Words by Wayne Gorrett
If space was luxury, the Škoda Superb Estate would be up there with the Bentleys and Rolls-Royces of the automotive world. As elevated as its interior and load capacity undoubtedly is, its cost of ownership is anything but.
The third-generation Superb Estate is a totally new car from the rubber up. But unchanged are its family wagon rivals such as the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat, Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer and, for balance, let’s include the new KIA Optima Sportswagon, too.
However, because of its remarkable price point, it is also an appealing alternative to some more premium offerings such as the BMW 3 Series Touring and the Audi A4 Avant, because the Škoda is not only much less expensive than those two, but is bigger…a lot bigger.
The third-generation Superb Estate design is more assertive and interestingly styled than before, which should help Škoda's quest to reduce their buying age demographic. Up front is Škoda's smarter corporate grille, flanked by attractive angular headlights which sit above a full width air intake. Dashes of chrome add to the classy feel as does restrained detailing on its flanks. While the overall look is not fully Germanic, it is most certainly handsome.
The same observation applies to the interior which is of unquestionably of high quality deploying well-chosen materials in critical touch zones and elegant design simplicity. It feels every inch the VW Group product, with clear instruments and simple intuitive heater controls. It's as classy as the latest Passat, which is no little achievement. Supportive front seats that – along with the steering wheel – offer a wide range of adjustment only add to the car's cosseting feel.
The new Superb now rides on the exceptionally versatile Volkswagen Group MQB platform, the one shared with the smaller Octavia model as well as cars like Volkswagen's Passat, Arteon and forthcoming T-Roc, SEAT's Leon and Audi's A3 and new Q2. Under the new Superb, the chassis gets a much longer wheelbase, which enables the car to provide over a meter of legroom for rear seat passengers. Only boardroom-sized luxury segment saloons like Merc’s S-Class can match that.
Boot space is positively gargantuan and even bigger than before. With the rear seats raised you’ll have 660 litres on offer, which increases to a staggering 1950 litres when the rear bench is folded flat. Not even the Mercedes E-Class estate can beat that. Not only is luggage area spacious, it's also a very useful shape with a low load lip for the wide tailgate that stretches almost the entire width of the car. The flat-sided load area has very little intrusion from the rear wheels and suspension.
Trims and Equipment
There are currently five trim levels available on the Škoda Superb Estate; S, SE, SE L Executive, SportLine and pricey Laurin & Klement.
The entry-level S model comes with alloy wheels, a digital radio, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and a USB socket that lets you play your iPod through the stereo. However, you have to upgrade to the SE specification if you want climate control, rear parking sensors and cruise control.
The SE L Executive spec is an even better option and adds front parking sensors, an electrically adjustable driver's seat and satnav, leather upholstery and heated front seats, with SportLine cars gaining sharper sporty styling touches. Meanwhile, the range-topping Laurin & Klement has everything from a 10-speaker premium stereo to a TV tuner.
Engines and Drivetrains
As we’ve come to expect of VW Group products, Škoda offers a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic gearboxes and two or four-wheel drive on selected Superb Estate models.
Thankfully, even the entry-level 123bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol derivative is a pleasure to drive, with smooth acceleration and surprisingly potent punch at 1,400rpm and above. For a little more punch, consider the 2.0-litre 217bhp TSI unit or, if you’re specifically after petrol performance then the same 2.0-litre engine tuned to deliver 276bhp is available, too.
The diesel options, however, are where most people will end up. Under the diesel classification sits a series of 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDI units. Although there are several power and transmission variations available, the 2.0-litre TDI 148bhp mated to a manual gearbox delivers the best balance of power and fuel economy. With 340Nm of pulling power, the 2.0-litre TDI is incredibly flexible and, thanks to the slick six-speed manual gearbox, is a joy to drive at any speed, either on the motorway or in an urban environment.
As intimated, for those rural folk who feel they really need the extra traction, there are 4x4 derivatives available – however, these are unnecessary if you are not intending on really putting it through its paces. The two-wheel drive models can, and do, handle themselves very competently.
On the Road
Even though it is slightly bulkier than the Superb hatchback – by only 5mm in length, actually – the Superb Estate feels just as nimble.
Aimed at those seeking to cruise in comfort, the Superb Estate hardly ignites when it comes to driving dynamics, as the steering lacks feedback and there’s an odd sense of detachment from what’s going on underneath. However, there’s a plethora of comfort credentials, like a supple suspension, well-insulated cabin and reassuring levels of grip. The Superb Estate hangs on gamely around bends and you really do have to push the big Škoda hard before its front tyres complain and begin to push you wide into understeer.
Choose your Superb Estate in SE L Executive or flagship Laurin & Klement specification and you’ll benefit from the Drive Mode Selection function. Not only does it affect the throttle application and steering, even the air-con and dynamic lighting patterns alter, too.
It may not be the trendiest option your family could choose but its luggage-carrying potential is vast and the rest of the package stacks up strongly, too. This new Superb Estate offers useful steps forward in technology, efficiency and style. Overall, it’s a five-star car which majors on space and value. You'll probably quite like one of these, as would I.
A Czech mate, indeed.