Overall rating: 4/5
The Skoda Superb has always been a CompleteCar.ie favourite thanks to its blend of space and luxury befitting of a premium brand for the price of your average saloon. While this facelift does not break any new barriers it does freshen up the Czech limousine and ensures it can continue to upset rivals from its own class and the one above for years to come.
In the Metal:
The Superb is the flagship of the Skoda range, sitting above the best-selling Octavia as the pinnacle of Czech engineering. Strange then that it is one of the last cars to be treated to Skoda's new corporate look. Technically everything forward of the A-pillar is new, but the real changes are to the headlights and grille, which both now feature a more squared off look than before, with the winged badge moved from the grille to the bonnet as it was on the Octavia and Rapid. The new headlights feature bi-Xenon tech and a cluster of LED daytime running lights that are mirrored out back in the new tail lights. The 'C signature' that is found in all new Skoda models is repeated three times, denoting the Superb as the daddy of the Skoda range.
Other than that there is not really a whole lot to tell; the ungainly third pillar still features on the saloon model; wheels and tyres have changed to help with efficiency and the aerodynamics have been tweaked to allow the Czech cruiser slip through the air easier. A case of 'as you were' so.
And it is a similar story inside; you still get limousine-like legroom in both the front and the back and in higher specification Elegance or Laurin & Klement models you get a fit and finish that would not look out of place in a car twice the price of the Superb, but it is what is missing that you notice. Yes, rear occupants can now control the passenger seat much as they could in an Audi A8 or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and you do get the second generation Park Assist that can now handle parking bays as easily as it does parallel parking, but the dash-mounted touchscreen system seems dated. Considering the Octavia, a model that sits lower in the food chain, has Volkswagen Group's latest all-singing all dancing screen with proximity sensors and smartphone like controls the decision to lumber the Superb with a unit that is at least one generation behind seems odd.
That said, despite the minor cosmetic changes (when we would have preferred major ones) and despite lacking some of the technologies that the junior members in the line-up have, the Superb is still a whole lot of car for less than €30,000 and that is in both saloon (or limousine in Skoda speak) or Combi body styles. Some of the CompleteCar.ie team prefer the look of the Combi as it does away with the unsightly C-pillar and you get a 633-litre boot, while others quite like the innovative Twin Door opening to the saloon's 595-litre boot and are willing to accept the C-pillar. The ultimate decision is up to buyers, but it should be noted that the activation of the Twin Door has now been simplified meaning you can switch between saloon and hatch opening with ease. Just saying!
Much as it is with the current Superb, the primary engines in Ireland will be of the diesel variety. There are a number of TSI petrol units available, from the 125hp 1.4-litre up to the 260hp 3.6-litre V6, but petrol sales are so miniscule in the Superb range (currently accounting for two per cent) they are barely worth mentioning.
Instead we'll focus on the diesel engines that now, along with the lower powered petrol, all include stop-start and energy recuperation as standard. These measures, along with a more aerodynamic body, weight saving in the chassis and recalculated gear ratios, contribute to a 19 per cent improvement in efficiency for the flagship 170hp 2.0-litre TDI model, which now uses 4.6 litres/100km with CO2 emissions of 120g/km.
The 105hp 1.6-litre TDI version, either in standard or Greenline mode, will be the top seller, though with the Greenline saloon using 4.2 litres/100km and emissions of just 109g/km. While the economy figures cannot be questioned we do feel the engine is underpowered for such a large car. Around town or even on smaller roads it works adequately, but is found wanting on motorways where you find yourself having to work the transmission to make any sort of progress. At least the gearbox has been updated to a six-speed item over the current Greenline's five-speed unit, so when you do get up to cruising speed you can drive along in relative serenity; just don't expect to get there too soon. The non-Greenline 1.6 can now also be ordered with a seven-speed DSG transmission, which only marginally affects fuel consumption. but makes the Superb more limo-like to drive.
For our money the 140hp TDI engine is the best partner for the Superb. At 4.6 litres/100km and 119g/km CO2 (Combi estate is 121g/km) it is sixteen per cent more efficient than before, yet thanks to maximum torque of 320Nm being delivered at 1,750 rpm it never feels laboured.
What you get for your Money:
Prices are yet to be confirmed but it is expected that the updated Superb will be similar in price to the existing car with four trim lines - Active, Ambition, Elegance and range topping Laurin & Klement - repeated.
Active trim is probably best avoided as, with its bare minimum of equipment you would be better served in a mid-spec Octavia. Instead move to Ambition (as most Superb buyers do) and enjoy the 16-inch alloys, leather multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone air conditioning and the signature umbrella hidden in the rear passenger door.
Elegance trim boosts the alloy wheels to 17-inch items and adds more luxurious trim and seat covers, cruise control, rear parking sensors and electric seats.
For the full Superb affect the Laurin & Klement model includes leather as standard, 18-inch wheels, tinted windows, a 6 CD changer and parking sensors all around. L&K versions also feature unique colour combinations for both the interior and exterior.
While the combination of DSG transmission and four-wheel drive was previously offered with the 140hp 2.0 TDI engine, it never made it to the flagship 170hp diesel. That has been rectified with the facelift meaning you can now have the ultimate, go-anywhere (within reason) luxury cruiser.
With the 2013 Skoda Superb it is really a case of 'meet the new boss, same as the old boss', but when the old car was so good to begin with that is not necessarily a bad thing. For some the more modern looks of the facelift will appeal while others will see little value in opting for the new version when existing Superbs are likely to be discounted when the update arrives. Either way both buyers will be happy as they will have the best car in its class.