Road Test: Skoda Superb Elegance 2.0 TDI
Sector: Upper Medium Price: £24,840 Fuel: 61.4mpg CO2: 119g/km
Value for money is a key part of Skoda’s DNA in the UK, and the flagship Superb displays this better than anything else in the range.
Like all Skodas, it’s positioned between two segments. The platform is derived from the Volkswagen Passat, but at 49mm longer in wheelbase and 69mm longer overall the car falls somewhere between the upper-medium and full-size executive segments.
So while it might sound like damning the car with false praise, the best place to appreciate the Superb is its rear seats. There’s enough legroom in the back for two basketball players to get comfortable – it feels considerably more spacious than anything in its sector despite a seemingly small increase in overall length.
The reason behind is more Chinese than Czech. Long-wheelbase cars are big business on China’s narrow roads, looking prestigious without needing extra width. So when Skoda reintroduced the Superb in 2001, Chinese customers would’ve recognised it as the Passat Lingyu, a unique-to-China long-wheelbase version of the Passat saloon sold in Europe between 1996 and 2005.
This second-generation of the modern Superb has never worn a Volkswagen badge, even in China, but it’s still catering for the same market. Some 40% of all Superbs are sold to Chinese customers, which is significant for a European manufacturer, even in a relatively large market.
But this is a relevant model in Europe, and with Skoda’s new family styling now rolling out across a number of new models the Superb had a substantial update in 2013. Arguably it’s not until the two cars are lined up that most of the differences come to light, but there’s almost none of the original panelwork at the front and rear end which hasn’t been untouched, while LED strips in the lights have given the car a more expensive sense of style.
It’s an illusion, because the Superb remains an absolute bargain. Equipped with the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine, the Elegance trim tested here includes 18-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, electrically-adjustable heated leather seats, touch-screen satellite navigation and a heated windscreen for less than £25,000. Even with Volkswagen’s high-value Executive trim levels, the smaller Passat is around £700 more expensive in the same specification.
The Superb has a few other tricks up its sleeve, too. It retains the Twindoor system, which allows the boot to open as a saloon or a full-length hatchback, now operated by two separate buttons rather than one on the old model. Rear occupants are also offered a Skoda-branded umbrella, tucked into a compartment on the passenger-side rear door, just like a Rolls-Royce.
Ride quality, even on the Elegance’s large wheels, is excellent and it’s an incredibly quiet, comfortable long-distance car for drivers and passengers alike. The seats are supportive and comfortable, and with the lower-powered of the two diesel engines – which costs £930 less and brings the car down a BiK band – it feels relaxed and refined rather than particularly sporty. This helps fuel economy to settle between 50 and 55mpg on the motorway.
There is, of course, the option to push the value further and get a 109g/km Greenline II version, though this does limit the engine choices to the 103bhp 1.6 TDI. Desirable features such as the leather upholstery can also be added to the fleet-focused SE Business trim – which does feature the 2.0 TDI – to up the value, too.
But as a flagship for a brand driven by high value, a highly-equipped Superb gives a good sized shot of luxury for an attractively small outlay.
Residual values take some of the shine off the Superb’s whole-life costs, but it’s hard to knock the Skoda for its ability to offer excellent long-distance comfort and economy at a low price.