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Skoda Superb review (2008 onwards)
What – Skoda Superb 1.8TSI SE
Where – Salzburg, Austria
Price – £18,000 (estimated)
Available – September 2008
Key rivals – Citroen C5, Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia, VW Passat
Elegant and incredibly spacious saloon that doubles up as a hatchback.
Likes: interior space, quality feel, twin-door tailgate concept
Dislikes: rear visibility, some aspects of the styling, the fact that Skoda’s are no longer budget cars
The last Superb, introduced in 2001, had blindingly obvious origins - it was a lengthened VW Passat, no more, no less. Even that work hadn't been done by Skoda, but by VW especially for its factory in China building cars for the local tall Chinese. This 2008 Superb, however, really is a genuinely new model.As before, it majors on interior room, but there's a new sense of style here too that Skoda hopes will attract more buyers to its top-of-the-range model than before. It certainly seems very nicely built, with clever features like the boot lid that turns into a tailgate and adaptive front lights, to mark it out.
The Superb may look like a huge car but its weight, at just under a tonne and a half, is par for the course. While many buyers will opt for a turbo diesel we have picked the 1.8 petrol turbo here because, from a driving context, it is much nicer.The reason is that this engine, with 160bhp, has been tuned to produce decent torque too. That means diesel-like pulling power and much more fun and performance if you enjoy your driving. The gearchange on the six-speed transmission wasn't the best in our example, but it didn't detract from the fact that there was performance here that defied the engine capacity.
Ride and handling
This is an area where Skoda sets itself apart from its VW and Audi siblings. There is none of the clever, complicated and expensive adaptive chassis options beloved by the German brands, merely a simple well-developed traditional chassis. There's not much wrong with that if it's done well, and the Superb is right on target,Which means more limo levels of ability than razor sharp cornering. This Superb rides very well indeed, and was extremely comfortable on all the roads we tried, though there were few really bad surfaces. And it steers and handles well enough too, tackling twisty sections in the foothills of the Alps with real composure.
Here we come to the Superb's unique proposition. It's simply roomier than any sub-£20,000 saloon or hatchback on the market. Not just by fractions, but by inches. The long roofline gives the game away. You can stretch out in the back, with adjustable footrests to make life even more comfortable.It's deeply impressive the first time you get in, though it's not a complete solution. The Superb is no wider than any other family saloon, so fitting three adults across the rear seats is still the same squeeze at shoulder level as usual. But seat comfort is good and there are individual air vents built into the pillars, though the flow is a bit feeble.
From the driver's perspective, this is a nice place to be. The dashboard is taken straight from the Passat with a few Skoda styling features added. On balance this borrowing of parts is a good idea, for it gives the Superb some real class compared to the glitzy fascia on the Mondeo or the sheer complication of the Citroen C5's dash.There is, naturally, a whole host of finishes and options on the Superb that will define precisely how any particular example will end up. Skoda hadn't finalised the pricing as we drove the car, although it is clear that there will be three models, S, SE and Elegance.
Certainly the cloth front seats in the mid-range SE we drove looked good and proved supportive and comfortable. Adaptive lighting that swivels the headlights as you turn the steering wheel is not new, but this option on the Superb changes the light pattern according to your speed and even has a special setting to reduce the reflections from raindrops in wet weather. Every version of the Superb gets the brilliant 'twin door'. In normal use the Superb is a traditional saloon with a boot lid. But press an extra switch and the rear transforms into a full-blown hatchback tailgate. The boot itself is gigantic, and there are fold forward rear seats too. It's the best of both worlds. Or almost. The resulting narrow rear window and heavy rear pillars make visibility when reversing poor indeed.
Economy and safety
Such is the demand on diesel engines from Skoda, Audi, VW and SEAT, not everyone gets the latest versions straight away. It you choose the more expensive 170bhp diesel in the Superb you get the new common rail diesel. But the one most people will want, the 140bhp TDI, is still 'old' technology and not really the best.The 1.8 Turbo petrol here is the latest design and not only does it drive extremely well, it promises to average 37.1mpg. CO2 emissions are 180g/km. Up to nine airbags are possible according to the model and though the Superb has yet to be tested under the EuroNCAP system we wouldn't bet against the full five stars.
The MSN Cars verdict: 4/5
The Superb is in a sector of the market where sales have been declining as buyers opt for more compact cars or for 4x4s and MPVs. That makes it tough, yet the Superb is a sort of unique proposition, a well-built, extremely roomy saloon with some clever features and a competitive price tag. But the thing is, do you really want a car that looks as big as a 7-Series BMW? We are not totally convinced many people really do.
GALLERY: Skoda Superb
Read more Skoda car reviews
Ratings out of five: Skoda Superb
Ride & handling****
MSN Cars verdict****
Need to know
Petrol engines 1.4 turbo, 1.8 turbo, 3.6 V6
Diesel engines 1.9 TDI, 2.0TDI 140, 2.0TDI 170
Power (bhp) 105 – 260
Torque (lb/ft) 148 – 258
0-62 (secs) 12.5 – 6.6
Top speed (mph) 118 – 155
Combined mpg 49.5 – 28.2
CO2/tax 151/21% – 238/35%
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