You might have noticed that the Superb pictured here is a different colour to the one that’s graced these pages over the past few months. The reason for the switch is simple: the grey one was crashed into.
Now don’t worry, yours truly is fine – and the bloke in the van that hit me wasn’t hurt either. But the Skoda was a bit mushed; its rear bumper and hatch were looking particularly sorry for themselves, and in its battered state, there was no way I could reasonably expect it to carry on with its daily duties – at least until a repair job had been carried out.
So it was promptly collected by the good people at the Skoda UK press garage, and this red one arrived to take its place. And while I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see my bells-and-whistles, range-topping Laurin & Klement model taken away prematurely, this one’s arrival at least provides the perfect opportunity for an impromptu spec comparison. Silver linings and all that, I guess.
This new Superb is a 148bhp diesel SE L, a car that – in standard guise – comes with a price tag of £31,670. So it’s not exactly entry-level, then, but it’s a damn sight cheaper than the 187bhp, 4WD L&K model I’ve been running about in up until now. And while I’ve become rather accustomed to the luxurious level of kit that comes as standard on that £40,295 model (£41,845 after options), this one by no means feels spartan.
Crucially, it retains the heated front seats of the last car. In the middle of what has been a particularly cold and stormy winter, that’s a big win. Less of a win is the fact the heated steering wheel has disappeared, but I guess you can’t have it all all the time.
Meanwhile, the Virtual Cockpit has been replaced by traditional analogue dials and Skoda’s 8.0in Amundsen infotainment system steps in for the old car’s 9.2in Columbus unit. While I hardly need to squint to see the dials or the smaller touchscreen, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the old car’s flashier screens at least a little bit.
Elsewhere, the SE L forgoes the adaptive dampers that come as standard on L&K cars. So the ride’s not quite as conspicuously cushioned as it was before, but as far as passive set-ups go, this is still a very good one. I’m less enamoured with the drivetrain, however.
Performance from the 148bhp engine obviously isn’t as strong as from the 187bhp model, and the DSG gearbox can still be frustratingly hesitant when you’d ideally like it to do its job and get you moving. But with power being sent exclusively to the front wheels rather than all four, my average fuel economy has been looking healthier. Where I was seeing 40-43mpg in the old car, this one is delivering better than 50mpg.
But it’s the 660-litre boot that remains the Superb’s defining feature. While the smaller hatchback would probably still carry all of my photography clobber with little bother, I love that with the estate I never have to think about whether or not something will fit. I simply open the boot, pack everything in and leave whatever sodden rural car park I happen to be based in for that particular photoshoot.