon in Laurin & Klement format.

Nevertheless, we’re knocking half a star off the score here for two reasons: first, because the number of optional features we’d be obliged to take on a mid-spec car is a little high. For example, we'd want to add metallic paint, a reversing camera, the partition net screen, a folding front passenger seat and remote backrest releases.

Secondly, the Superb’s fuel economy could be better. The 47.2mpg our True MPG testers recorded is about 15 percent adrift of the mark set by the car’s like-for-like rivals. That said, with eco-tinged Greenline models now effectively replaced by the plug-in iV, this 2.0 TDI is now the most efficient traditional-powered Superb on sale, with WLTP figures for the estate of up to 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions of as little as 129g/km.



20 Skoda Superb Estate 2021 RT update static

The Skoda Superb is arguably still one of the very best family cars in the world.

Not only is it hugely spacious in several dimensions, it’s also quietly handsome and modern-feeling, and as well endowed with cabin technology as almost anything on the market. And if you ignore the chintzy L&K versions it’s still outstanding value, too.

Now the act to follow. In most areas that matter, the complete large family car

However, given its experience with making big estates, we’re surprised by some of the equipment oversights, such as making the variable boot floor an option, while Skoda tripped up over the flexibility of its folding seats, which don't work as well on UK market cars.

But it needn’t worry about the harder yards – about making the car refined, muscular, spacious or hard-wearing enough to fit easily into family life – because on those fronts the car is already great.

Great enough, in fact, to top our (now admittedly small) chart for full-size, volume-branded estate cars. If you want lots of space in a mature, pragmatic and well-priced package, look no further.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Skoda Superb 2015-2024 First drives