The practice of bragging isn’t without its pitfalls, most people will listen politely and nod, but some may challenge the verbal claims. This is when the gap between a bold statement and cold facts can be exposed. In 2001 when Skoda, a manufacturer once infamous for producing vehicles of a dubious quality, named its top-of-range model the Superb scoffs and chuckles could be heard through the motoring world. But Skoda wasn’t joking and with Volkswagen in support it was willing to back up its big claims.
What’s in the name? Well, much like people who are named Herbert or Mabel, Superb is a historic family name. The first Superb was created in 1934 as a luxury model and was produced until the start of World War II. The second generation Superb arrived in 2001, a mere 67 years after the first. The current 2008 model is a full refit using VW Passat underpinnings and Skoda Octavia parts with a totally new platform.
Aesthetically you’ll really need to judge for yourself, because the exterior styling could only be described as opinion polarising. It’s no beauty queen, but does have genuine individuality and a pinch of distinction. The Superb’s bulbous proportions are only really noticeable in profile, where a generosity to rear passenger headroom has left it with a conservative roofline and a neutral stance. The front end looks refined with subtle character lines sweeping down the bonnet to rest on Skoda’s corporate grille. Frowning headlights push back into the guards that make a home for 17-inch alloys. At the rear the Superb stretches out with the roofline running down thick C-pillars into a stumpy looking boot. But it’s here that the Superb keeps its showpiece trick. An innovative ‘Twindoor’ that offers either boot or full hatch access to a capacious 565 litre load bay.
If the Superb’s exterior aesthetics threaten to put people off they would only need to look inside to be turned around. The cabin is stylish, ergonomically advanced and can offer a lavish level of comfort that far exceeds the Superb’s $51,990 starting price. Fit and finish is excellent, the tested model had the high-end Elegance trim level with plush leather and thick carpets on our higher specced test model. The Superb boasts a long equipment list including dual-zone climate control, a razor sharp sound system, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and a touch-screen control panel. The touch-screen controls the sat nav, a 30GB hard disk for music storage and T.V tuner. There is a welcoming atmosphere in the cabin and subtle touches that impress like the Catvision diffused illumination that lights the cabin and instruments at night or the umbrella that is kept in the left rear door.
Where the Superb’s interior shifts from very good to class leading is the way it treats rear passengers. No one will be calling ‘shotgun’ with the rear legroom and headroom on offer and the Superb doesn’t stop the full foreign dignitary treatment there. Air inlets in the B-Column increase airflow and an information display and rear seat heating controls are housed in the back of the centre storage box.
The Skoda has an overflowing bag of tricks, but to be truly superb it must have brawn. The tested model was packing the Volkswagen group’s 2.0-litre common-rail turbo diesel motor that puts out 125kW of power. This diesel lump will move the Superb from 0-100kmh in a respectable 8.8 seconds. With 350Nm of torque on tap and peak power reached at 4,200rpm the Superb is strong around town with plenty of mid-range poke. What is most notable about this modern motor is that it is a perfect fit for the vehicle; it’s quiet at idle and smoothly refined in its power delivery. The powertrain suits the car’s calm demeanour and even when pushed refuses to retaliate with any excessive noise or movement. The engine is mated to a dry-clutch DSG transmission that has minimal friction and delivers changes smoothly. Possibly a beat slow on kick down the DSG still works up the gears well and remains unintrusive to the overall driving experience.
The previous model Superb fell short of full bragging rights, the main reason being its soft, soggy handling. Skoda engineers must have taken the criticism to heart and the new model diligently addresses past problems. There is strong grip when cornering and the Superb sits confidently low on turn-in. The vehicle’s bulk can be sensed when changing direction quickly, but with well weighted steering and the ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) watching over, handling is a breeze. The Superb’s ride quality doesn’t match the firmness of its German rivals. However, very few bumps and dips in the road are passed on to passengers by a suspension set up that’s well suited to New Zealand roads. It’s while motorway cruising that the Superb feels most at home with minimal road and engine noise intruding into the luxury cabin.
Safety is one area the Superb has documented proof to back its boasting. It received the highest score of 5 stars during EuroNCAP testing for adult occupant protection. A full cache of seven air bags are ready to pop, including a knee-airbag to protect legs and thighs in a collision.
Overall is the Skoda Superb¦superb? Well, almost, there are many reasons to talk-up the Superb, but many potential purchasers will get caught up on the unorthodox exterior styling and the Skoda badge. If purchasing in the mid-large category buyers should check out the obvious players like the Ford Mondeo and Citroen C5 but not rule out the Superb. If those in the market are willing to be open-minded to the idea of owning a Skoda there are certainly rewards; a muscular and well-suited motor, and high-level comfort with strong attention to detail and a car that feels a little bit special. With a few more vehicles of the Superb’s calibre the bragging won’t just be done by Skoda, but also by Skoda owners.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
Price: from $51,990, as tested $67,390
What we like:
- Luxurious, well equipped interior
- Strong and quiet diesel engine
- Class-leading rear passenger space
- Comfortable ride quality
What we don’t like:
- Unattractive exterior styling
- DSG Transmission slow to shift down
Words and Photos, Adam Mamo
Skoda Superb (2008) — Specifications
Engine Type: Diesel
Displacement (cm3): 1,968
Power Output – kW @ rpm: 125 @ 4,200
Torque – Nm @ rpm: 350 @ 1,750
Drive train: Front Wheel
Transmission: Automatic 6-speed DSG
Fuel Economy – EU, In Town (Litres/100km): 7.8
Fuel Economy – EU, Out of Town (Litres/100km): 5.1
Fuel Economy – EU, Combined (Litres/100km): 6.1
CO2 Emissions (g/km): 159
Diesel Particulate Filter: Standard
Emissions Standard: EU4 (meets EU5 req.)
0-100 km/ h in seconds: 8.8
Maximum speed in km/h: 220
Drag Coefficient: 0.30
Length (mm): 4,838
Width (mm): 1,817
Height (mm): 1,462
Luggage Capacity (litres): 565 / 1,670
Fuel Capacity (litres): 6060