Saloon or hatchback? That is the unanswerable question posed by the new Skoda Superb. It is impossible to decide which it is, because actually it is both, with an ingenious hybrid rear door that you can open either as a boot-lid or as a tailgate. Skoda calls this variable boot opening a “twin door”, and has patented its design. The beauty of this invention is that it saves all the complication and expense of making two body designs to suit different markets. Here in the UK we tend to prefer hatchbacks, but other nations have a greater fondness for saloons. So this is a car that can be either, and is both. Game, set and match in a single model.
It is the Superb’s talking point feature, if you discount the oddity of a built-in umbrella that comes as part of the car’s standard kit, carried over from the previous model. The brolly is so well tucked away that you might never notice it. But feel under the left-hand rear armrest in this flagship Skoda, and there it is, stowed tidily in its own tailored compartment. The engine line-up features several turbodiesels: a 1.9 litre TDI PD, 2.0 TDI PD and a new range-topping common-rail 2.0 TDI. All three units come with a particulate filter. The smallest engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, with the two bigger ones teamed with a six-speed manual, or a six speed DSG automatic There’s also the option of four-wheel-drive.
The Superb’s assets are its airy spaciousness, excellent back seat legroom, strong performance, quietness and general refinement. It is comfortable, rides well and has a great big boot, accessed via that clever adaptable door. As we’ve come to expect from Skoda, it is good value for money with a decent level of standard kit. The driving experience is more limousine than sports car, but it is lively and mannerly. The Superb has already been tested for Euro NCAP and been awarded five stars for crash protection. Its safety provision includes knee-airbags for the driver and front passenger.
The first time that Skoda used the Superb name was in the 1930s. Then after a long gap the next one appeared in 2001. This new one shares similar underpinnings with the Volkswagen Passat. ‘Superb’ is overstating it, but Skoda’s latest flagship is pretty good, if not quite a match dynamically for a rival Ford Mondeo.
RIVALS: CITROËN C5, FORD MONDEO, VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT
- Engine: 1968cc, 4 cylinder, common rail injection turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 168bhp at 4,200rpm
- Max Torque: 258lb ft at 1750-2500rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,800kg
- Combined Consumption: 42.2mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 169g/km
- 0-62mph: 9.0secs
- Max speed: 137mph
- Insurance Group: tba