2017 Skoda Superb Review

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Skoda Octavia

Priced From $39,990Information

Overall Rating

0

4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

5 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

5 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

3 out of 5 stars

Technology

5 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProVast passenger and luggage space, excellent performance and economy, value for money.

  2. ConPatchy regular suspension tune, lack of traction on front-drive models, mediocre front seats.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Skoda Superb 206 TSI 4D Sedan

What stands out?

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The Skoda Superb is all about the amount of room it manages to squeeze into an upper-medium-sized car for an everyday medium-car price. A close relative of the Volkswagen Passat, the Czech-built Skoda shares the Passat’s outstanding mechanical refinement and efficiency, but offers a simpler model line-up for slightly less money. While not as sporty to drive as the Passat in front-wheel-drive form, the all-wheel-drive Superb 206TSI flagship has enough luxury and panache to match cars twice its price.

What might bug me?

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Potentially the lack of a regular sedan boot. While Skoda calls the ‘notchback’ Superb a sedan, it’s actually a ‘liftback’, meaning it has a tailgate that incorporates the boot section and rear window into a single unit. It isn’t as easy to lift as a normal boot and may be an issue in very tight or low-roofed parking spaces.

The less-powerful 162TSI turbo-petrol and 140TDI turbo-diesel models offer strong performance, but at times it can be all too much for the front tyres, especially when accelerating hard over bumps or on slippery surfaces.

And for such a spacious vehicle, the standard front seats are rather anaemic. Anyone with a larger frame, particularly in the shoulder area, may find they lack sufficient support for proper long-distance comfort.

What body styles are there?

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A four-door ‘liftback’ sedan and a five-door wagon.

The Skoda Superb is either front- or all-wheel drive and is classed as a medium-sized car.

What features do all versions have?

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For its impressively sharp price, the entry-level Superb 162TSI is loaded with equipment. As standard, it comes with 18-inch ‘Pegasus’ alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, bi-xenon headlights with adaptive lighting and integrated headlight washers, and LED tail-lights.

Inside, the Skoda’s considerable list of features extends to height-adjustable front seats, part-leather and Alcantara trim, footrests for rear-seat passengers, removable rubbish bins in the front door pockets and even built-in, mould-resistant umbrellas in each front door.

A front centre armrest with chilled storage compartment is matched by a rear-seat centre armrest (with load-through provision, often called a ‘ski-port’), while carpeted floor mats, height-adjustable front seatbelts, a leather-rimmed steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, a chillable and lockable glovebox, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer jets, light-sensing headlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electrically adjustable and heated side mirrors, heat-insulating tinted glass, three-zone climate control (with separate rear air vents and temperature adjustment), and remote central locking are all part of the package.

In-car entertainment and technology includes an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation and eight speakers, plus Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These work with Apple and Android phones. If you plug your phone in via the USB socket in the centre console, many of its apps – including mapping and music – are mirrored on the dashboard touchscreen and can be controlled from there.

Driver-assistance features include a fatigue detection system, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera. An idle-stop system (often called ‘stop/start’) switches the engine off automatically when stopped in traffic or at lights, depending on the gradient of the road and the demands of the air-conditioner.

An Extended Electronic Differential Lock (XDL) electronically brakes whichever front wheel starts to spin when applying power or driving on a slippery surface, theoretically improving traction. In the opposite situation, an ‘Auto Hold’ feature automatically holds the car on the brakes, once stopped, allowing the driver to remove his/her foot from the pedal. The brakes automatically release once pressure is applied to the accelerator pedal.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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Stretching to the Superb 206TSI brings all-wheel drive and a more powerful 206kW version of the base model’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, as well as standard 19-inch anthracite alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, an alarm, Driving Mode Selection (offering Comfort, Normal and Sport settings for the transmission, steering and accelerator tuning), LED interior ambient lighting, steering-wheel gearshift paddles and sports suspension (that lowers the Superb’s ride height by 15mm).

If you want these features on the front-drive 162TSI or 140TDI, however, you can select the Image Pack, which bundles the entire lot together (except all-wheel drive and the 206kW engine) for an additional $1700.

And if the Image Pack isn’t enough, an additional Tech Pack is also on offer (if you’ve already ticked the Image Pack box on 162TSI or 140TDI, or choose the 206TSI). The Tech Pack costs a sizeable $4700 extra on front-drive Superb models ($3400 on the flagship 206TSI 4x4), but it brings a wealth of driver-assistance systems and convenience features.

These include an automatic parking system, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic-jam assistance (the car will brake and accelerate autonomously at slow speeds), and emergency assistance (that will automatically dial 000 if the airbags deploy).

The Tech Pack also introduces Adaptive Chassis Control (adjustable suspension dampers with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings that work in conjunction with the Image Pack’s Driving Mode Selection) and a hands-free electric tailgate that lets you flick your foot underneath the rear bumper to open it. And audiophiles will be pleased to know that a 12-speaker Canton sound system is also part of the deal.

Finally, an additional Comfort Pack ($1500) enhances interior finish and functionality with perforated leather-appointed upholstery (in either beige or black), ventilated front seats with heaters and coolers, a heated rear seat, and a front passenger seat that can be electrically adjusted for position from the rear.

How comfortable is it?

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If you’re riding in the back seat of a Superb, then very much so. It’s enormous. A stadium-like view over the front buckets combines with superior cushion and shoulder support, and separate rear-seat temperature control, to make the back row the best seat(s) in the house. No wonder the Superb has been put into service the world over as an executive carry-all.

Thing is, unless you’ve ticked the Tech Pack option, thereby gaining Adaptive Chassis Control, the Superb’s rough-road ride quality isn’t up to the limousine-like ambience of its rear seat. It’s all a bit patchy and not quite in sync, with persistent tyre noise on coarse surfaces. There are more comfortable and controlled rides on offer in the Superb’s price class.

And when you move to the front row, it takes another step down the ladder. While the Superb’s Alcantara-trimmed front seats look great, they offer significantly inferior comfort to those fitted to the closely related Volkswagen Passat. Firmly padded, with short cushions and a lack of back support, the standard front buckets are at odds with the Superb’s otherwise beautifully presented interior.

Best tick the Comfort Pack option box if you’re a princess-and-the-pea type.

What about safety?

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All Superb models boast a very high level of safety, and when the optional Tech Pack is fitted, the latest driver-assistance features.

As well as a nine airbags and an anti-skid braking system, the Superb features intelligent autonomous city braking that will apply the brakes automatically at speeds below 65km/h to maintain a safe distance from the car in front, as well as providing an audible and visible warning that the car in front is too close. It can also bring the car to a complete stop if it thinks an accident is about to occur. That said, if the driver applies steering direction and accelerates, the system responds to the commands and will release the brakes.

This ‘City EB’ function also has some clever behind-the-scenes features. When the Front Assist detects that a vehicle is quickly approaching, the brake pads are brought into contact with the brake discs and the sensitivity of the Brake Assist function is increased. This ‘primes’ the braking system for a possible emergency stop.

The rear camera makes reversing and parking much safer, and there are audible sensors front and rear.

Superb’s chief driver safety aid is called ‘Multi Collision Brake’, a system that automatically initiates braking if the car has had an accident in an attempt to prevent a subsequent collision.

There are nine airbags: two directly ahead of the front-seat occupants, a driver’s knee airbag, two to protect front occupants against side impacts, two for the rear occupants, and a curtain airbag down each side to guard all occupants against head injuries.

Every Superb has electronic stability control, which can help maintain control if the car loses grip on a slippery surface. All new cars must have this feature.

(To see a list of the safety features on any model, select the car and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.)

The European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) awarded the Superb its maximum five stars for crash safety.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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If you head straight to the top, then very much so – the Superb 206TSI 4x4 is a real wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing, using its elegantly handsome shape to disguise the 206kW engine and all-wheel-drive system borrowed from Volkswagen’s high-performance Golf R.

And it gets even better if you tick the Tech Pack option, seeing it includes Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) for superior suspension suppleness and sophistication. With ACC, you can select Comfort for motorway cruising or Sport for tenacious handling on smooth, twisty roads.

The front-drive 162TSI petrol and 140TDI diesel are slightly different propositions. The decidedly muscular petrol – the same engine, incidentally, as featured in a VW Golf GTI – offers breathtaking performance for the price, but without the traction of its more-powerful all-wheel drive sibling, it often struggles to transfer its power to the road. And it isn’t as well-sorted in terms of ride and handling either – neither of which can match the highs of its engine and transmission.

The diesel also has its occasional traction issues, but its lazier personality better suits the front-drive Superb’s suspension tune. It’s an effortless mile-eater and is exceptionally economical. That said, that also applies to both petrol models.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The best there is. Skoda claims a cavernous luggage capacity of 625 litres for the boot in the ‘liftback’ sedan (with a 16-inch space-saver spare wheel beneath), which is better than anything even vaguely similar in size, and a gargantuan 1760 litres with the rear backrests folded.

The handsome wagon elevates this cargo-carrying canniness to an even greater level, with 660 litres below the luggage cover, and 1950 litres with the rear seat folded flat.

The rear-seat backrest in both bodystyles is split 60:40, so it’s quite adaptable for all sorts of longer loads while still carrying three or four people. Each load area offers shopping-bag hooks, load restraint hooks, and luggage net and a 12-volt outlet.

Where is it made?

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At Skoda’s Kvasiny plant in the Czech Republic.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Anyone who enjoys changing gears themselves best look elsewhere because the Superb is automatic only – a ‘dual-clutch’ system (DSG in Skoda/Volkswagen parlance) that prides itself on satisfying sports-minded drivers.

There’s also no true replacement in the latest range for the old six-cylinder petrol, which was the premium engine in the line-up, though anyone who’s driven the uprated 206kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol should feel suitably satisfied.

Finally, there’s the dreaded ‘badge snobbery’. In Australia, the Skoda brand can’t match the cachet of a Volkswagen product, let alone Audi, yet there’s something quite individual and satisfying in owning the car that ‘thinking people’ drive. Good as it is, though, the Superb remains a slightly poorer cousin to the Volkswagen Passat, lacking the German car’s more overt sportiness, and its premium level of refinement.