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2020 Skoda Superb review: facelifted large saloon more than lives up to the name

2020 Skoda Super (facelift of Mk3) - tested October 2019

Is it really 18 years since Skoda launched its Superb large saloon? The name goes back to the 1934 Superb model and it’s not without a certain chutzpah that a company launches a car with a name such as that. 

Through three generations, however, the modern Superb has been, well, a superb seller; the latest Mk3 version has sold almost 530,000 since its launch in 2015.

Admittedly, most of them have been in the fleet and minicab trades, which occupy 83 per cent of UK Superb customers, drivers valuing the big Czech’s value-for-money proposition and its enormous boot space and rear-seat accommodation.

Now we’ve got a facelift for the 2015 Mk3 Superb in what should be a firm seller in the UK, the 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol form in SE-L trim.

A lot of car for the money

This ALOCFTM title is usually bestowed on non-premium large cars such as Rover’s 75 of 1999-2005, which offer reliable, spacious and good-value motoring with a certain grandness about the styling. Apart from the ill-fated booted/hatchback Mk2 version, the Superb has delivered this in spades.

Not much has been changed for this facelift, either. A slight front end restyle with LED “matrix” headlights, plus a few dollops of chrome finishing, Audi-style dynamic indicators and the Superb name spelt out across the boot lid a la Tesla. 

Inside there’s a new central screen and the Audi-style virtual cockpit, which can project the Google-based satnav graphics behind the speedo and rev counter in the instrument binnacle. 

New stuff includes upgraded safety equipment including a system which will help steer around hazards it anticipates you are likely to hit, predictive cruise control which can read road signs and factors in the topography, and camera- and radar-based emergency braking on detecting pedestrians or cyclists.

Is diesel still the fuel of choice?

Up to now the best-selling model has been the 2.0-litre diesel engine with 148bhp or 187bhp, but given Britain’s diesel voodoo fears Skoda thinks the 148bhp,1.5-litre TSI turbo petrol is going to run those models at least a close second. 

There’s also a 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol model we tested, which comes with the optional 4x4 drivetrain, and a 1.6-litre turbo diesel for those after the ultimate in fuel economy. 

Next year there will be a plug-in hybrid using the 154bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol turbo and a 114bhp lithium-ion battery (which is the same as VW’s GTE models) to make quite a spritely and occasionally economical car.

Is the Superb still excellent value for money?

Prices start at £23,905 with the top model L&K 4x4 estate coming in at £39,500, which is reasonable value when you consider it is up against rivals like Volvo’s V90 Cross Country and Audi’s A6 Allroad.

As tested in SE-L hatchback form with the 187bhp/236lb ft 2.0-litre TSI our Superb came in at £30,575, although a handful of options including the Columbus-spec satnav with wi-fi, electrically heated front seats, steering wheel-mounted gearchange paddles and metallic paint pushed the price up to £34,005.

Interior and driving position 

There’s nothing standout about the new dashboard, but since Skoda hit it pretty much on the head with the Mk3 there are no complaints. At the wheel there’s a feeling of space and style, and a precision and clarity about the instruments. 

The switches and dials are pleasant to touch and use, but it’s tempting to think that Skoda is still the poor relation in the VW Group when it comes to facia controls as the central screen doesn’t have the rotary dials as found in Audis and top-model VWs, but touch control instead, which simply isn’t as good.

The driving position is reasonable, but the steering wheel needs more rearward adjustment. In all, however, it all feels very grown up, very charcoal grey and very comfortable. 

In the back, the seats are comfy as well with head and room to spare, even if you are the Big Friendly Giant. And at 625 litres the boot is more than large enough for a full complement of adults, or giants for that matter.

On the road 

The engine starts quietly, but packs a useful punch. Maximum speed is 148mph, with 0-62mph in 7.7sec. The seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox isn’t at its best at low speeds, however. It clanks and clunks around between second and fourth gears, and is fussy when getting moving after the engine has auto-stopped at junctions and traffic lights. 

Sure, it’s more relaxing to drive on a long journey, but I’d be tempted to opt for the manual gearbox even though you can only have that with less powerful engine options.

Push on and the engine’s torque spikes through the front wheels, which struggle for grip over slippery road surfaces such as wet drain covers and painted lines, but for the most part, especially when on the move, the driveline feels refined and calm with something always in reserve.

The chassis has all the lightness, fluidity and refinement that we’ve come to expect of VW MQB platform engineering, especially on a 2,841mm (read long) wheelbase. On standard 18-inch wheels, the ride has a loping gait and while the damping control is supple and soft, you never feel less than completely in control. 

I drove the test car 500 miles without stopping over widely mixed roads, including traversing the Pennines. At medium speeds there wasn’t much wanting from the ride and handling, but pushing on you could feel the 2.1 tonne kerb weight and on tighter corners the front end wanted to push wide, while the biggest moorland potholes reverberated through the bodyshell. 

The overall impression, however, remained of a fine-riding and pleasingly old-fashioned car a bit like the old Saab 9-5 or Rover P6. That’s a compliment.

On a uninterrupted motorway journey I achieved 41.3mpg overall, against the Combined WLTP fuel consumption of 38.2mpg - which is something of a first - and the NEDC CO2 emissions on which the car is taxed are 139g/km.

Conclusion

Sold against fleet favourites such as the Vauxhall Insignia and Ford Mondeo, the Superb represents decent value for money, a refined drivetrain and the sort of looks that don’t mark it out as a mass-market car. 

Skoda seems to have learned something from its parent company: as with all German cars, you need to be careful not to dig too deep into the options list before it starts getting very expensive.

Large cars (D segment) such as this have been losing market share for some years against big SUVs, but they are generally better to drive and have a more grown-up demeanour. 

I’d probably take the vast estate version (which takes about 50 per cent of Superb sales) and perhaps wait for the PHEV, but be assured the Superb still lives up to its name even if you are sitting in the back.

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