Why we ran it: To see whether the latest Superb can cut it as an object of not only supreme practicality but also luxury
Life with a Skoda Superb plug-in hybrid: Month 6
Our mile-eating snapper has put three Superbs to the test. What’s the verdict? - 4 November 2020
My three-model, in-depth getting-to-know-you session with what many in our office still regard as one of the most overlooked and underrated new cars on sale, the estimable Skoda Superb, is at an end. And, well, yes, I am a bit cut up about it, actually, mostly because I know that my next longterm test car is likely only to make me miss the big Skoda even more.
Life on the Autocar long-term test fleet is ever changeable. When you’ve had a doozie of a car – one almost perfectly suited to your purposes and plush enough to make you feel good about all those early starts and long motorway journeys – you can be pretty sure that your next car, as grateful for it as you will be, probably won’t suit you half as well. Well, you could say that I’ve had three cars in a row that suit me almost perfectly: the two diesel Superb Estates in which we began this voyage of discovery, and then the plug-in hybrid Superb iV hatchback that it now pains me so much to see depart.
The big questions that we wanted this test to resolve can be covered off pretty quickly. My answer to the first – is the hatchback so big and practical that the estate is actually redundant? – is an emphatic ‘no’.
The problem isn’t outright space so much as access. I live and operate out of my car pretty much five days per week, and the more easily I can just open the boot and grab any camera, tripod or flashgun that I happen to need, the better my day is. Good weather plays a part, as do punctual, considerate journalists with cars that I like, quite frankly. But believe me, I organise a boot like others might organise their office desk. Everything has its place.
In the estates, all of my bags could sit near the lip, where I could reach them easily, so I was always in and out quickly. But the hatchback’s boot wasn’t quite tall enough to take those bags in the same position, which meant I had to repack it an awful lot more. Several times on some days.
The only thing I came to dread about any of the Superbs I ran was the sound of the iV’s motorised bootlid failing to click home as it tried vainly to close itself on top of my gear. I actually ended up carrying some of my kit on the back seats.
That deals with the bodystyle issue. As regards engine and trim, there’s perhaps a little bit of room for debate but, allowing for the fact that our PHEV would cost a company car user about a third of the amount of a similarly specified 188bhp 2.0 TDI in benefit-in-kind tax, you would have to be opting out of your company car scheme or buying privately to justify the diesel. For high-mileage drivers, there are reasons you might, the diesel being 10-20% more economical on longer runs and having a bigger fuel tank being the main ones.
In the end, it was the adaptability and responsiveness of the iV that convinced me of its superiority, not its economy. But then I was always going to be an abuse test for any PHEV on that score: I live in busy London without off-street parking, and even if there were public chargers installed, I would be very lucky indeed to be able to use them.