The word Superb is defined in the dictionary as “admirably fine or excellent”, so it’s a big call to apply it to a motor vehicle. But this hasn’t stopped Skoda from using the name and its ability to produce quality vehicles remains most evident in the current model Superb Sedan and Combi (wagon). But what exactly is so exceptional about this machine that it can embarrass more expensive competitors and change brand perception in a single bound. Car and SUV spent a week with the load lugging Superb Combi to find the answers.
Visually the Combi is conservatively styled but it isn’t boring and despite lengthy proportions, appears nicely balanced. Up front, chrome trim frames the broad Skoda grille and a large single-piece bumper houses head lights, air dam and fog lamps. A deeply creased bonnet pushes into a raked back windscreen and indicator lights are repeated on the wing mirrors. Along the flanks more chrome trim is used and an elegant roofline tappers away into the rear hatch. Finishing off the luxury look is handy integrated roof rails and smart 18-inch optional alloys on our tested TDI 125 model (17-inch is standard). Overall, it’s a very sleek looking wagon and the design hides its length (4.8m) well, the only clue being a long rear overhang.
The Combi’s exterior design is certainly agreeable but what will win over many potential buyers is the beautifully appointed cabin. High quality black plastics and leather mix with silver and glossy pieces to create a truly premium feel that could easily rival more expensive vehicles. The main instrumentation is large and easily read with a display screen sitting between the dials giving out vehicle and trip info. The switchgear is simple to operate and thoughtfully laid out. Everything is easy to reach even when driving in a relaxed position thanks to a high mounted centre console and pushed-forward main control stack. Our tested high-spec TDI 125 had the leather interior, which was an absolute delight. The front seats are expertly stitched in soft leather and well bolstered for lateral support. They also offer good width for wider bodies, are electronically adjusted and along with the rear pew, are heated.
In terms of standard equipment on the Superb Combi the list is lengthy and includes highlights like a crisp 10-speaker CD stereo, Bluetooth, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, dual zone air-con, hill hold control and a chilled glovebox.
Being a wagon or Combi rather the Superb is expected to offer generous practical space, so does it? Does it ever! There is enough legroom in the rear to transport two NBA basketball players and Big Bird – it’s huge. The rear seat legroom is class leading and is even more generous than most vehicles in larger categories including the Audi A6. It also means that the front seats won’t need to be shifted forward even with a full car, so there is lots of space for all.
The excessive space doesn’t stop with the rear seat either; the luggage loading area is enormous as well. It has a 633-litre luggage capacity and when the rear seats fold completely flat that expands to an epic 1865-litre loading bay. There are also plenty of practicalities in this area like a low loading lip (60cm off the ground), rails with a sliding divider, cargo net, hidden compartments and even a removable torch. The opening is also very high and wide to accommodate large items. It would be hard to find another car that makes keeping junk in your trunk easier than the Combi.
Spaciousness alone doesn’t make a good family vehicle, what’s under the bonnet counts as well and the Combi range has a choice of petrol and diesel units. Our tested Combi TDI 125 packs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel mill that produces 125kW of power and a solid 350Nm of torque. Thanks to turbocharging and the generous torque on offer from 1,750rpm the Combi pulls briskly off the line and will reach 100kph in 8.9 seconds. The engine performs competently and is fairly punchy at any speed making it well suited to both around town and open road use. It’s also a thrifty motor, only sipping away on 6.1l/100km combined, much less than the flagship V6 petrol Combi that uses 10.2l/100km.
Power is sent to the front tyres through the VW group’s smooth operating 6-Speed DSG transmission. Like in all its applications the DSG provides seamless rapid shifts and is intuitive in reading driver’s intent and acting accordingly. The only minor complaint with this DSG unit is that it can feel unsure during parking or in stop start traffic.
Dynamically, the Combi feels very similar to its sedan sibling has lost almost no handling ability with the longer body shape. There is loads of grip at the front driving wheels, which pull the wagon around corners without torque steer. While there is a small amount of body roll it’s no more than you’d find in any competitor. The Combi is a relaxed cruiser but won’t object to being driven in a sporty fashion and is capable of rapidly negotiating NZ roads.
What’s more impressive than the handling ability is the Combi’s supple ride that is supremely comfortable and composed regardless of the road underneath. The luxury ride quality is further promoted by the tranquility of the cabin, which lets in minimal road and wind noise. The diesel engine is unobtrusive as well, with the occasional rattle only audible under heavy acceleration.
Skoda recognizes the importance of a high safety spec in its family vehicles and the Superb Combi receives the full treatment including a full Electronic Stability Program with ASR Traction Control and ABS brakes. There was also an impressive nine airbags in total on our Combi TDI 125 including front, side, four curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. An alarm system and vehicle immobiliser is also hiding under the metal.
To conclude, it’s very difficult to fault the Combi and that’s why it has scooped up various motoring awards, both globally and domestically. The Superb Combi is a precision instrument built for family duties enclosed in a high quality, luxury wrapper. The practical space for occupants and luggage is exceptional and its strong build quality will provide the groundwork for long-term durability. The diesel powertrain has plenty of torque and delivers its grunt with finesse. But for this reviewer it’s the Combi’s peaceful ride quality, economy and staggering spaciousness that make it something a bit special. While $62,000 is a fair chunk of change, it’s a fair price for a machine of this quality, ability and practicality. If you’re in the market for a luxury family hauler don’t buy without test-driving the Skoda Superb.
Price: from $48,500 as tested $62,000
What we like:
- Strong and economical diesel engine
- Interior spaciousness
- Serene ride quality
- Safety features
What we don’t like:
- Exterior styling may be too vanilla for some tastes
- DSG feels unsure on occasion
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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