How does the super-spacious Skoda Superb Estate stack up in 2.0-litre TDI guise?
The new Skoda Superb hatchback is already more spacious than most estate cars, so the question is: is a super-sized Superb Estate is strictly necessary? Skoda clearly thinks it is, as do UK customers, who are expected to snap up more than twice as many Superb Estates as Hatchbacks, despite the £1,200 premium.
Let’s start with the numbers, because there are some pretty big ones to chew on. At 4,856mm long and 1,864mm wide it’s 23mm longer and 47mm wider than its predecessor and just a few mm longer than the current hatch. Its wheelbase of 2,841mm is identical to the hatchback, though, so there’s the same luxurious amount of rear legroom – more about that in a minute.
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Whereas the hatchback offers boot space of 625-litres with the rear seats up and 1,760-litres with them down, the Estate blows it out the water with 660-litres and 1,950-litres respectively. To put that in perspective, the Mondeo Estate can only manage 500 and 1,605-litres respectively, while even the Mercedes E-Class Estate with 600 and 1,855 is left lagging behind.
It’s not just the sheer volume of the boot that’s impressive, but the way Skoda has made it as useable as possible. The tailgate – electrically operated as standard on our top-spec L&K test car – is pushed to the very out edges of the rear end. As a result, the opening is virtually the full width of the car, while the lip is set low and flush with the rest of the boot floor. Tug two levers, set either side of the boot, and the split rear bench falls forward automatically, so maximum space is available in seconds. Plus, fold the front passenger seat forward and objects up to 3.3m in length can be slotted in.
The interior is littered with useful features too, like a rechargeable and removable torch in the boot, an ice scraper in the fuel filler cap and an iPad dock that can be attached to the back of the front headrests or slotted into the drop-down armrest in the middle of the rear bench. If you plan on parking the car somewhere with a low ceiling, you can configure the tailgate to stop at a certain height, and if you’re caught in a downpour there are two umbrellas integrated into the two front doors. Rolls-Royce eat your heart out.
However, the most impressive part of the new Superb isn’t its cavernous boot or acres of rear legroom (the old model had both those in abundance), but the way it looks. The last-generation Superb appeared stretched and awkward from some angles and just plain ugly from others, but this new Superb has shed its old skin and taken on a genuinely desirable shape. And we reckon the estate, with its steeply-raked rear screen, gently curving roofline and bold taillights is even better than the hatch. Driving towards you it looks low and wide, and with its chiseled surfaces and sharp angles everywhere it could easily be mistaken for an oversized Audi A4.
The interior is identical to the hatchback so features the same simple, clean lines and chunky switchgear. There’s absolutely nothing fancy about the dash design, but all the controls are where you’d expect to find them and have a quality feel. Perhaps the colour schemes are a little bland, but the overall impression is build quality from above the Superb’s pay-grade. The seats have a huge range of adjustment, so you can sit low and reclined in a sporty position if you wish, or sit higher, peering down the long bonnet.
The only problem with the front seats is you know the passengers in the back are more relaxed than you are. I’m five foot eight and sat behind my perfect driving position there was a clear foot between my knees and the back of the front seat. The full-length panoramic glass roof with a retractable front section is optional, even on top-spec cars, but worth stretching to for the way it emphasises the sense of space and light. It does eat into headroom by a few mm and raise the centre of gravity ever so slightly, but luckily there’s headroom to spare.
Every control has clearly been set up with comfort in mind. That’s not to say the Superb falls over in corners, because it can cling on admirably if you choose to chuck it around, but it always feels more at home bobbing along at a gentle pace rather than being taken by the scruff of the neck. When we drove the hatch we criticised the way the body control was too loose when the dynamic chassis control (standard on L&K) was set to ‘Comfort’, but then things became too brittle in ‘Sport’.
Admittedly, the roads around Munich we drove on were mostly pebble smooth, but the problem appears to be sorted in the Estate. Even set to Sport it floats along smothering every imperfection in the road, the nose bobbing gently over crests. In Comfort there’s still too much vertical movement in the suspension, but when cruising around crumbling urban back roads, it should come into its own.
The steering is light and direct, without much feel, but toggle up through the various drive modes and you can add some weight to the wheel, which helps to place the car more accurately in corners. The gearshift is also light but that’s no criticism – it slots around the gate with the minimum of effort, while acoustic refinement at higher speeds is easily on a par with the Passat, and knocking on the door of the big premium brands. At one point in our test drive we found a derestricted section of Autobahn and cruised for five minutes at 100mph, talking the whole time without having to raise our voices.
Under the bonnet the engine line up is identical to the hatchback – so that means four TSI petrol and three TDI diesel units to choose from, a choice of manual or DSG gearboxes and front or four-wheel drive. We drove the 148bhp 2.0 TDI with a six-speed manual – predicted to be the best-seller in the UK, and it’s really all the engine you’ll ever need. With a broader power band than most 2.0 diesel engines excellent mid-range punch it’s the perfect match. We also tried a more powerful 187bhp 2.0 TDI 4x4 model and while it will grip harder in the wet, on the warm dry roads we encountered it felt noticeably heavier, but not significantly quicker.
With around 70 per cent of sales expected to be fleet, CO2 is crucial, and the 148bhp model’s figures of 68.9mph and 109g/km are as good as it gets for a car of this size, and attract a BIK rate of 19 per cent. Only the clever 148bhp 1.4 TSI model with cylinder deactivation betters it with BIK of 18 per cent, but you’ll be visiting the pumps more often.