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Rating 9 9

New Skoda Superb review, road test

16th May 2016 11:43 am

The all-new third-gen Skoda Superb looks very promising. But is it as revolutionary as its predecessors?


  • Make : Skoda
  • Model : Superb

Back in 2004, the first-gen Skoda Superb redefined our idea of a luxury sedan. Here was a car that could rival a Mercedes-Benz E-class on space and comfort, while costing half the price. The second-gen Superb that came to India in 2009 was no less a landmark model. Properly luxurious, crammed with tech and still priced sensibly, it took the market for executive luxury sedans by storm. Mind you, the second-gen Superb did so at a time when the segment was at its healthiest and competition was fierce.

The all-new third-gen Superb enters a very different market. With the bulk of rivals falling by the wayside (the Accord and Passat are yet to make a market comeback), competition for the Superb is restricted to the Toyota Camry. Not to say, Skoda is taking the market lightly. It’s been quick to bring the new model to India and has launched it with three engine-gearbox options. The Czech carmaker has also priced the latest Superb well – starting at Rs 23.83 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and topping off at Rs 30.85 lakh. Question is, does the latest Superb push the goal posts further like its predecessors once did? Our road test reveals all.

If fuel economy is paramount to you, you should be most interested in the diesel version that delivered 10.1kpl and 14.6kpl in our city and highway driving cycles. The petrol manual and petrol automatic Superbs gave us 8.9kpl and 8.5kpl in town and 14.2kpl and 12.7kpl on the highway, respectively. The figures are decent but be warned the turbo-petrol motors are very reactive to driving style. Drive with a lead foot and you’ll see fuel economy figures plummet. 

Skoda Superb
Skoda Superb

Rs 34.92 lakh * on road price (New Delhi)


For all its virtues, the last-gen Superb was not a car you’d call traditionally beautiful; the proportions were a touch odd. This third-gen Superb though is quite the looker. The basic silhouette is more conventional sedan and the new car’s 61mm shorter front overhang and 80mm longer wheelbase have translated into a more balanced design.

Styling is cutting-edge, almost literally so. Sharp and angular is the theme here with tight surfacing and crisp lines that run from end to end. There is more than a passing resemblance to the smaller Skoda Octavia, but the larger Superb does have its own identity. The sharply cut headlamps with their LED DRLs look attractive, and along with the chiselled bonnet and wide grille, give the Superb a handsome front end. A well-defined belt line adds a good deal of athleticism to the sides while the standard fit 17-inch wheels fill out the wheel arches well. And unlike the last Superb, this one’s elegant rear end is in sync with the rest of the design. The large tail-lights with their C-shaped LED elements and complex detailing look particularly sophisticated. However, the new Superb doesn’t feature the old car’s Twindoor arrangement for the boot opening – it’s a conventional hatch here. Speaking of the boot opening, top-spec Superb L&Ks get what Skoda calls Virtual Boot Lid Release. Slide your foot under the rear bumper and the system will open the boot for you; useful when you have your hands full. The hatch opening height can also be adjusted. The 625-litre boot itself is massive and the luggage bay can be expanded to an incredible 1,760 litres by folding the rear seats down.

Underpinning the new Superb is the Volkswagen Group’s flexible MQB platform. The chassis rests on MacPherson struts with a torsion stabiliser at the front and a multi-element setup with longitudinal transverse links at the rear. Skoda claims torsional rigidity is up 12 percent while at the same time, the Superb is as much as 75kg lighter than the last-gen car. Thing is, in places, you can feel it. The sound of door shut, though reassuringly good, doesn’t have the same solid thunk as the old car. 

What’s good to know is that the Superb is an NCAP-rated 5-star car. Eight airbags are standard across all variants and there’s a whole gamut of electronic driver aids as well, including fatigue detection on the top-spec L&K trim.

Were we to show you a photo each of the Superb and Octavia’s dashboards, there’s a high chance you wouldn’t be able to tell which belongs to which. Sure, the Superb’s dash is well laid-out, functional and user-friendly but it also seems designed to a template and this, to us, is a bit of a disappointment. With that out of the way, let’s get to what’s good about the cabin.

For one, quality is top-notch. There’s less chrome detailing than the last Superb and glossy black plastics have taken the place of the faux wood too. But in terms of look and feel, the Superb’s cabin is comparable to cars higher up the price ladder. Soft-touch plastics, felt- lined door pockets and robust-feeling switches, the Superb has it all. The L&K trim’s customisable ambient lighting only makes the cabin feel more special still.

It’s also a cabin you’ll be comfortable in for long. Incredibly, there’s even more space in the back than before so you can really stretch out. Should you need more kneeroom, the Superb gives you the option to slide the front passenger seat at the touch of a button from the rear. Skoda aptly calls this feature ‘Boss Button’.

The rear seat is sumptuous, well- cushioned and offers good all-round support. However, some might find the backrest a touch upright. The middle seat is also not very useable thanks to its hard cushioning and the high centre tunnel. Skoda should have also provided a dedicated air-con blower control at the rear as the AC takes time to cool that section of the cabin. In fact, in peak summer heat, we found the Superb’s AC struggling to lower cabin temperature quickly.

L&K trim cars get cooled front seats and the feature is a boon in hot and humid India. The powered front seats are broad, well- bolstered and offer a great range of adjustability. Finding a comfortable driving position is also easy but we wish the steering had electric adjust too.

Otherwise, the Superb comes rather well-loaded. Bi-xenon headlamps, a sunroof, leather seats, touchscreen infotainment system with voice commands, sunroof and roll-up sun visors for the rear windows and rear windscreen are all part of standard equipment. Top-spec L&K versions also get three-zone climate control and a sonorous 610W Canton system, with 12 speakers, that strikes all the right chords.

The Superb also scores for practicality with plenty of cubby holes and spaces for bottles, loose items and documents.

As before, the new Superb is available with petrol and diesel engine options. The petrol engine is the VW Group’s 180hp, 1.8-litre direct-injection, turbocharged unit that also powers the Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 in India. This motor is tuned to make 320Nm of torque when mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, and 250Nm with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic which is the other transmission on offer. In either form, the petrol Superb is an exciting car.

The 1.8 TSI motor is quick to rev, offers solid mid-range punch and does everything while making the right noises. It’s easy to get wheelspin on a hard launch and even when you floor the throttle in a lower gear, you’ll see the traction control lights flash wildly. There is a bit of lag when starting out but the engine’s power, even off-boost, ensures progress isn’t jerky at slow speeds.

The 1.8 TSI’s manual gearbox is a joy to use with a very precise shift action, but clutch travel is long. Power and torque are available in plenty through the gears and overtaking requires just a flex of the right foot. We did find the gearing quite tall though. Third gear stretches to 175kph at 6,800rpm and fourth goes well beyond 220kph. Flat-out performance is good with the petrol manual version posting a 0-100kph time of 8.42 seconds.

The petrol automatic does well for itself too with a time of 8.52 seconds from a standstill to the ton. Boost comes in a bit later here, at about 2,500rpm, but you’ll only feel the surge when you are aggressive with the throttle. In average driving, the automatic gearbox keeps the engine in the lower reaches of the rev band to maximise efficiency and progress is always smooth. Gearshifts are quick, be it in automatic mode or manual, via the gearshift or steering-mounted paddles. In manual mode, the engine runs deeper in the powerband, revving to 6,600rpm, and downshifting is quick with the paddles. 

The 2.0-litre diesel engine version that comes mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission is exciting in its own right. The power figures should give a hint as to why. Where the last-gen Superb’s 2.0 diesel made 140hp and 320Nm, this one’s newer unit makes 177hp and 350Nm. And the performance jump is quite evident.

0-100kph takes 7.83 seconds compared to the old car’s 11.22 seconds and it’s quicker in kickdown acceleration too. Yes, there is a bit of lag initially but the diesel engine comes in its stride past 2,000rpm and revs quite readily to 4,900rpm. The gearbox works well, shifts are quick and you have the option to take manual control here too. The engine is quite refined as diesels go but there is a bit of clatter at idle and though not loud, it’s always audible.  

L&K versions of the petrol automatic and diesel also come with drive modes that alter engine, gearbox and steering settings. You can choose between Eco, Normal and Sport settings and even customise the experience with Individual.

The Skoda Superb was always famous for the way it rode. The legacy continues with the latest gen as well. Skoda has opted for a softer suspension setup on the new Superb and this reflects in the way it rides. It feels more pliant than its predecessor and is impressive in the way it absorbs bumps and undulations. Of the current Superbs, it’s the petrol ones that are more comfortable over the rough stuff. The diesel Superb, with its stiffer front springs, rides with a touch more firmness at low speeds. At high speeds, the Superb feels planted and very confident. There is a bit of float which wasn’t there in the old car, but the general feeling is of excellent stability even at speeds in excess of 160kph. Equally impressive is the braking. The brakes are gradual but sharp at the same time and you don’t feel the jerk at the bite point in usual city traffic.

The move to a softer suspension setup means the new Superb, unfortunately, doesn’t feel quite as sharp around corners as the old one did. Overall dynamics are more than acceptable for the size of the car but where you could throw the old Superb into a corner, you gently swoop into them here. Body roll is sufficiently contained and the 215/55 Hankook tyres offer adequate grip.

The electro-mechanical steering is nice and light and makes cramped city driving a breeze, giving enough road feel and feedback. Sport mode does help drive up levels of excitement though.

The Superb comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen as standard. Though not the largest of systems around, the Superb’s unit is well laid-out and easy to use. The audio system can play music via Bluetooth, aux, USB inputs, SD and MMC card readers, and also supports iPods. The system can play videos and display images too but oddly, there’s no on-board satellite navigation. However, Skoda’s Smartlink app with Mirrorlink can be used to display a phone’s GPS in the car’s display. You can also connect your mobile phone through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system’s voice commands work well, phone call clarity is good and sound quality, even from the Style version’s eight-speaker system, is good.

By any objective measure, the latest Skoda Superb is a fantastic car. It blends comfort, luxury and performance in one package and does so convincingly well. As always, keen pricing makes the deal seem sweeter still. But it must be said, the new Superb doesn't take quite as big a leap over its predecessor as we had hoped. It builds on the strengths of the last-gen car rather than take things to the next level.
Some might even argue the new Superb's not as multi-dimensional as the earlier car, having lost a bit of its sportiness and flair. However, would these aspects matter to a typical buyer? Not really. Because the way to really see the Superb is as a luxury car that punches above its weight. The car is as good, if not better than many of the more expensive cars that wear a premium badge. It's this image that has helped sell the Superb in the past and there's no reason why things will be any different with this new-gen car. 

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