This improved version of the third generation Skoda Superb seems a very complete product, looking sharp and tilting at some big names. It's well equipped too. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Skoda's Superb features a smart suit, a slick chassis and strong engines in this improved version of the MK3 model. Hatch and estate versions of this enhanced design look sharper inside and out and the brand now offers a Plug-in hybrid option for the first time too. Plus the pricing remains sensible.
If there's one thing that's defined the Skoda Superb, it's that every time it's been launched, the Czech company seems to think it'll enjoy greater success if it's pushed further upmarket. Given that the vast majority of Skoda's profits comes from small cars, that seems quite a leap of faith, but look at the way the market works and you'll start to see the logic. The Superb's rivals, amongst which you can count cars like the Ford Mondeo, the Vauxhall Insignia and the Mazda6, have done likewise. With each successive iteration they get bigger and more polished. To not follow would leave the Superb battling over some very meagre scraps.
If you like the sound of a Skoda with real presence, you're probably going to love the MK3 model Superb. The exterior is a whole lot more assertive, with a clean, design-led approach. It's a sign of a more confident Skoda and that's always been a good sign when it comes to their products.
As you'd expect, this updated Superb has been fitted out with the latest suite of Volkswagen Group engines and these are all mated to DSG auto transmission, demand for manual gearboxes in cars of this size having petered out somewhat. The petrol range kicks off with a 150PS 1.5-litre TSI EVO unit. Next up is a revised version of the 2.0-litre TSI powerplant with 190PS; and the top petrol powerplant is a 2.0-litre TSI engine developing 280PS, which comes with all-wheel drive as standard. In the diesel line-up, the starting point is a 122PS version of the usual 2.0 TDI unit. Next up is a heavily revised 2.0-litre 150PS diesel unit now badged 'TDI EVO'. Beyond that is the 2.0 TDI 200PS unit, which can optionally be ordered with all-wheel drive. You can also have a Superb iV plug-in hybrid model, powered by a 1.4 TSI petrol engine that delivers 156PS and is boosted by an 85kW electric motor. The combined maximum power output of the two power sources is 218PS - which promises to deliver exceptional performance along with significantly reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
On the move, as ever in a Superb, the ride and refinement are exemplary and the dynamic demeanour of the car is sharper than you might expect, thanks to its light, stiff MQB chassis. As a result, the car feels surprisingly agile through bends you'll be able to attack with reasonable gusto thanks to feelsome steering and a standard XDS+ Electronic Differential Lock that reduces understeer and improves stability as you turn.
Design and Build
As ever, there's a body style choice between hatch and estate. Visual changes to this revised version of Skoda's third generation Superb are relatively slight; you'll need to be a brand enthusiast to note the smarter, narrower full-LED headlamps and tail lights, plus the restyled bumpers and revised badging. The front grille now bears double slats, is larger and protrudes a little further down into the front bumper. At the rear, a horizontal chrome trim strip, which connects the full LED tail lights and the new 'SKODA' block lettering, might catch the eye, as might the smarter 18 and 19-inch wheel designs.
Inside, if you owned an earlier version of this MK3 model, you might notice this revised car's extra chrome highlighting, the revised seat covers and the extra decorative trims for the centre console and dashboard. Added 'Simply Clever' touches include a space organiser beneath the boot floor. And a 'Phone Box' system that allows for inductive handset charging. A fully digital 'Virtual Cockpit' instrument display screen is now optional too, replacing their usual dials. As ever with a Superb, space for rear seat passengers is class-leading thanks to this MK3 model's lengthy 2,841mm wheelbase. And the boot is huge too, rated at 625-litres in the Hatch version, expanding to a cavernous 1,760-litres with the rear seat backs folded. If this still isn't big enough, you'll need to talk to your dealer about the estate variant. Here, there's a 660-litre boot, expandable to an impressive 1,950-litres when the seats are folded.
Market and Model
Prices for this revised model sit in the £24,000 to £42,000 bracket. There's a £1,320 premium to go from the hatch body style to the estate. UK range consists of four familiar trim grades; 'SE', 'SE L', 'SportLine Plus' and 'Laurin & Klement'. Plus DSG auto transmission is now standard across the line-up. As before, all models in the range feature high levels of standard equipment, with every variant including full-LED front and rear lights, along with seven airbags, a touchscreen infotainment system with DAB, voice control and Skoda's 'SmartLink+' set-up for 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone connectivity.
The most popular variants are the 'SE' models which come with 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors and electrically folding door mirrors with boarding spot lighting. In terms of driver assistance, 'SE' models come equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control, Light assistant and Driver fatigue sensor as standard. Business customers opting for the 'SE Technology' derivatives benefit from leather upholstery and heated front seats, Light Assist with high beam control, Blind Spot Detection and the brand's 'Amundsen' infotainment system with touchscreen display and integrated Wi-Fi. 'SE Technology' models are also equipped with Drive Mode selection allowing you to tweak throttle, steering and gearchange feel to suit the way you want to drive.
Cost of Ownership
Skoda has forged its modern-day reputation on building quality cars that aren't expensive to run. Here's another one. As before, there's an 'Energy Recovery' set-up to reclaim energy that would otherwise be lost under braking or during cruising. And the usual Start/stop system to cut the engine when you don't need it, stuck at the lights or waiting in traffic. Plus the driver can do his or her bit by keeping an eye on the gearshift indicator on the dash.
All these things of course aid the WLTP efficiency returns you'll get. The 2.0 TDI 122PS Hatch manages up to 58.9mpg on the combined cycle and up to 127g/km of CO2; for the 2.0 TDI 150PS version, the figures are little different - 57.7mpg and 128g/km. For the 2000PS model, the figures are up to 49.6mpg and up to 148g/km of CO2. For the 2.0 TSI 190PS petrol Hatch, the figures are up to 39.2mpg and 163g/km. If you really want to drive down your running costs, it's worth asking your dealer about the Superb iV plug-in hybrid model, powered by a 1.4 TSI petrol engine that delivers 156PS and is boosted by an 85kW electric motor. This offers CO2 emissions of up to 30g/km, along with an all-electric, zero-emission range of up to 35 miles thanks an integrated 13kWh battery.
The Skoda Superb looks the part, making it ever easier to convince those whose car views are at least a decade out of date that a Skoda deserves a place on your shortlist if you're in the market for a medium-ranger. Compared to a Mondeo or a Mazda6, a Superb represents a very different take on the theme. The Mazda is a pin-sharp drive, the Mondeo tries to blend size and sprightliness, but the Superb makes no real pretence at sportiness, instead offering a reassuring heft and vault-like build quality.
Above all, the Superb delivers space, and that's a quality you can never really have too much of in this corner of the market. Why? Because it's the one attribute where more mainstream marques can really land a telling blow on the premium badges. A BMW 3 Series or a Jaguar XE is never going to be able to offer as much space inside as a Skoda Superb. Cars like those are just not remotely viable if you need a lot of family interior room, so for those who need something cut from more generous cloth, give the Skoda the once over. It's slick, presentable and, yes, simply clever.