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Road test: Skoda Superb Estate 4x4. Image by Skoda.

Road test: Skoda Superb Estate 4x4
Skoda's Superb Estate is spec-sensitive, but in diesel 4x4 guise it's nigh-on unbeatable.

 



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Skoda Superb 4x4 Estate

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: attractive exterior, neat interior fit and finish, absolutely masses of interior space, refinement, equipment levels, value for money

Not so good: it'll never set the keener driver's pants on fire

Key Facts

Model tested: Skoda Superb SE L Executive Estate 2.0 TDI 190hp DSG 4x4 SCR
Price: from £20,260; car as tested £32,310
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 135g/km (Band E, £130 per year)
Combined economy: 55.4mpg
Top speed: 142mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Power: 190hp from 3,500- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm from 1,750- to 3,250rpm

Our view:

Skoda is not a car company known for the bonkers. Think about its entire range of cars: save for the pre-facelift version of the Yeti, its vehicles are smartly styled, fitted with excellent if sober interiors and usually offer a lot of equipment and space for not a lot of money. They're not exciting but they are very, very capable in all departments.

If this sounds like damning the brand with faint praise, it really isn't meant to. It's often the case that we can't fathom why you'd spend a considerable amount of extra cash on an equally conservative Volkswagen when the equivalent Skoda does the job just as well, if not better. And nowhere is the Czech company better at cocking a snook at its German overlords than with its grander cars. The Octavia, for instance, is an absolute cracker. It sits on a Golf platform but is pretty much the size of a Mondeo and it's just a lovely thing to drive in all guises - with the vRS petrol range-toppers being of immense appeal.

However, the real glittering gem in the Skoda crown is its current flagship (at least until the Kodiaq SUV arrives), the Superb. Resurrecting a nameplate the company used between 1934 and 1949, calling a car 'Superb' is a risk that could potentially be of Mitsubishi Carisma proportions if the resulting car is mediocre. And, if we're honest, while we've always liked the 21st-century Skoda Superb through generations one and two, it has always felt a bit, erm... value, when held up to the competition.

No such accusation could be levelled at the marvellous Mk3, though, which does everything a Superb has always done and then adds on top genuine class and likeability. And as we've always been suckers for estates rather than saloons... sorry, hatchbacks, in the case of the big Skoda, then the Superb Estate is an extremely strong contender in its class.

The question is, which class is that? Price-wise and in terms of its underpinnings, this is a D-segment machine like the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo. Yet so big and plush is it that you could make a reasonable argument for sticking it up against the junior executive types such as the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE. And then you look at its cargo capacity and rear legroom, and you start to question why you'd have a BMW 5 Series or Mercedes-Benz E-Class instead. That's how, oh, which adjective to use...? Oh yes, that's how superb the latest version of the Skoda really is.

But getting the best from the giant wagon is rather dependent on the specification. On the face of it, one of the closest cars to bonkers Skoda makes is the 4x4 Superb Estate with the 280hp engine from a SEAT Leon Cupra under its chiselled nose. We absolutely adore that thing for its 'sleeper' potential, because it can rip from 0-62mph in comfortably less than six seconds, but as it is so thoroughly Q-car that it looks absolutely no different from a standard front-wheel drive version. Nonetheless, as the Superb isn't exactly possessed of the sharpest chassis, as brilliant as it is it's not the way to go.

Indeed, there's the 220hp petrol motor from the Octavia vRS and Volkswagen Golf GTI as another choice for speed freaks, but, when it comes to the sheer elegance of the Superb Estate, ideally you want a power unit that's a little more laid back to better suit the car's character. So it's to the diesel line-up we go and as it is a large, luxurious machine, why not treat yourself to the 190hp/400Nm 2.0-litre TDI lump that's the top of the tree? And while you're at it, sling on the six-speed DSG automatic (£1,400) and the Haldex four-wheel drive system (£1,500) too. Choose a high-ranking SE L Executive like this and it comes with masses of lavish equipment as standard - our test car was only fitted with three options: Corrida Red paint (£175), a space saver spare wheel (£100) and a variable boot floor (£150).

That leaves you with a car costing £32,310 and a full name almost as long as its 4.85-metre body: Skoda Superb SE L Executive Estate 2.0 TDI 190hp DSG 4x4 SCR. However, our criticism starts and ends there. Because this might just be the finest everyday car you can buy. This is the Superb in its totally ideal specification and it does pretty much everything you want, save for ever truly thrilling its driver. But it's not bad if you decide to throw it about. The steering is consistent, the body control is strong and you can feel the Haldex shuffling torque around in tighter corners to negate understeer. Sure, a hot hatch the Superb is not, but it drives as well as anything else in the D-segment bar the Mondeo, and it's no less interesting to steer than an Audi A4 or A6.

The rest of the time, you kind of wonder how Skoda has pulled this magnificent estate trick off without Volkswagen getting wind of it. So much counts in the Superb's favour. It's a really handsome car, imposing without being bloated and wearing some crisp, sharp lines. It possesses one of those attractive, forward-sloping rear windscreens that prevents a boxy exterior profile but don't for a minute think it has sacrificed practicality as a result - its boot is a colossal 660 litres with all seats in place and a scarcely believable 1,950 litres with the rear bench folded. That's positively van-like.

Talking of passenger space in the rear, it's cavernous. We often speak about six-footers sitting line astern in cars as being a good measure of how capacious they are, but in the Superb it's easy to imagine a quartet of basketball players all getting comfy within. Five normal-sized adults would be no problem for the Czech motor. And like a lot of Volkswagen Group products, while the interior design isn't particularly adventurous, the quality is beyond reproach - we've also always really liked Skoda's dials with their multiple grading marks; it always brings to mind a Breitling Navitimer watch.

However, the Superb gets even stronger once it's on the move. The one-setting suspension fitted to the car is perfect for daily conditions. There's a lazy, longitudinal grace to the way the Skoda rides lumps and bumps in the tarmac that allows it to maintain its supreme comfort levels whether it's in a town, out on extra-urban routes or cruising along a motorway. The wonderful 2.0-litre TDI engine provides it with masses of go throughout the rev-range and it's one of the quietest, smoothest turbodiesel units in the world; and it is ably abetted by the super-slick six-speed DSG and peerless levels of noise suppression. And it's good on fuel, too - we didn't do a huge amount of motorway or dual-carriageway work to boost its economy, yet it still gave back 45.2mpg during 260 miles.

In fact, that's our only regret of a week with the Superb 4x4 TDI. We'd have been quite happy to do double that distance in the car, maybe even more. The top Skoda of the lot encompasses everything that makes the brand one of the 21st-century's biggest automotive success stories and the fact that it comes in practically fully loaded status for just £32,310 makes it an unbelievable bargain. Superb is just one of a whole host of superlatives that can be apportioned to this Czech wagon, which is not only the clear leader of its class but also a credible interloper in a couple of market segments above its station.

Volkswagen: how are you letting Mladá Boleslav get away with this?

Alternatives:

Audi A4 Avant: two out of three rivals listed here are from within the Volkswagen Group. The Audi has a 505-litre boot and starts from £27,300, making the Skoda look a giveaway.

Ford Mondeo Estate: classy looks, hugely improved interior quality and still that excellent Ford chassis polish, although it's slightly less involving than it once was.

Volkswagen Passat Estate: Not much better news at Volkswagen, where the slightly-cheaper-than-an-A4 wagon Passat is capacious, with a 650-litre boot, but still pricier spec-for-spec than the Superb.


Matt Robinson - 14 Aug 2016









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2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.

2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.2016 Skoda Superb Estate. Image by Skoda.








 

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