"The Skoda Superb provides understated looks, huge amounts of space and fantastic value for money."
Skoda is the manufacturer to beat in the family car market nowadays, having worked tirelessly to improve its cars. The Skoda Superb hatchback is a perfect illustration of what the reborn Skoda has managed to pull off in the last decade. Now part of the Volkswagen Group, Skoda brings you the same levels of equipment, practicality, efficiency and quality previously reserved for Audis or Volkswagens themselves – but, crucially, at a lower cost. The package all that comes in isn’t as sexy, true, but you definitely get more for your money, and that's pretty compelling. But we even think the looks issue is resolved by the estate Superb, which really benefitted from recent updates that have spruced up its style a little bit. There are five engines on offer, all with the option of an effective, smooth-shifting seven-speed semi-automatic DSG gearbox. It comes in five specifications - entry-level S, then the SE, SE Plus, Elegance and top-of-the-range Laurin & Klement – so there is pretty much a Superb to suit just about anyone. You also get nice little touches like the split-opening boot and an umbrella storage compartment in the door on SE and Elegance specs, which are normally the kind flourishes reserved for premium cars. There's absolutely no question that the Superb should be at or near the top of any list of family cars to buy.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
It's hard to imagine a family car that has more going for it. Skoda cars keep getting better and better, and, on top of excellent resale value and cheap insurance rates, the Superb also offers low running costs that will satisfy most drivers’ needs. For the best economy, we’d recommend the 140bhp 2.0 TDI diesel, which return 52.3mpg in fuel economy and emits 143g/km of CO2, so that means an annual road tax bill of £125. This isn’t class leading, admittedly, and may even prove a bit expensive if you don’t regularly clock up miles on long journeys (for which the even cheaper to run GreenLine is the best choice). If you simply have a need for speed, then even the 1.4-litre petrol engine still manages to return 41.5mpg while providing enough straight-line speed to keep most buyers smiling. Every diesel model on offer comes with stop-start fitted as standard, along with brake energy recovery to help further save fuel and lower overall emissions. The efficient Greenline III tech is now also available on every model - excepting the top of the line one - and it emits only 109g/km in emissions, which is the same as the ultra efficient BMW 320d ED. You also get special eco tyres and lowered suspension that do make it a bit less comfortable than the standard car. It also now comes with a six-speed gearbox fitted as standard.
Interior & comfort
It would be strange if Skoda made an uncomfortable car to be honest, given their inscrutable family car credentials. So, the Superb has soft suspension that easily absorbs the biggest bumps that the UK roads can through at it, making it one of the UK's most comfortable cruisers. Inside the Superb you’re nicely insulated from any engine, wind or road noise – even when travelling at faster motorway speeds. Even though the diesel engines are very quiet and economical, it must be said that the petrol models are nearly completely silent – especially when driving around town. You get light steering, plus an excellent semi-automatic gearbox that proves incredibly comfortable and relaxing. The current model is longer than the old car, so you get a lot more legroom throughout the interior, especially in the back. Considering you get all this at a bargain price, the Superb is pretty much in a league of its own.
Practicality & boot space
It may be hard to imagine a more practical version of the Volkswagen Passat, but that is exactly what the Skoda Superb is. This is partly due to its unique ability to be both hatchback and saloon, thanks to its TwinDoor boot lid, which can be used as either a saloon for loading small items or you can open up the whole back window for loading bigger, bulkier items. There's a button for each use – one solely for the boot and the other for the whole screen to lift up. With all the back seats in place, the boot has a reasonable 565 litres of space, which is 85 litres more than the model it replaced. Fold down the rear seats and that expands to a plentiful 1,670 litres – but be aware that you can’t drop the seats from the boot, so you have to go round to the passenger door, which can be bit of a pain. The boot floor is also movable, as well, to allow for maximum flexibility. In the back, the seats are very comfy and spacious, with loads of room that three adults can easily sit comfortably in thanks to loads of leg, shoulder and headroom. There are also lots of storage cubbies inside, including an umbrella holder in the rear door on the SE and Elegance specs.
Reliability & safety
Skoda has the top two cars in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey – the Superb and the Skoda Yeti – so you know that any Skoda car is likely to be as reliable as they come. Skoda is undeniably a class act in this department, and while it may have been knocked off the top spot in the manufacturers rankings by an over-performing Lexus, Skoda is still the car maker to beat for durability and owner satisfaction. The Superb lives up to its name by being of the one of the best family cars on sale in the UK at the moment. And not only that – you’ll also be well cared for by Skoda's rightly celebrated dealer network. The dealers are proud of their product and it shows. The Superb is impeccably well constructed from top-notch materials, both inside and out, with the interior feeling genuinely high-end (hard to imagine from the pre-Volkswagen Skoda brand). It boasts a full roster of safety equipment and technology, including seven airbags (which can be increased to nine as an optional extra), anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, tyre pressure monitor and ISOFIX child seat anchor points all being fitted as standard across the whole range. It's no wonder that the Superb was awarded the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, marking it out as one of the safest large family cars available in the UK.
Engines, drive & performance
If you’re in the market for a fast, fun driving experience, you should probably skip over the Superb and head straight for the Ford Mondeo or Mazda6. If, however, speed isn’t a deal breaker for you, then what do you get in the Superb is, well, superb. Lots of grip, accurate steering that is nicely weighted, and a very comfortable ride that barely jostles you at all. That's not to say that you don’t get any speed – quite the opposite, with all the engines available having plenty of power. If you choose the 3.5-litre V6 petrol model, for instance, then your Superb will be able to accelerate from 0-62mph in under seven seconds, which is much faster than most of us will ever actually need on the road. Plus, it drains the car of fuel pretty quickly too, so will prove much more expensive than some of the smaller but equally satisfying engines. It's worth considering the seven-speed, semi-automatic DSG gearbox as well, because it produces surprisingly smooth gear changes – so smooth in fact that sometimes we didn’t even notice it changing gear. But if you’re still put off by the idea of any kind of automatic gearbox, the six-speed manual is just as good to use. The 125bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit also offers smooth, effective performance, despite its smaller size, while the 170bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol can go from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds when paired with the semi-automatic gearbox. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel, available with either 140bhp or 170bhp, offers the best balance of power and economy, and is the engine we’d recommend to most prospective buyers.
Price, value for money & options
The Superb offers high equipment levels and loads of accessories as standard across the whole range, and still manages to undercut most of its competition in price. Even the incredibly cheap entry-level S spec comes fitted with all-around electric windows, air-conditioning and 16-inch alloy wheels as standard. Moving up a level to the mid-spec SE models and you get suede-effect Alcantara fabric on the seats, plus cruise control and dual-zone air-conditioning, while the SE Plus adds sat-nav to this pretty bundle. The top-of-the-range Elegance models are still pretty inexpensive compared to its main rivals, but a huge amount of stuff is fitted as standard, including leather seats and xenon lights. It's hard to understand why you’d pick a more expensive equivalent car that comes with less equipment – is badge prestige really worth that much? As of 2013, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and a multifunction steering wheel are all fitted as standard. And as if that wasn’t enough, you also get strong resale values on the used car market thanks to Skoda's excellent reputation, so you’re very likely to get a good price when it comes to selling your Superb second hand. And car insurance is also rock bottom. Do we need to say more?