There’s certainly a place in the global SUV whitewash for a compelling alternative offering the right blend of features, practicality, quality and value through a semi-premium lens.
Skoda’s Superb has long fit the bill for buyers drawn to a brand that remains an outlier on the Aussie landscape despite widespread mainstream acceptance in Europe, and those buyers want something a bit larger and more substantial in metal than the critically-acclaimed Octavia.
It shouldn’t matter that the Superb sits in what is now a niche ‘mainstream large’ segment – once the staple of the Aussie family, the large passenger segment is officially a party of two (with the Kia Stinger).
Instead what does matter is; the Superb ought to be appreciated as a long proven, viable choice outside of the ‘me-too’ SUV set.
As the number of viable four and five-door sedans and coupes with decent value for money continues to dwindle, at least the remaining pool of ‘left-field’ buyers get to choose from quality models. To date, the Superb largely lived up to its namesake.
But as the full-strength 2022 Skoda Superb Sportline 4×4, like the rest of the range, continues to balloon in pricing, it does demand a solid showing to maintain the sort of critical recommendation it’s enjoyed in the past.
Back in February Skoda announced revised pricing for its 2022 Superb range, with pricing for the Sportline 4×4 liftback up by $2000 to a total outlay of $67,990 drive-away. At the time of writing, it’s gone up a further thousand bucks, to $68,990 D/A, according to Skoda Australia’s website.
Of course, pricing has been a moving target of late, sadly heading in the wrong direction for buyers. Still, nudging $70k moves the Superb a little further away from the brand’s reputation in perceived affordability and value.
That plays against its ‘official’ rival, the Kia Stinger, which can be had in flagship GT twin-turbo V6 guise for $64,960 plus on-roads, or $69,890 drive-away.
Unofficial cross-shops; however, include the related Volkswagen Passat Wagon 206TSI R-Line at $67,690, the also related Volkswagen Arteon 206TSI R-Line at $71,240, the Peugeot 508 Fastback GT Plug-in Hybrid at $76,990, and the Volvo S60 B5 Ultimate Bright at $65,990, for those pondering options on merit rather than strictly measures of body length.
Options include a sunroof at $1700, 19-inch Supernova wheels at $2000, as well as metallic ($770) or effect ($1100) paintwork, all of which feature on our test car. A factory towbar adds $2100.
It’s a big unit. In fact, at a whopping 4869mm, the liftback is actually five millimetres longer than the wagon (all in rear overhang).
And, its yawning 2841mm wheelbase and smart packaging affords a tremendous amount of interior space, right back to a boot so large it needs to be witnessed to be believe (more below).
Up front, the cabin ambience is commodious and, typical for Skoda, it’s minted in an array of materials that’s richly diverse and thoroughly semi-premium in effect.
It maintains that typical – and somewhat traditional – Skoda style. It’s different enough from familiar Volkswagen stock while conspicuously appears derived from the German parent.
Some effort has been injected into maintaining a contemporary vibe for what’s a maturing generation, and it just gets away with it.
While there’s a certain slickness to the infotainment touchscreen and the digital instrumentation, it does appear a generation behind Volkswagen’s latest models, exacerbated by the older-school controls for HVAC and vehicle control buttons along the console.
Frankly though, they work more intuitively than some of the ‘slider’ stuff you’ll find in the latest VW Golf.
The infotainment itself is excellent, pairing phones quickly and offering multiple user profiles for different Bluetooth devices, and the wireless smartphone mirroring also worked flawlessly. You get a single USB-C outlet next to the wireless phone charger tray, as well as a USB-A port hidden in the rear of the console bin.
Is it clever? Suede-like door cards, flocked door bins including a driver’s removeable garbage bag housing, an adjustable cooled console bin, oddment pocket in the front seat backrest and, yes, that signature umbrella hidden in the door jamb all conspire to deliver on Skoda’s Simply Clever mantra.
Less clever is the basic cupholder array that doesn’t capture cups properly, or the protruding tablet cradle mounted on the seatback for rear passengers. My 12-year-old son managed to smack his shoulder against the cradle, causing much pain and anguish.
That said, rear room is exceptional with ample space in every direction. Both the front and rear seats are comfy, supportive and the blend of faux suede and leather – some if it real – has definite class. The third zone of climate controls, too, are a real boon.
The boot space is remarkable. It’s 625 litres with the rear seats in play, a humongous 1760L with the rears stowed (via handy remote levers on the luggage space walls) and the amount of clear load-through the liftback tailgate offers is utterly fantastic.
The boot is very deep and offers a huge array of hanging hooks and tie-down points for the elastic net system. Who needs a SUV when you’ve got this much utility?
The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four in the Sportline 4×4 is the higher-powered of the two versions offered in the Superb, bringing 206kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
Dropping down range to the ‘162TSI’ Superb Style serves – you guessed it – 162kW with an identical torque output.
It’s backed by a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive in the flagship version. Trainspotters might notice the Superb doesn’t fit the seven-speed DSG recently offered in the Superb Scout; that transmission was mated to the different spec of engine, a newer 200kW unit fitted with a particulate petrol filter (PPF).
The Sportline 4×4 in liftback form is the quickest of the current breed, returning a best claim of 6.0 seconds neat for the 0-100km/h sprint, with the wagon 0.1s slower. At 1615kg kerb, our tester is surprisingly lightweight for such a full-formed five-door fitting all-paw traction.
Combined ADR fuel consumption is claimed to be 8.0L/100km, or almost a litre thirstier than the 162kW versions. It demands premium 95 RON for its 66-litre tank.
Braked towing, for its part, is 2200kg for Superb Sportline 4×4 models.
The wider Volkswagen Group has had some time to polish up this particular turbo-four and six-speed DSG powertrain, combination and it shows.
In effect, the powertrain plies just the right amount of response and energy while remaining impressively refined and virtually foible-free.
There’s no low-speed notchiness from the gearbox, no pregnant pauses in throttle take-up, and it’s just about as smooth shifting through the ratios as you’d expect from a torque converter automatic – nice work.
There’s certainly a bit of charisma from the engine that shares much of its make-up with the Golf R hot hatch, yet it remains polite and well-suited to the luxo-sedan format.
Normal drive mode is ideally flexible, and I found no need to bother upping enthusiasm with Sport mode – which holds onto ratios too eagerly for urban driving – nor the Eco and Comfort modes also offered.
Off the mark I did tend to lean into the VW Group DSG habit of tapping the transmission selector into Sport on take-off and then knocking it back to Drive once up to speed.
Steering is clear, and even with just the right amount of weight in hand, it’s both an easy and substantial thing to drive – the latter emphasising its luxury leaning and keeping you on your toes while you attempt to park the Superb into tight spaces.
I quickly settled into leaving the Superb’s adaptive suspension in Comfort mode.
It’s soft and cushy almost to the point of being wallowing, but it balances the ride out with decent body control because, well, it’s not jacked into the air like an SUV and doesn’t demand firmer settings to maintain a handle on body inertia and heft – that’s one key advantage of going for a low-slung sedan (or wagon) over an SUV.
It manages to smooth the rough stuff at low-speed around town but maintain its dignity and grand touring chops out on the open road. It’d make a fine long-hauler in Oz or in Europe for where it’s perhaps ideally tuned. Up to cruising speed, it remains settled and impressively quiet.
All in all, the inherent solidity of the Superb is key in how it feels so much like an upmarket machine.
Superb Style highlights:
- 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless phone charging
- 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster
- Front fog lights
- Cornering lights
- Animated rear indicators
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Privacy glass
- Keyless entry and start
- LED ambient interior lighting
- Automatic headlights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Three-zone climate control
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Electronic parking brake with auto-hold
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Eight-speaker audio
Superb Sportline 4×4 adds:
- 19-inch ‘Vega’ alloy wheels
- Gloss black exterior accents
- Rear spoiler
- Leather/Alcantara front sport seats
- Adaptive Chassis Control (adaptive dampers)
- Performance monitor
- Lap timer
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- ‘Virtual Pedal’ hands-free power tailgate
- Aluminium pedals
- Power front seats with driver memory
- Heated front and rear seats
- Power-folding exterior mirrors with driver’s memory
- Three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters
Due to semiconductor shortages, two key features in the 12-speaker Canton premium sound system and Matrix LED headlights were omitted from the equipment list earlier this year.
Check with your Skoda dealer to see if this issue is rectified at the time of enquiry.
It’s here where things get slightly tricky.
The pre-facelifted Skoda Superb wore a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted in 2015. However, ANCAP stipulates that the rating only applies to examples on sale between 2016 and January 2022, even though the current MY22 version is essentially carryover.
It scored 86 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupants, 71 per cent for pedestrian protection and 76 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety features include:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Forward and Reverse
- Pedestrian detection
- Multi-collision brake
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Lane-keep assist
- Traffic jam assist
- Emergency Assist
- Adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go
- Driver fatigue detection
- 9 airbags incl. driver’s knee
Skoda models are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. You get a year of free roadside assist though this rolls over if you service your Superb with a Skoda dealer.
That said, Skoda offers five-year/75,000km and seven-year/105,000km upfront servicing packs at $2000 and $2700 respectively – choosing that latter extends the warranty coverage to seven years. Servicing intervals are 12 month or 15,00kms, whichever comes first.
Our tester returned consumption of around just under 10L/100km of mostly urban driving against its 8.0L/100km claim.
Hit the open road and consumption becomes much more favourable – into the sevens – quite quickly. Again, minimum fuel grade is 95 RON.
There are so many reasons why Skodas, and the Superb in particular, rate so highly in critical review – because there are so few things to grumble about.
But is it truly Superb? Well, if it isn’t it comes very damn close. Despite the creeping price, it’s a tough package to top for similar coin.
Skoda’s big liftback and wagon range was never, and probably never will be a hugely popular seller, but that’s part of the Superb’s and Skoda’s charm in general.
That it’s different enough to a Passat and nothing really like a Stinger is very much a strength as well.
As a hand-on-heart wagon-lover, I’m super impressed by the liftback version for sheer utility. One pesky device cradle aside – as tested as a proper family hauler – it really didn’t miss any marks at all.
If you really can’t stomach the idea of an SUV, or even a wagon, here’s your easy answer.
Click the images for the full gallery
MORE: Everything Skoda Superb