Trent drives the sedan and James the wagon - but is the Skoda as Superb as its name suggests?
The Skoda Superb 125TDI Elegance is available as a large four-door sedan or an even larger five-door wagon.
The model has received some updates for 2014, including a revised nose with new lamps (incorporating LED running lights), new LED strip tail lights and a range of new wheels. There is a new steering wheel design and a couple of minor improvements to the interior trim.
CarAdvice recently drove both variants, but in different states – the sedan in Sydney and the wagon in Melbourne. Trent and James share their thoughts on the big Czech…
The Skoda Superb 125TDI Elegance sedan could be said to be little boring. It’s the kind of car you buy when outright excitement is probably not a priority.
It’s not all bad news though so don’t despair.
The Skoda Superb 125TDI Elegance sedan is also absolutely beautiful to drive day-to-day, it is superbly (pun intended) comfortable, quiet, insulated and almost glides along, unfazed by the quality of the road surface beneath it. Trucking around the metro area, I’m constantly reminded of the Superb’s composure and bump absorption. It’s incredibly roomy too, making a convincing case as a genuine bargain, family sedan.
Quite a few passers-by stopped to ask what it was too, mentioning that they thought it was a classy looking sedan, so maybe it’s just me who finds the exterior styling a little bland. Regardless, this segment – especially for the family buyer – is more about function than form anyway, and that’s where the Superb really shines.
The aforementioned interior space is a real bonus, the boot space is also huge and regardless of how tall the front seat occupants are, there’s a surfeit of legroom in the second row. All four main seats are heated, there are separate A/C controls for the rear and quality leather trim throughout. Close the door and you’re ensconced in comfort and insulated calmness.
Speaking of the boot, the Superb sedan has a very clever "TwinDoor" function, that lets you open the luggage compartment as either a traditional sedan boot, or as a large hatchback door. It's an amazing solution to fitting larger loads in the car, and while not as spacious as the wagon, gives extra flexibility to the sedan.
The sat-nav system is clear and easy to use, I only had a couple of hiccups with the Bluetooth phone connection that didn’t recur after initial setup and the parking sensors did the job required of them. The lack of a reverse camera (even as an option) though at this price point in this segment is something I find hard to cop. It might not be a deal breaker, but surely it can’t be that hard to add to the standard specification list.
The 125kW diesel engine is matched well to the ratio spread of the six-speed DSG. The DSG isn’t perfect as we know and it still exhibits some minor baulking at low speed, but once on the move, shifts are crisp and precise. The same goes for decelerating where the DSG works back down through the gears smoothly.
The official ADR fuel consumption figure is 5.5L/100km and on test, the on-board computer shows 6.4L/100km after more than 200km behind the wheel. I should note that figure is generated without any real attempt to drive efficiently and with the stop/start system (standard) deactivated most of the time because it annoys me. It can be a little slow to respond on take off when you want a snappy getaway and I’m happier to use marginally more fuel than I am to put up with a tardy, clunky getaway thanks to the stop/start DSG combo.
The Superb shrinks around you the more you drive it too and continues to offer itself up as a proper family alternative to the other European vehicles buyers might consider. Starting at $44,990 plus dealer charges and on-road costs, there’s a value story to be told here too. Whichever way you look at it, you get a lot for the money and crucially, the family will love it.
It used to be a joke that Skoda was Czech for 'last year’s Volkswagen' and with the 2014 Skoda Superb Estate, that initially feels a little more than accurate.
The second-generation Superb wagon was launched in 2009 and despite a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ facelift and tweaks to the engine lineup, it has remained largely the same since.
The design of the Skoda is non-confrontational. It’s conservative and classy without actually standing out in any way. I hate to use the word, but the Skoda Superb is a ‘nice’ car. (I wanted to use 'nice' at least five times - and didn't! - Trent)
The 125kW/350Nm turbo diesel in the Elegance trim has power enough to handle all day-to-day driving. It won't set any land-speed records, but it also won't have you feeling you can’t make that gap when merging on the freeway.
It’s economical too, our test car averaging 7.3L/100 on a 500km combined cycle.
The ride is on the softer side, feeling very comfortable on a long drive but never particularly engaging. A strong point of our test period were the headlamps – the xenon projectors providing excellent light and ‘bending’ beams to help see around corners on tighter stretches.
Inside, the car’s VW Group ancestry is very apparent. The Superb shares some bits with the Volkswagen Passat.
But some of the functionality, particularly around the infotainment system, feels dated. While featuring Bluetooth phone and audio and the ability to play media from USB and SD card, it can be slow to react and just feels a bit ‘old’.
There are parking sensors, and even automatic reverse parking, but no camera (which would be more than handy given the size of the car).
The monochrome MFD in the instrument display is very basic and even the steering wheel controls and switchgear feel strangely familiar, having graced Audi models as far back as 2007.
The DSG gearbox does provide smooth shifting while on the move, but slow speed engagement and transitions from Drive to Reverse, particularly while parking, are undeniably hesitant.
However, while it may not be cutting edge, the interior is very ergonomic and easy to get used to. There’s nothing major missing that should be there, and in the comfortable electrically adjustable seats, there’s a solid feeling of ‘niceness’.
And where the Superb really is superb, is in its space.
The wagon body style provides excellent rear passenger legroom and an enormous 603-litre boot (expanding to 1835 litres with the seats folded).
There’s enough headroom both front and rear for tall adults to feel comfortable, and back-seat passengers are even treated to an arm rest with cup holders and a neat digital display on the rear of the center console, showing the time and outside temperature.
However if you squeeze a third passenger in the back, the room quickly evaporates and the Superb feels a bit narrow. It’s actually 3mm narrower (but 41mm longer) than a Volkswagen Passat.
In a way it feels like a rather plush taxi.
Ironically, this is where a number of Superb’s are beginning to show their strength. While motoring around in the ‘Capuccino Metallic’ wagon, I spotted a number of Superbs in both silver service Taxi and black VHA ‘Uber’ guise.
As a private vehicle, the Skoda Superb is a pleasant all-round package but at $46,690 isn’t as good value as you would expect. It is only $300 cheaper than a VW Passat 130TDI Highline wagon, which is arguably a more complete package with a more ‘premium’ badge.
The Superb is a good car, and ticks a lot of the right boxes… but it just doesn’t feel special – something that it should at almost $50,000.
There are a lot of neat touches, making the brand’s “Simply Clever” tagline feel very accurate – umbrellas in the doors, rain-sensing windows that close automatically, and the amazing twin-door boot/hatch on the sedan… but these aren’t enough to make the Superb a truly premium proposition.
If you want something large, economical and comfortable, but aren’t fussed about having the most exciting car on the planet, then the big Skoda is worth a look.
However if the rear legroom isn’t the be all and end all, there are price-point rivals that might make you feel more special.
Click on the photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.