There was a time when a Skoda was Superb, now it’s just sublime

Large car fans have often been short-changed by carmakers more concerned with squeezed profit margins at the extremes of their product ranges, highlights Iain Robertson, which is not an accusation that can be levelled at Skoda.

Perhaps it lies in a translation issue? Czechoslovakian is not the easiest of languages around which to perform linguistic calisthenics. Teensy diacritical accents, like diphthongs, graves, umlauts and cedillas make many Czech words unpronounceable to the British. Mind you, some Scots, of which I am a proud one, are virtually unintelligible to many English-speakers, so go figure.

Apart from Laurin & Klement, which I shall grant you does sound like ‘Laurel & Hardy’ and was the original brand name for Skoda from 1900 to 1923, the company’s line-up has been peppered with Favorit, Fun, Felicia and Forman, while Tudor, Rapid and Superb can be taken as literally as the observer desires. Yet, Superb has been a higher-end model name for Skoda since the mid-1930s, which were markedly different days for the brand and that land-locked part of Europe.

The model name entered our consciousness in the second year of the New Millennium. Based on the Chinese-made, long-wheelbase version of the 1999 VW Passat, it scored an instant hit with taxi and limo drivers, mostly because of the immense amount of rear legroom and boot space on offer, which made all other large cars in the class look positively cramped. More vitally, when the highest specification version of the Superb was introduced in 2002, it was exactly £1,000 costlier than the least expensive Jaguar X-type and was a significantly grander package all-round.

Having established itself as a viable model, in 2009 the second generation arrived. The Passat leanings had been dispensed with and the new car was based on a stretched version of the Octavia platform (itself based on the VW Golf). In terms of economies of scale, it was something of a master-stroke. Apart from a really ‘trick’ rear hatchback that could open either as a smaller boot aperture, or as a full-size liftback, it was the estate car version that commandeered maximum attention. Skoda’s semi-permanent promotional tagline was ‘Clever’ and the brand always gave more to its customers…in this case, space.

By mid-2015, a replacement, the current model, arrived, which was an altogether different bit of kit. Now based on the VW Group, ‘MQB’ chassis architecture, it was not only larger than its forebear but international recognition that featured many 10/10 scores and resulted in a plethora of Car of The Year awards granted it a status truly worthy of the model name. The fact that prices started at comfortably less than £20k helped its cause.

As keenly sculpted as any car in the large category could be (designers have slightly greater dimensions to play with, to make their tasks easier), the latest Superb still cuts a fine profile and looks fantastic from all angles. It is a deserving big brother to the Octavia midfielder, while possessing remarkable street-credibility. As a result, along with the rest of the model line-up, Skoda could state finally that it had shed its repute as a ‘shed’ and was competent enough to compete head-on with the best in the west. No more wicked japes could pierce its now impenetrable skin and the Superb was a worthy rival to some stellar competitors.

Of course, it continues to benefit from abundant interior space, with stretch-out, limousine-grade accommodation in the back seats, allied to copious adjustability of the front seats and steering column to ensure inclusion of 99.9% of all driver sizes. As part of the greater VW Group, Skoda is able to lean on its parent’s parts bins, which means that Passat owners will find much of the interior décor and layout familiar. There is nothing wrong in that aspect, as the Passat is a much-admired and exemplary family car and it also helps to keep Skoda prices keen, while bolstering the Group’s overall profits. Skoda must earn its crust and it does so most capably.

Powering Superb is a line-up of broadly familiar turbocharged, petrol and diesel power plants, from 1.4 to 2.0-litre capacity, in a broad range of power outputs (147 to 276bhp), with a mix of 6 or 7-speed DSG twin-clutch automated-manual, or 6-speed manual gearboxes. The punchiest of the petrols and diesels also feature a tried and trusted 4x4 system that affords them outstanding grip, traction and dynamic safety standards. While the prices have crept up inexorably, the latest SportLine (and SportLine Plus) trim levels now commence at £27,830 (£29,330), rising to £36,300 (petrol hatch) and £37,715 (petrol estate) – not including FCD discount, which makes them the costliest Skodas of all at a level unfamiliar to the brand a decade ago. Yet, Skoda has earned the right to charge more, because the Superb still retains excellent value-for-money in the large car category, with most of its potential rivals costing at least £5,000 more.

Having touched lightly on the inherent dynamic qualities of the latest Superb, in SportLine form a surprisingly zesty and exceptionally wieldy motorcar results. For a start, the touch-screen attached to the dashboard is now up to 9.2-inches in size for added legibility and ease of use. The 276bhp turbo-petrol version can scorch from 0-60mph in a mere 5.5s, with a reported maximum speed potential of 150mph. On the other hand, the 2.0-litre, 147bhp TDi can return in excess of 60mpg, while emitting a cost-conscious 113g/km of CO2, a factor that lends its benefits ideally to the company car sector.

Equipped with 19-inch Anthracite alloy wheels (‘Vega’), more aggressive bumpers, dark tinted glazing, black gloss trim detailing and an additional lip spoiler on the rear, the SportLine models are attractive, yet classically elegant. Bi-Xenon headlamps, Drive Mode Select, climate control and keyless entry/start are enhanced by a 15mm lower ride height, quilted sports seats clad in Alcantara and carbon interior detailing.

FCD Summary

Nobody, even their wildest dreams, could ever state that the Skoda Superb is a car incapable of living up to its name. In the latest SportLine and SportLine Plus trims, value-for-money is also on the cards. Combine that with an indomitably dependable reputation and Superb is a compelling package.

Welcome to Forces Cars Direct

If you serve, you save

We provide new car discounts for all
Armed Forces personnel, past and present.

To discover the discounts available for you and to find your ideal car, please select your eligibility from the list below:

Not sure if you’re eligible? Find out if you are here