If you’re a member of a generation raised on long summer holidays baking in the back of a station wagon, sticking Juicy Fruit in your siblings' hair and torturing your parents with cries of 'are we there yet?', the idea of inflicting the same treatment on your own kids might be a post-traumatic trigger point.
The world we live in has changed, wagons aren’t an essential part of family life any more, and SUVs are the new must-have for families in Australia and around the world.
Skoda sees things a little differently, though. Sure, it has a range of SUVs, but it also sells the Superb wagon you see here, plus a wagon option for its Octavia and Fabia model lines, along with an almost-wagon variant of the Rapid.
There are SUVs too, but after a week behind the wheel of the 2019 Skoda Superb 162TSI wagon, the appeal of one of those starts to wane a little. This car does everything most medium-to-large SUVs can do, and does it convincingly.
As a snapshot, the 2019 Superb range consists of a liftback ‘sedan’ or wagon, with a choice of two engines.
For a flagship option there’s a 206kW turbocharged four-cylinder engine with all-wheel drive available in regular Superb or dressed-up Superb Sportline trims, or a more modest 162kW turbo petrol engine backed up by 350Nm of torque and paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic driving the front wheels.
What you see here is the base engine, which runs under the Superb 162TSI banner and misses out on the Sportline treatment (it’s only optional with the 206TSI engine). As a wagon it’ll set you back (from) $45,690 drive-away.
Traditionally, Skoda doesn’t do different trim levels, but it does offer options packages if you’re looking to trick your car up a little, but more on those in just a moment.
Standard equipment covers features like three-zone climate control, partial leather seat trim, heated front seats, a powered driver's seat, 18-inch alloy wheels, auto lights and wipers, Bi-Xenon headlights and LED tail-lights, rear door window shades, and adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist (meaning it’ll operate from highway speeds all the way down to a complete stop).
Skoda’s standard infotainment utilises a 9.2-inch touchscreen to access built-in navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, AM/FM/DAB+ radio and CD player with AUX, SD card and USB inputs. Graphics are crystal clear, and the system’s responsiveness matches modern smartphones with pinch-to-zoom style functionality to match.
To grow the standard features list, three optional equipment packages can be added: Image, Tech and Comfort. The Image package adds LED ambient lighting, 19-inch alloys, a three-spoke steering wheel (instead of the standard four-spoke wheel), sports suspension, driving mode selection and proximity key with push-button start.
With Image added, you can then opt for the Tech pack in addition to include adaptive chassis control (adaptive dampers linked to the drive mode selector), a hands-free powered tailgate, automatic parking assist, and 12-speaker Canton premium audio with subwoofer.
The last option pack (available independently of the others) is the Comfort package adding front seat ventilation, rear seat heating, full-leather trim in black or beige, and a powered passenger seat that can also be adjusted from the rear.
The packs add $1800, $4300 and $1500 respectively and push the price to $53,290, but if you want even more you can add a panoramic sunroof for $1900, virtual cockpit digital instrument panel for $700, and metallic or pearl paint for $700, for a $56,590 potential upper limit.
The result of getting happy ticking option boxes is a car that really pushes into premium territory – think Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, although a loaded Superb offers more space, more kit and a more powerful engine for a slightly smaller outlay compared to a basic Euro prestige wagon.
You could be just as happy with the basic package too, as the fundamentals are well sorted and there’s not much in the way of must-haves missing from the Superb, just dress-ups that you might like to include.
Certainly safety is appropriately catered for in a car aimed at families, with nine airbags, autonomous emergency braking (which Skoda calls front assist with city emergency brake), driver fatigue detection, lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
On the road, the 162TSI engine and six-speed dual-clutch automatic team up as an incredibly likeable package. Although it’s not a firebrand of acceleration, the engine (from the same family as the Golf GTI no less, albeit in a slightly different state of tune and with a much larger car to lug about) shows no obvious weaknesses.
Light-load acceleration in and around town is fluent and linear. Sink the boot in from a standing start, and there’s enough urge to angrily churn the front tyres and tug lightly at the steering wheel while still delivering decent acceleration. But take a more measured approach, and the Superb still gets along smartly.
Inside the cabin, there’s little in the way of noise or vibration to upset the ambience, and on the open road the Superb is about as effortless and under-stressed as you’ll find. Low on wind and road noise, and comfy enough to get you to your destination feeling fresh.
With all the options added to this particular test car, including 19-inch wheels and sports suspension of the Image pack and the adaptive suspension of the Tech pack, the ride is a little more firm than floating. Not uncomfortable or jittery, but for ultimate plushness, a pack-free car (with smaller wheels and free of sports suspension) would be the safer bet.
The six-speed auto is fluid and responsive, quick-thinking when required, and able to shuffle between gears without disruption to power flow. Very-low-speed moves, like parking or queuing in traffic, seem to have been mastered too – although there are still traces of abruptness from a standing start.
Helping to keep a lid on any back-seat disputes that might erupt on the road, the Superb offers plenty of space and comfort. Wide-opening rear doors reveal a generously proportioned rear seat with leg room, head room and width well up to the task of carrying three growing young adults.
Little touches that weren’t present on the wagon trips you remember as a kid, like side window blinds, seat-mounted tablet holders and three-zone climate control, give rear-seat passengers a few less reasons to object to time in the back seat – and rear seat heating (part of the Comfort pack) will no doubt be welcomed in the colder months.
Skoda also amps up the utility and practicality of its wagon with thoughtful details that competitors usually overlook. Small though they may be, some of the more useful touches found within the boot include a pop-out rechargeable torch, fold-flat bag hooks, seat-release levers, a 12V socket and side storage bins.
The boot capacity measures 660L (to window height) with the rear seats up, or a maximum 1950L to the roof with the seats folded. That’s more than large-car classmate the Holden Commodore with 560L/1665L measurements, and just ahead of the closely related (but externally smaller) Passat that claims 650L to the rear seats, or 1780L with seats folded.
Ownership credentials include a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and a capped-price service program that includes 12-month or 15,000km intervals (whichever comes first) up to the first six visits for a total cost of $3254, including scheduled cabin filter and brake fluid replacements.
Fuel consumption is rated at an official 6.7L/100km, though on test (with a fairly heavy urban skew) the final result was quite a bit higher at 9.6L/100km, although given the size and performance potential of the Superb, a sub-10L/100km figure still keeps fuel bills trim.
Internationally Skoda has already shown what an updated Superb is set to look like, but it's still a few months off from an Australian launch. So, are station wagons like the Skoda Superb the new SUV? It’s unlikely this one wagon alone will turn the tide, but if any wagon could, this would be the one.
Serene and comfortable, well priced and well specced, the Superb 162TSI is quite a compelling base package. Of course, you can option it up to the degree of the car tested here, but even without doing so, the willing drivetrain and generous interior remain and sell themselves on their merits.
Skoda’s relatively low profile in Australia means you get to be seen in something ‘different’, and there’s a sense of restrained aspiration to the Superb’s lines that seem to work best in wagon form. A smartly finished cabin and Skoda’s neat little helpful extras dotted about ice this family-car cake off nicely.