Before the review, a superb story, of the Czech carmaker Skoda. Apparently, it was Milos Zeman—then prime minister of Czech Republic—who, not happy at having to use a German car for official duties, prompted Prague to initiate plans for a top saloon to slot in above Skoda Octavia. At that time, the Octavia was the biggest car in the company portfolio, but it was perhaps not fit for a national leader. What the PM wanted was a stretched Octavia, but since the Octavia, in a way, is already a stretched version of the smaller Volkswagen Golf, creating a limousine out of it was asking a bit much. However, what could be provided was a stretched Volkswagen Passat, and such a vehicle had already been created for the Chinese market. All the Czechs then had to do was to Skoda-ise it. That’s how the modern Superb was born.
The flagship model in Skoda portfolio ever since, the Superb is now into its third generation, which was launched in India recently. We drive it.
The Superb has always had a slightly boxy but timeless design. The new design language, however, gives it an elegance, poise and sleek lines that its contemporary cars the world over have. At the same time, the car’s balanced proportions have been retained. The silhouette is like that of a coupe, especially when looked at from rear three-quarters, and almost all the edges on the car are clear-cut rather than ‘flowing’. From some angles it looks mean, from others like a fashion model.
Inside, there is an emphasis on horizontal lines, which, in some ways, allow the already spacious cabin to appear even more generous and airy. The glass area is big and the car gets a panoramic sunroof. The materials used are premium and the workmanship is precise. Its longer wheelbase and wider track result in even more space than in the outgoing model. The rear seat is like a sofa.
The company says that the use of MQB architecture has contributed to more cabin space. Driver and front passenger enjoy 39mm more elbow room and headroom. The rear-seat legroom (157mm) is enormous and headroom (980mm) is more than in any other model in the segment. Elbow room at the rear has been increased by 69mm. The boot space, at 625 litres, it is 30 litres more than in the outgoing model.
The cabin is versatile. For example, the rear-seat backrest can be folded down from the boot at the touch of a button. The driver gets a rear-view camera, while the classic lever-pulled handbrake has been replaced with an auto parking brake. The cabin is so large that, to cool it down, there is a three-zone AC. We parked the car in the Delhi heat, under the sun, for about an hour. When we set the AC on auto mode, it cooled the cabin in a little over two minutes, and there was optimal temperature throughout. One of the most comfortable features is cooled front seats; at the touch of a button, tiny holes in the front seats throw cool air on your back and bottom. No part of your body will sweat when you are sitting inside the Superb. The monsoon season is approaching. No worries. There is now an umbrella in each of the two front doors.
Using the SmartLink feature, the audio player can be connected to the smartphone. Thus, you can access all the apps in your smartphone on the car’s 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen. Mention must be made of the Canton sound system; it gets 12 speakers and 610W of very clear sound quality.
The petrol engine is the new 1.8 TSI (180PS) and the diesel the 2.0 TDI (177PS). While both engines produce more power, the company claims that the car is up to 30% more economical due to better efficiency of engines, improved aerodynamics of the car and because the car’s overall weight has been reduced. All these also lead to better driving dynamics. The chassis has been worked upon; the redeveloped MacPherson front struts and multi-link rear axle offer good ride stability. The car gets Electronic Stability Control including Multi-Collision Brake, electronic tyre pressure monitoring, eight airbags and safety headrests as standard. XDS+, an enhanced function of the electronic differential lock, is also standard.
For Rs 23.83 lakh for the entry-level manual model, the Superb remains as value-for-money as it always was. It gets features comparable to mid-size luxury cars, is a size bigger than them, and comes at about 30% less price. Its only true competitor right now is Toyota Camry, and in the months to come it will face competition from the new Honda Accord. But the way the Superb has established itself in the segment, we doubt it will lose its leadership position any time soon.