Naming cars after superlatives is a dangerous business: cases in point being the Mitsubishi Carisma (sic) and Honda Legend. The Skoda Superb could be an exception though: aside from its awkward looks, it’s a refined, practical and keenly-priced mid-ranking saloon, offering BMW 5-series space at 3-series prices.
Now it’s been facelifted, is it worthy of a truly superb verdict? Read on for the CAR review.
What’s new for the 2014 Skoda Superb?
The facelift is a predictable one: squared-off headlights and sharper grille lines align the Superb with its new Rapid and Octavia stablemates, and of course the new Skoda badge makes an appearance too. New designs of alloy wheels freshen up the profile, and round the back there are new slimline taillights in an attempt to sort out the Superb’s awkward rump.
In saloon form, the Superb has a trick tailgate showpiece: the bootlid can be opened as a conventional saloon tailgate, to please Western European tastes, or as a massive one-piece hatchback, as preferred in Eastern Europe. As useful as the system is – more so than the similar BMW 5-series GT’s dual-boot – it’s given a rather lumpy rear aspect to the Superb that even the new snazzy taillights can’t disguise.
Our advice is to plump for the huge Superb Estate – it’s a more handsome device, and musters a huge 633L/1865L boot, to the saloon’s 595L/1700L. Incidentally, Skoda claims both cargo figures are a best-in-class, which is hardly surprising given the car’s sheer dimensions: in the metal it really does look a class bigger than other mid-ranking saloons, like the Ford Mondeo (528L/1448L) and Vauxhall Insignia (530L/1470L). At 4833mm long, it’s only a cigarette packet shorter than a Mercedes E-class.
Does the Superb feel as premium as it looks size-wise?
In the top-ranking Elegance trim we tested, it does. The range-topper wears 18in alloys and adaptive bi-xenon lights, boasting a hefty toy-count too. Touchscreen infotainment with sat-nav and DAB radio is standard, as are heated, electric front seats, heated windscreen washers for the heated windscreen, automatic lights and wipers, plus leather seats.
It’s not as VW parts-bin as you might expect, either: aside from indicator stalks and the headlight toggle, the smart switchgear has a bespoke Skoda font and eminently sensible ergonomics.
Again, the ambience is a cut above the class norm – as is rear legroom. As tested, at £24,810 (including a £100 charge for an optional spare wheel) the unassuming Superb looks like good value for money. Skoda does lose points for shunning the previous model’s Rolls-Royce-style concealed umbrellas, though. It’ll have to claw that back on good old-fashioned mainstream merit...
Lots of space and kit then, but is that hiding refinement worries?
Not many. The Superb is a well-judged motorway cruiser, its protracted gear ratios and suppressed wind and tyre noise making for a non-fatiguing environment. Carriageway cruising is where the Superb feels most at home: the ride is composed here, as opposed to its tendency to thump into imperfections around town (and make a right meal of speed humps) on our test car’s 18in rims at least.
Though the steering is well-weighted, helping thread the Skoda along rather nimbly for such a big ol’ boat, it’s not an engaging, feedback-laden drive, like a Ford Mondeo or a BMW 3-series – in fact, it reminds mostly of the Volvo V70: doughy, unruffled, and unwilling to play.
What about the powertrain?
The 2.0 TDI engine, tested in 138bhp form, is a peach too. You can spec a punchier 168bhp version, which scores an identical claim of 61.4mpg, but unless you’re a proper traffic light grand prix fiend, save yourself £800 and pick the lower-powered model, which is more than capable of hauling the Superb at adequate pace and executing positive sixth-gear overtakes at motorway speeds.
Not enough? If you’re completely bonkers, Skoda will sell you a 3.6-litre V6 petrol-powered Superb with all-wheel drive. Combined mpg is a claimed 30.4mpg, CO2 a laughable 215g/km. Yes, that makes this particular Superb a worse company car fleet option than a McLaren P1. You’ll be wanting the 2.0 TDI after all, then.
One powertrain option to bear in mind is the six-speed DSG automatic. Though the test car’s six-speed manual is a weighty, slick transmission, a smooth-shifting double-clutch better fits the Superb’s relaxed demeanour. Pity that Skoda knows as much, meaning you’ll pay £1435 for the privilege.
Aside from the styling tweaks, one of Skoda’s boasts about the facelifted Superb is a 19% economy improvement across the diesel engine range, thanks to stop-start and energy recuperation technology.
While those changes aren’t enough to turn a good car into a fabulous one, they do nevertheless keep the Superb in the running for all-round class honours as a likeable, excellent value buy. It may wear that badge with conviction after all.