Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 140
Elegance Estate review
by David Finlay (12 October 2010)
Since my job is to write about cars rather than read about them, I don't usually pay much attention to the opinions of other people (who are, of course, welcome not to pay much attention to mine). On the other hand, it's difficult to avoid noticing the tremendous amount of praise that has been made of the Skoda Superb Estate since it made its UK debut in February 2010.
Or, in the case of Top Gear magazine, even before then. The Superb Estate wasn't even in British showrooms when that publication's editorial team named it Luxury Car of the Year. Diesel Car subsequently named it Best Estate Car (and voted the Superb range in general Best Large Car). And since my skills at towing are still not much better than they were when, aged 21, I spun a car and trailer on a piece of dual-carriageway just outside Belfast, I have to accept without question the opinions of Practical Caravan magazine and The Caravan Club, who gave the Superb Estate class and overall titles respectively in their most recent award ceremonies.
It's not hard to see why this car has impressed so many people. Part of the reason is that it's based on another car which is also very good indeed. The saloon/hatch version of the Superb is extremely roomy, with enough passenger space for four large adults to travel in considerable comfort, and of course that has been carried over to the Estate.
The "standard" car can also carry a phenomenal amount of luggage - its capacity figures of 595 litres with the rear seats in place and 1700 litres with them folded already makes it competitive with estate models from other manufacturers. Only the Mondeo estate is comparable at 542/1733 litres; the Vauxhall Signum and Renault Laguna are already lagging behind.
The Superb Estate is more practical still. Seats up, the figure is 633 litres, seats down it's 1865 litres. You don't have to be able to visualise what 1865 litres of empty space looks like - just compare it with what the opposition is offering and you'll get the point.
That substantial rear end is clothed in bodywork which isn't particularly adventurous (I get the feeling I could have done something similar myself if I were handy with a CAD system) but is certainly elegant, and to me more attractive than that of the saloon/hatch. If only Skoda felt it could have bucked the trend by offering a decent amount of glass area . . . but no, the opportunity was ignored, and the windows are as unhelpfully small as current fashion dictates.
Visibility up front isn't good either, thanks to the thick windscreen pillars. I wouldn't have mentioned this, because although the situation is bad it's no worse than the industry average, but during this test it did lead to an awkward moment. Driving forwards out of a supermarket car park space, I nearly wiped out a shopping trolley being pushed towards me at an angle by a young mother with her two children trotting along beside her. I apologised immediately, and she didn't seem to mind, but if Skoda hadn't created such a massive blind spot I would not have put her or her family at risk in the first place.
In case all the talk about the Superb Estate being a large car has led you to believe that it might be cumbersome to drive, don't worry. A Skoda insider once told me that there was no attempt to make even the saloon/hatch ride and handle as well as the Mondeo, which - if true - suggests that the Czechs regarded Ford's achievement as unbeatable.
I don't often find myself thinking that a manufacturer has understated the case, but here I do. Not every Superb behaves brilliantly on the road, but on average they seem to me better to drive than Mondeos, and that certainly applies to the car reviewed here.
As the headline has already told you, it uses the Volkswagen Group's two-litre TDI turbo diesel engine in 138bhp form, and I doubt there's a more suitable unit for the car. I'm looking at a spec sheet which tells me that it gives the Estate a 0-62mph time of 10.2 seconds, and that seems slow, but as usual with good diesels the important thing is how much power is available at low engine speeds for strong acceleration when the car is already moving.
Not once did I feel that there was any significant lack of performance, though that may partly be because the fine handling means you don't have to bring the car to a standstill every time a corner comes into view.
That engine is available in all three trim levels - S, SE and Elegance - and if you don't mind skimping on standard equipment you can have it in the Estate for under £20,000. At the time of writing, the Elegance has a list price of £23,870 which, assuming no other increases, will go up to around £24,400 when the VAT rate rises to 20% in January 2011. This does not make the Superb outstandingly cheaper than its rivals, but in terms of value for money it is nevertheless extremely impressive.