I’d always thought Czech brand Skoda offered solidly built vehicles with exceptional value for money, but I’d never been a fan of the rather clunky styling on display – until now.
In fact, the latest 2016 Skoda Superb Wagon turns that notion on its head. This time, Skoda has produced a quiet, comfortable and ludicrously spacious family wagon, which also happens to look the business.
It’s a tough ask for any car manufacturer, even for prestige brands, and to produce such a handsome five-door means Skoda has, what I consider, a best-in-class effort on its hands.
It’s not just my opinion, either. There wasn’t one person on my home turf at Manly Beach recently who didn’t walk past the car, stop, and do a double-take at this new Superb wagon. I could sense they were saying to themselves, “Well that looks good, but what is it?”
For that reason alone, it’s hard to think of Skoda as one of the Volkswagen Group’s cut-price brands these days, with price points for the Superb Wagon creeping ahead of VW’s range-topping Passat Alltrack by more than $2000.
And just like Skoda, Volkswagen offers the all-wheel-drive Passat Alltrack as a one-trim, one-engine model only, equipping it with a 140kW turbo-diesel mated to a six-speed DSG, priced from $49,290 plus on-roads.
Skoda goes one better by offering its top-shelf Superb (sedan and wagon) with the more powerful 206kW turbo-four petrol engine from the hard-charging Golf R, only in the Skoda it’s been de-tuned to deliver 350Nm down from 380Nm for better all-round driveability for a vehicle of this size.
The entire Skoda Superb line-up, though, comprises two petrol and one diesel options in both sedan and wagon body styles – the latter commanding a $1700 premium over its four-door siblings (the Superb sedan is actually a five-door hatch).
Entry level for the Superb range is the 162TSI (162kW of power) DSG from $39,990, while the 140TDI DSG priced at $43,990. The top-shelf 206TSI 4x4 DSG is priced from $50,990 for the sedan and $52,690 for the wagon (as tested). For full rundown on the recently launched range, see here.
If you thought our 206TSI wagon looked big on the outside, cabin and boot space may leave you gobsmacked. The previous generation was hardly lacking in either department, but this latest iteration is bigger in almost every dimension. Rear-seat legroom boarders on limo spec, while boot space grows by 60 litres to an impressive 660 for the wagon (625 for the sedan).
Folding the rear seats frees up a staggering 1950 litres of load space in the wagon and 1760 litres for the sedan. Either way, this is considerably more space than the current Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon (1625 litres) and still more than you’ll find in many large SUVs.
Extra-long loads aren’t a problem for this vehicle either, with Skoda’s own factory specifications for the Superb wagon citing objects up to 3.1 metres are not only possible, but 100 per cent confirmed by the fact that we managed to squeeze a 9-foot 8-inch (nearly three-metre) Malibu surfboard inside the cabin.
Inside, upholstery is a stylish blend of leather and up-scale Alcantara and considerably more comfortable than your average lounge suite. The flagship Skoda feels decidedly upmarket, even without ticking the optional ($1500) Comfort Pack box that adds seat heating and cooling with specific perforated leather and fully electric front passenger seat adjustability.
And as we’ve come to expect from this brand, the Superb comes loaded with everything bar the kitchen sink. It’s just one of several areas where this car continues to offer outstanding bang for buck.
It’s simply impossible to list every standard feature on the Superb – the list is far too extensive – but highlights include 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels shod with premium Pirelli rubber, heated front seats, privacy glass, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which automatically connects with your iPhone in mere seconds once you connect the Lightning cable.
You also get a high-definition reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, three-zone climate control, nine airbags and conveniently stored umbrellas hidden inside both front doors, just as you'll find in a Rolls-Royce.
Our 206TSI was also fitted with the optional $3400 Tech Pack, which adds a full suite of active safety aids and convenience features such as automatic parking assist, lane assist, side assist with blind-spot detection, rear traffic alert, traffic jam assist, emergency assist, adaptive chassis control, Virtual Pedal hands-free automated tailgate and what I thought is a fairly ordinary 12-speaker Canton sound system.
It’s an awful lot of kit, but the top-shelf Superb also includes the Image Pack as part of its standard inventory, which incorporates keyless entry and start, ambient lighting (dash and all four doors), drive mode selection with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and sports suspension, which lowers the ride height by 15mm for a noticeably sportier stance than its less powerful siblings.
But it doesn’t end there. There are other hidden conveniences such as a cooled glove box and centre console bin. It seems that everywhere you look there’s another feature yet to be discovered in the Superb.
Mind, it’s a considerable $7000 price hike from the mid-spec 140TDI to the top-of-the-tree 4x4 model, but even if you only have a hint of the enthusiast inside you, it's the pricier version that offers a modicum of driving thrill from your family chariot.
Despite the de-tuning and significant extra heft of the Skoda over its Golf R engine donor (1685kg versus 1495kg respectively) the Superb wagon can still cover off the 0-100km/h dash in just 5.8 seconds – 1.4 seconds faster than the $46,490 Golf GTI Performance with DSG. Top speed is an impressive 250km/h.
More importantly, it feels quick from behind the wheel, but only when push comes to shove. Otherwise, it tends to respond in a comfortably docile manner around town. Even under full throttle, the Superb isn’t exactly a bull out of the gate, but once under way, there’s plenty of pull, with peak torque coming on song between 1700rpm-5600rpm. It’s all the performance you’re ever going to need from a family bus with these dimensions.
Along with adaptive dampers, there’s also a good spread of drive modes available at the touch of a button (Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Individual) with each offering a different kind of driving experience. In Eco mode, for example, the engine management system, climate control and other auxiliary systems are optimised for fuel efficiency, so the transmission wants to shift into top gear even at speeds as low as 45km/h.
It’s different story entirely in the Sport setting. Idle engine speed is primed for more immediate throttle response, and the lower three gears are held longer for maximum acceleration.
For the most fun, though, slip into Sport and knock the shifter over to the left for full-manual mode using the paddle-shifters. There’s no overrun crackle and pop, but the instantaneous throttle blips on the downshifts are certainly a satisfying sound effect.
There’s a decent exhaust note, too. It’s not as growly as the Golf R, but it does sound decidedly more exciting than your average family transport, especially as you banging through the gears at full cry with the Superb’s quick-shifting dual-clutch gearbox.
The downside to any kind of spirited jaunts in the Skoda Superb 206TSI will be felt at the petrol bowser. Don’t expect to get any where near Skoda’s combined claim of 7.3L/100km. We averaged around 12.7L/100km over the week, though most of the time in Sport.
Traction and grip are guaranteed thanks to Skoda’s four-wheel-drive system providing a confident no-slip experience on any surface and in any conditions. It’s those same attributes, along with the adaptive suspension, which also contribute to some adept corner carving, too. It’s a wagon that enjoys a lonely winding road, with body roll kept largely in check in the stiffest damper setting.
That said, even in Sport, the Superb offers a good degree of suppleness in the ride, soaking up all but the most severe potholes.
Trying to find real fault with the latest Skoda Superb 206 TSI 4x4 DSG Wagon is tantamount to nitpickicking.
It’s a large, stylish estate with as much rear legroom as a prestige limousine and even more cargo space. The list of features and creature comforts on board is exhaustive, while under the bonnet is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine from one of the world’s most celebrated hot hatches.
And all this for around 52 grand. It’s crazy value for money.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Skoda Superb Wagon images by Brett Sullivan.