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Driven: Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.

Driven: Skoda Superb Greenline III
Biggest Skoda gets small engine and super-eco credentials. Does it impress us?

   



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Skoda Superb Greenline III

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Good points: a lot of car for the money, excellent economy, plenty of luxury equipment, absolutely massive interior and boot.

Not so good: substandard ride, lacklustre performance, odd looks.

Key Facts

Model tested: Skoda Superb Greenline III Hatch
Pricing: £23,990 as standard; car as tested £24,450
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatch
Rivals: Mazda6, Peugeot 508, Vauxhall Insignia
CO2 emissions: 109g/km (Band B, £20 per year)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 12.2 seconds
Power: 105hp at 4,400rpm
Torque: 250Nm from 1,500- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

It's disingenuous in this day and age to damn Skoda with faint praise. The Czech manufacturer has transformed into a company with genuine credibility over the past decade and more; it makes some excellent products and its UK dealer network has proved enduringly popular with customers year after year in satisfaction surveys. No doubt about it, Skoda isn't just making up the numbers in the Volkswagen Group portfolio - in fact, it is often the 'go-to' marque ahead of its peers.

The Superb, though, feels somewhat like a hangover from the transitional days. Where vehicles like the Citigo, Yeti and Octavia are either among or are the leaders in their respective classes, the Superb falls back on a value-for-money ethos that can often result in cars that epitomise the adage 'never mind the quality, feel the weight'. It's tested here in Greenline III hatchback format, which promises some epic economy and emissions figures in a car that's more than 4.8 metres long.

Let's start with some positives, and the first is the space for rear passengers. The back of this car is simply colossal; I've not seen rear legroom like it before. No, I tell a lie - I have, it was just in the back of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, which costs ten times as much as this Superb. A friend who is 6ft 6in sat behind me and had entire inches to spare in front of his knees. This back-bench generosity is accompanied by a massive boot, accessed (as ever on the hatch) by the 'two-stage' lid, which can either open in a saloon fashion in height-restricted areas or in the more conventional hatch manner of the entire tailgate lifting up.

Then there's the specification for the price. Aside from a multi-device interface (£185) and rear side airbags (£275), everything else on this Greenline III is standard-fit. So, among the usual trinkets you'd expect on something this size, there are other luxuries like the 'Columbus' colour touchscreen satnav, bi-Xenon headlamps with the Adaptive Front Light system and dynamic headlight-range adjustment, leather upholstery (a mix of genuine hide and some artificial material, granted), cruise control, heated front seats and rain-sensing wipers. For less than 25 grand, this is great.

The money-saving goes on as the Greenline is the eco-conscious choice in the range, fitted with optimum-rolling resistance tyres and 15mm lower suspension for aerodynamic goodness. The official economy figure of 67.3mpg is remarkable and the CO2 number puts it in VED Band B, meaning no tax in year one and £20 annually thereafter. However, it achieves this by utilising a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine that puts out just 105hp. That's a small engine to be powering a big car; still, with Ford contemplating a 1.0-litre EcoBoost in the next Mondeo and the 1.2-litre TSI unit proliferating within the Volkswagen Group, small capacity is not necessarily a bad thing.

Unless you're in a hurry. My word, the Superb Greenline is slow. On half throttle openings up to 3,000rpm, it feels just about acceptably brisk - until you fully open the taps, so to speak, and realise planting the accelerator elicits no extra pace whatsoever. It is reasonably quiet until 3,000rpm is breached, when the 1.6 begins to gargle loudly as the torque drops away. Peak power may well be at 4,400rpm, but you'll have no intention of ever venturing there again once you've attempted to do so a handful of times. In mitigation, once it's up to speed - at say, 70mph on the motorway - like any other car, it is using only a few horsepower and so it feels adept at cruising.

This lack of power is not such an issue, especially as it frequently returned exceptional average economy figures of around 63mpg during our week with it. What is of more concern is the ride quality. There's no other word for it than 'poor'. Given it is on the smallest alloys you can have on a Superb, with 55-profile tyres, that the Greenline's composure is constantly interrupted by crunches and jiggles is unforgiveable. I can only ascribe this to the 15mm drop in the suspension; apart from on a very select few surfaces where it just about settled down, the Superb was uncomfortable. My wife, who at the moment is 'in a delicate condition', said our unborn child could probably feel every last imperfection on the two-mile western approach into our village, a road not normally known for being cragged.

This ride would be acceptable if the Superb cornered like a hot hatch, but of course it doesn't; it was never designed to, after all. All the major controls are indistinct and it does not like being hustled. The old 'it's fun to drive a slow car fast' chestnut applies, if only because you'll be laughing in marginally hysterical fear should you try and demolish a twisting road. Once it's out of grip, it's out of ideas.

And all this before we consider the looks. I don't expect Tardis-esque miracles from Skoda, so to be as accommodating as it is inside, the Superb must be large on the outside. Unfortunately, the design doesn't quite work. Certain angles are good, dead on fore and aft particularly, especially with the sparkly light clusters and thanks to the simple expedient of moving the rear number plate into the boot lid. But in profile, the midriff is lumpen and the sheer acreage of roof is off-putting. Also, painting it white is not a good idea, as it saddles the Superb with more than a whiff of 'private hire'. Indeed, on one late night excursion into Nottingham to pick up a relative I saw five more Superbs - all of them licensed as minicabs.

Specified in a more flattering colour, with a bigger engine and larger wheels - which, conversely, might improve the ride - the Superb would be a nicer car, deserving of a higher rating. But as a Greenline III, that compromised ride undermines all the good groundwork this largest Skoda lays down on first acquaintance. On this basis, we'd rather have an Octavia than the flagship from Mladá Boleslav. As good as the Superb is, unfortunately it's not quite... well, I think you know where I'm going with this one.

Alternatives:

Mazda6: a very strong contender in the D-segment, but - like all the rivals here - not as spacious inside as the Skoda. Only comes with a 2.2-litre diesel engine yet it can still return 72.4mpg and 104g/km.

Peugeot 508: e-HDi 112 model is in the same VED band as the Greenline; Peugeot has sharp styling and decent drive, although it doesn't have a clever boot like the Superb.

Vauxhall Insignia: in 140hp EcoFlex format, it emits just 99g/km and can supposedly achieve 76.3mpg. Nice looking car and reasonably well specified, too. Better ride than the Greenline.


Matt Robinson - 1 Aug 2014



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2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.



2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Skoda Superb Greenline III. Image by Matt Robinson.
 






 

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