Wagon version of Skoda's cut-price limo is relaxing to drive, vast inside and great value, provided you avoid the range-topper

What is it?

Even Skoda’s own executives, proud as they rightly are of the previous Superb, admit that it was no beauty. So this new version seems to have solved the biggest problem already, delivering crisp, modern lines over pleasing proportions. Box ticked in that respect, then.

As you’d expect, this estate version of the Superb takes its ethos of big space and practicality for a reasonable cost even more seriously than the hatch. A vast load bay offers a capacity of 660 litres with the rear seats up – more even than a Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon – and is filled with useful touches such as spring-loaded rear seatbacks that topple flat with the pull of a lever in the boot and a boot floor that can be raised or lowered one-handed. So far, so ‘simply clever’.

There's a good range of familiar motors to choose from in the Superb, but we're testing the venerable 2.0 TDI in its 187bhp output; the only engine in the Superb that can be had with the Haldex on-demand four-wheel drive and a DSG automatic gearbox. 

What's it like?

The 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel isn’t the smoothest out there, sounding a bit gritty in the cabin even when it’s not under load, but it’s no louder than most rival diesels and it delivers easy torque-surfing across most of the rev range, saving the auto ‘box from the need to shuffle through the ratios too much.

When the DSG does shift, it generally executes it smoothly and into the appropriate gear at the right moment, making for properly laid-back progress. Having said that, it also throws in the odd unnecessary downshift and can be slow to respond when a downchange is needed to get up a steep incline.

It’s a bit more predictable in Sport mode, but using the paddles is the most satisfying way to thread the automatic Superb down a decent road, even at the moderate sort of pace that naturally suits this car.

The handling is just as unflappable as you’d expect. What with the new MQB platform and various other weight-saving measures keeping it from being quite as heavy as it looks, you can swing the Superb vigorously into a corner and enjoy neutral, composed manners.

In warm, dry conditions, the four-wheel drive system doesn’t make a dramatic amount of difference over front-wheel drive, other than to stave off understeer a bit more gamely, but knowing how effective this fifth-generation Haldex system is in other installations suggests that it’ll be great for pressing on unfazed through the mucky winter conditions that British buyers will want it for.

Our car came on adaptive dampers (optional on all but Laurin & Klement trim), which allow fairly pronounced body roll even in Sport mode, but more disconcerting is the amount of body float you get over undulating roads in the softer settings, with lots of loose vertical damping at the back in particular.

It’s so noticeable, in fact, that Skoda is already planning to alter the settings in Comfort mode to keep it tied down better - a change that will be rolled out in cars built from later this summer. For all that, ride in default Normal mode is settled and easy-going, apart from the odd unsettling mid-corner thump and shimmy.

The interior of the big Skoda feels anything but scrimping, despite the value factor that remains its trump card. Going for SE L trim, which gets the full 8.0in touchscreen with sat-nav, powered tailgate, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery and electrically adjustable front seats, will feel business class enough without paying the whacking £3620 extra for L&K trim.

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Even the freakishly tall will be able to get comfortable in the driver’s seat or in the rear pews, where there’s properly limo-like amounts of space. Boot space is such that it’s hard to imagine what any motorist could do, short of regular bouts of jousting, that could make it seem inadequate.

Should I buy one?

Absolutely, provided you really want the space. It looks good value for the size and kit, albeit not so much in the L&K trim tested here, which is tricky to recommend at BMW 5 Series prices, despite offering dramatically more equipment. The depreciation on the L&K might be a bit scary, too. 

Otherwise, the closest rival to this range-topping, all-weather Superb wagon is the Subaru Outback, which is similarly well equipped yet cavernous, but also much slower and hampered by a continuously variable transmission. 

A high-spec Ford Mondeo is a more convincing alternative for those who want entertaining back-road shenanigans, but overall it’s easy to see why you’d go for the Skoda’s calm drive, roomier interior and stoic, four-wheel drive capability instead. 

Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 190 4x4 DSG Laurin & Klement

Location: Munich; On sale: September; Price £35,040; Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power 187bhp at 3500-4000rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1750-3250rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1635kg; Top speed 142mph; 0 62mph 7.7sec; Economy 55.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 135g/km, 25%

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Sporky McGuffin 3 July 2015

I don't disagree that an

I don't disagree that an upright tail is better from a sheer load-lugging point of view, but it can greatly increase aerodynamic drag, which affects economy, especially on the motorway.

To me having a nice wide, square boot aperture is even more important as it makes getting stuff in and out so much easier. Again, it's largely about priorities.

230SL 5 July 2015

@ Sporky McGuffin, a vertical

@ Sporky McGuffin, a vertical rear is more aerodynamic than a sloping tailgate with a spoiler at the top of the rear window, the air is leaving at the top creating an extra triangular shaped vacuum space compared to a vertical tailgate, look at one of the most aerodynamic cars like an Audi A2 for example, the rear of the car has vertical rear.
abkq 3 July 2015

This is a handsome estate

This is a handsome estate where the rear area doesn't look like an add-on section adapted from a saloon body. Many readers criticise the sloping rear gate as style over function. I agree. For a great estate design with a vertical rear tailgate there is (was) the Volvo 850, the last work of Jans Wilsgaard, who astonishingly designed the Amazon and the wonderful 144-164 series when he was in his twenties (according to Wikipedia)!
bowsersheepdog 2 July 2015

Estate of confusion

I like estates, and this looks like a good big 'un, but I agree with 230SL about the style trend over recent years. The manufacturers are all trying to claim maximum space efficiency, yet they waste a large chunk by the sloping of the rear ends. A good, old-fashioned vertical tailgate on a squared off hind will always be the best use of space. Personally I find it more aesthetically pleasing too.