Skoda Superb

Devastatingly dapper carry-all makes a striking entrance

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

EUROPEANS love wagons, and so do motoring journalists. Combining SUV-beating space with the manoeuvrability of low centre-of-gravity and a low centre-of-gravity and the dexterity of an elegantly sized body, you’d think choosing a wagon would be a no-brainer. But that isn’t how it works in real life.

Skoda buyers, on the other hand, have sporty wagons in their DNA. Biggest-selling variant in Skoda’s Aussie line-up is the Octavia RS wagon, so it wisely paid close attention to this when decking out its new Superb range.

Indeed, our ‘base’ Superb scores the Octavia RS’s excellent 162kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbopetrol four (also shared with VW’s Golf GTI) while the Skoda flagship nabs the Golf R’s 206kW engine and all-wheel-drive system. Both drivetrains also feature in the VW Passat in Europe, yet they’re conspicuously absent here, giving the Superb a leg-up over its German relative if you value performance. And while Superb’s 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel might seem familiar (priced $2K cheaper than its VW equivalent), its loping nature and improved refinement suit the more laid-back Skoda better than in the sportier Volksy.

Like the smaller Octavia, the Superb occupies a unique position in the VW Group empire, sitting between an Audi A4 and A6 in size while out-measuring the Passat for everything bar track width. The result is a classy, cavernous carry-all that grabs the Superb’s reputation for space and runs with it.

The $39,990 Superb 162 TSI will hit 100km/h in just 7.0sec, which is bang on what a 210kW V6 Commodore can manage, yet it drinks just 6.4L/100km. It’s sweet to drive, too, with a subtly raspy engine note and a big wad of loadlugging torque (the same 350Nm as the 206kW version).

Jump to the Superb 4x4 on 19-inch wheels and the words “cut-price Audi Avant quattro” spring to mind. Given the 4x4 model’s extra 110kg, the primo Superb’s claimed 0-100 time of 5.8sec is bolstered by its off-the-line purchase, but it feels respectably agile on really tight roads, especially when kicking drive to the rear exiting hairpins. And the uprated engine’s throaty chubbiness proves particularly satisfying between 4000 and 6000rpm.

The Superb doesn’t overwhelm you with its hard-driven chassis poise like a Passat does. While it has the muscle its VW cousin lacks, the Czech limousine clearly favours interstate effortlessness over ultimate amusement.

Adaptive dampers are optional – packaged in a $3400-$4700 Tech pack with premium audio and safety electronics – and welcome if your driving enthusiasm covers freeway blasting and back-road carving. But even then, the Superb is more about confident composure than anything else.

And that’s where the Superb truly excels. With more room than most people would know what to do with, it somehow manages to shrink around its driver, which must in some way be related to its excellent vision.

Hammering a 4x4 wagon on some great roads, riding on supportive yet fairly highmounted seats, this new Skoda struck a chord with me.

Elevated enough for a clear view in all directions, yet close enough to the road to feel connected to the experience, the Superb treads a rare path in offering the best of both worlds – car and SUV.

With a lengthy equipment list and an abundance of practical storage ideas, the suave yet subtly quirky Superb may be the blueprint for what an Aussie sedan and wagon should be.

PLUS & MINUS

Not as sporty as a Passat; adaptive dampers part of a pricey option pack Elegant styling; sweet petrols; space; quality; refinement; ride; solidity

LOST IN SPACE 01

With the ‘Modular Transverse Matrix’ (MQB) platform stretched well beyond Passat, the Superb offers cavernous levels of space, particularly in the rear seat and boot. Even the liftback-equipped sedan swallows 625L of cargo, whereas the $1700-dearer wagon extends that to 660L below its retractable luggage cover.

BODY SCULPTING 02

Proportion is everything, and the B8 Superb definitely has it. Wider than the old B6 (by 47mm), it’s also 28mm longer but its wheelbase has grown by 80mm to a whopping 2841mm.

And for once the sedan wins the beauty pageant, thanks to its elegant C-pillar treatment.

KITTY GLITTER 03

Superb 4x4 gets the ‘Image’ option pack standard (19s, keyless entry/start, driving modes, LED ambient lighting, wheel paddles, sports suspension) but you can add Tech pack (full safety-assist suite, adaptive dampers, handsfree tailgate, 12-speaker Canton audio – $3400) and Comfort pack (perforated leather, front seat cooling, heated rear seat – $1500).

Business class

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HAVING space to burn is one thing; knowing what to do with it is entirely another. And the Superb is a fine example. Its available storage and equipment surprises include umbrellas in each front door, a smartphone/ tablet mount in the rear centre armrest, tablet mounts behind both front headrests, and a tablet slot under the front-centre armrest.

Rear-seat occupants score individual climate control and the option of electric control of the front passenger seat (part of the Comfort pack). Hire-car operators will love it.

Holden Calais V $47,990–$55,990

Superb’s only real rival when it comes to space, though the reardrive Calais is a bigger car on the outside, with the unique option of a 304kW V8. But the Skoda easily wins the efficiency battle and it has a larger boot than Calais sedan.

Mazda 6 Atenza $45,390

An obvious target for Skoda’s marketers, despite its lack of a genuine performance engine or AWD. The Mazda 6’s saving grace is the strength of its diesel drivetrain.

And its reliability and resale. In the space race, it’s no match for Superb.