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Review: Skoda Superb TDi range

Skoda’s Superb has size on its side and its diesel range has been given a shot in the arm thanks to a 1.6-litre TDI entry-level version. Steve Walker takes a look.

In most respects, the Skoda Superb feels like a great value package. Its diesel range is split between common rail 1.6 TDI and 2.0 TDI units but all models deliver a solid driving experience, lots of interior space, generous equipment levels and good build quality. It’s an unexciting thing to look at but it scores in virtually every other area.

Lots of manufacturers have achieved success by retailing a big car at a low price but getting a lot of metal for the money isn’t as rewarding as it sounds if the quality doesn’t come up to scratch. Skoda’s Superb is definitely big and the pricing is on the affordable side but it also aims to maintain quality standards. It sounds like a winning formula and it’s more attractive still with a diesel engine installed. Can the Superb TDI really live up to its name?

There was much tittering when Skoda boldly announced that it would be entering the executive car market with a vehicle called the Superb. It all sounded a touch ambitious for a company that was still building its reputation after spending the 1980s and most of the 90s as the butt of every automotive joke going. More surprising still, the Superb, a lengthened Volkswagen Passat, turned out to be very good. By the time this second generation model arrived, sentences featuring Skoda, Superb and various other superlatives had lost their novelty value. Not only had Skoda apparently won the battle to be taken seriously, the Superb is a genuinely competitive large saloon with the ability to see-off rivals on merit.

"The big Skoda is an unusual proposition in today’s market"

A lot depends on which of the Superb’s diesel engines you choose as to how it fares from a driver’s perspective. The most recently introduced 1.6 TDI engine is a willing unit that’s cheap and economical but with only 105bhp, it isn’t best equipped to move a vehicle of the Superb’s bulk. The 138bhp 2.0 TDI is smoother, quieter and stronger with 0-60mph acceleration of 10.2s compared to 12.5s in the 1.6 TDI model. It can still feel a little laboured and slow to respond at low revs, however. The best bet is the 168bhp version which has a livelier 8.8s time for the 0-60mph sprint and a more responsive feel. You’ll obviously pay more for it though.

The Superb is a large car but it handles very well and has little obvious problem getting its bulky frame through a set of fast corners. It’s well planted and feels very stable when cruising at high speeds on the motorway where the 2.0-litre TDI engines remain pleasantly hushed. Ride comfort is also a strong suit. The car can become unsettled over the worst surfaces that the British road network throws up but for the price and in the class, there’s nothing significantly better. The DSG automatic gearbox is offered with the 2.0-litre TDI engines and it operates extremely smoothly, dropping a few gears promptly when extra acceleration is required. It’s a fine match for the big Superb but the standard manual ‘box also attracts few complaints.

The Superb’s size immediately strikes you. The first generation version was hardly compact but this model is 35mm longer still at 4.8m. From some angles, the shape isn’t particularly graceful – though from others, it looks, well, superb. Either way, once you’re sat inside, it’s hard not to be impressed, in contrast to the MK1 version which in places, felt built down to a price. This time round, Volkswagen and Audi design cues are evident all around the interior and the general feeling of quality is tangible. In the rear, fortunate passengers will enjoy legroom of a level only usually found in luxury saloons. There’s 19mm of extra kneeroom over the old Superb and space for even the preposterously tall to get comfy.

With their ‘Twindoor’ system, Skoda has engineered a novel rear opening for the car which provides access to the large 565-litre luggage bay in the style either of a saloon or a hatchback. Press one of the buttons on the Superb’s rear and a conventional bootlid lifts open. But if you continue to press until the high-level brake light flashes, your upward pull releases the whole of the rear windscreen as one with the boot lid to form a conventional hatchback tailgate. This novel arrangement adds greatly to this car’s practicality. Fold down the rear seats and a huge 1,670-litre space presents itself. If that doesn’t cut it, buyers can simply get the Superb in estate guise for up to 1,865-litres of capacity with the seats down.

The Twindoor hatchback and estate bodystyles are available in S, SE and Elegance trim. The S models cover the basics but it’s better, if you can, to stretch to an SE. SE models include leather and Alcantara trim, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, a 6 CD stereo with touch screen display, a Bluetooth phone system, heated front seats, and front fog lights. There’s even an umbrella secreted in the rear door. The Elegance trim level adds full leather upholstery, satellite navigation and adaptive Xenon headlights amongst other features.

Further options include a 4x4 transmission which give the Superb greater all-weather capability and the Greenline specification which is available with the 1.9 TDI engine and includes various fuel saving modifications. 6-speed manual gearboxes are standard and the 7-speed DSG automatic is a desirable but rather pricey £1,400 option.

Predictably, the lowest running costs come from the 1.6 TDI engine which achieves 56.5mpg on the combined cycle with 130g/km emissions in saloon form. There isn’t a whole lot between the 138bhp and 168bhp versions of the 2.0-litre diesel as they return 52 and 50mpg respectively. Choosing the DSG gearbox lowers economy by around 3mpg and the 4x4 models knock off another 4mpg or so. Skoda has performed very well in reliability surveys so there’s every reason to expect trouble free service from the Superb.

You get a huge amount of car for the money with Skoda’s Superb but that’s by no means the extent of its talents. With composed handling and a roomy, comfortable cabin that comes close to executive car levels of quality, the big Skoda is an unusual proposition in today’s market.

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