|New Superb is no longer a stretched
version of VW Passat...
Western European car
makers emphasize on style and sporty handling, Skoda of Czech Republic
chooses another route: comfort, practicality and value. The rough roads
in its home country dictate its comfort-biased suspension tuning. Lack
of a strong brand means it is better to sell practicality (more space
and more features) than style or sophistication. In addition to the
lower production costs in Czech, Skoda can assure excellent value for
But Skoda is not just all about comfort, practicality and value. Its
products are also well engineered and built, thanks to the solid
engineering from mother company Volkswagen AG. Take the old Skoda
Superb for example, it was virtually a stretched version of
contemporary Volkswagen Passat. No wonder its build quality and
engineering excellence shocked many Western rivals. However, because of
the same reason the original Superb lacked its own identity – in fact,
it was not dissimilar to the long-wheelbase Passat produced and sold in
China. People still saw them as localized and badge-engineered version
of Volkswagen Passat.
|The most special feature is its boot,
doubled as sedan and hatchback...
For the second generation Superb,
Skoda distinguishes it
further apart from the current generation Volkswagen Passat. From
outside, there is completely no traces of Volkswagen, which is a
relieve to Wolfsburg as it will no longer be criticized for asking
higher price for virtually the same car. The exterior styling of this
Skoda is conservative, unquestionably. With solid build quality and
some elegant details, it may appeal to older customers, but young
drivers will find its profile too boxy. Unlike the sporty profile of
Ford Mondeo, Citroen C5, Mazda 6 or Honda Accord (Euro), the Skoda has
a long and flat roof line, narrow shoulders and near vertical side
windows to maximize interior space.
The sacrifice in style pays off in cabin room. Although the new Superb
runs a shorter wheelbase than its predecessor (2761mm vs 2803mm), its
rear passengers got 2 cm of extra legroom. That makes a spacious
interior even more spacious. Among its rivals only Ford Mondeo could
match it, but remember the Mondeo needs some 2850mm of wheelbase. Apart
from space, the cabin of Superb is also very well made, with soft
plastics covering the upper half of dashboard, neat layout of controls
and a solid feel of assembly like typical Volkswagen products.
However, the most special feature is its boot. There is an electric
lock at the top edge of the boot lid which could lock the boot lid
together with the rear window so that they become a tailgate. Press one
button will open the boot lid only, like a conventional sedan. Press
another button will open the tailgate, like a hatchback. So the Superb
is a sedan and a hatchback simultaneously. That said, how useful of
this double-characters remains to be seen.
|Conservative looks supplemented by
German solidity appeals to older customers...
Skoda said the new Superb is built on
platform, but no one actually believes. Volkswagen group has been an
expert of platform sharing since the days of Ferdinand Piech, so how
come the new Skoda not share platform with other models of the group ?
In fact, this car still utilizes a lot of components from the current
Passat, such as suspensions, steering and powertrains. This ensure high
standard of quality and performance and save unnecessary investment.
The Superb is also said to employ many components from Octavia, which
lifts percentage of local components to save purchasing costs. However,
don’t forget that Octavia is built on the PQ35 platform of Volkswagen
Golf, which is also shared with Passat. There is no such thing called
“independent platform” in Volkswagen group.
Thanks to the platform sharing, Superb is available with some of the
best engines in the mass production world, such as the 125hp 1.4-liter
direct injection turbo (1.4 TSI), 160hp 1.8-liter direct injection
turbo (1.8 TSI) and 170hp 2.0-liter common-rail turbo diesel. As you
might have heard already about their excellence in other AutoZine
reports, I am not going to repeat here. Other competitive, if not the
best-in-class engines include 105hp 1.9-liter 8V pump-injection turbo
diesel and 140hp 2.0-liter 16V pump-injection turbo diesel. Oddly, the
range-topping 260hp 3.6-liter narrow-angle V6 is actually the most
disappointing. This is partly because its naturally aspirated torque
curve is not as flat as the smaller turbocharged engines, partly
because it carries much more weight due to its compulsory Haldex 4WD
system. This mean in urban area it shows little advantage over the 1.8
TSI or 2.0 TDI engine. Anyway, few people will spend so much money on a
|What makes it appealing are still
comfort, practicality and value for money...
On the road, the Superb is more about
comfort and refinement
than excitement. You will be pleased with its absorbent ride, low noise
level and excellent cruising refinement. If you regularly drive on poor
country roads, you may prefer it to the stiffly-sprung German saloons.
However, when you up the pace in mountain roads, you will find it
clearly lacks the agility of Ford Mondeo. Body control and steering are
only average. Admittedly, its handling is more capable than its bulky
looks suggested, but it never feels sporty, and it doesn't engage its
driver very much.
What makes it appealing are still comfort, practicality and value for
money. These have silently become the core values of Skoda.