The Skoda Superb Combi delivers a masterclass on how to design and build what might well be the ultimate estate car. In its latest guise, it is not only an extremely good-looking car but also one that offers a high quality interior and masses of space. Topping that off, it performs better on the road than many of its main rivals.
In the Metal:
We reckon it's easy to design a good-looking saloon, but as is often the case when it comes the turn of the estate version to be penned much of that initial style is conceded for practicality. Not so with the new Skoda Superb Combi, in fact it could be argued that in estate guise it is even better looking than the Superb saloon - a car that we already rate very highly.
Styling at the front of the car is dominated by a bold grille and large yet sleek headlights that feature a very distinctive signature through the LED daytime running lights. Back along the clamshell bonnet and flanks of the car it is sharp lines and high precision creases that are the order of the day. This gives the car a very distinctive appearance, which in certain colours really stands out. The rear of the Superb carries a very similar look to the saloon and benefits from a reasonably sized rear window that gives good levels of visibility, though you'll still be relying on the rear parking sensors in some cases.
Where the Superb will surprise most is in the area of interior quality. The fit and finish throughout the cabin are very good with high quality stitching on cars equipped with leather and plastics that, to the look and touch, are better than those found in the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Toyota Avensis. There are plenty of generously sized storage areas inside too, with a big glovebox, deep door card bins and a storage box under the centre armrest. Skoda's engineers have even equipped each front door with an umbrella that stows cleverly inside. As for the boot space, well you get a 660-litre capacity - more than the Ford Mondeo (525 litres) and Opel Insignia (540 litres) estates for example. The rear seats easily fold down and this sees boot capacity grow to a huge 1,950 litres, which eclipses its rivals.
You can have the option of an all-wheel drive transmission in the Superb Combi, though unless you plan on either venturing further afield or want to ensure you never get stranded in winter there's not so much of a need for it. The front-wheel drive setup is very good and with the six-speed DSG automatic gearbox in this case works well at delivering smooth cruising at higher speeds and a relaxing drive at town speeds. Both the 2.0-litre TDI engine and DSG transmission might not be the first choice for many buyers, perhaps preferring the cheaper manual 1.6-litre TDI model, but it is a good combination - some will see the €4,900 premium as money better spent elsewhere. Incidentally, the 1.6-litre TDI engine can be specified with a seven-speed DSG transmission for €2,000 over the price of the manual.
Whether loaded up or not the Superb Combi delivers a drive that is refined - the cabin is well insulated from engine noise and there isn't a great deal of road rumble either. The range-topping Style model is equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels that aren't too big as to impinge on the ride quality, though if it's a big luxurious cruise you're after the mid-level Ambition trim's 16-inch wheels will add more comfort. Thanks to its MQB platform, the car is some 23mm longer than the previous Superb Combi though it has extended its wheelbase by 80mm benefitting passenger comfort, but also the mid-corner stability by having its wheels pushed further towards the corners of the car. The suspension has a slightly firm bias but it performs well over a variety of surfaces.
What you get for your Money:
Aside from one of the largest interiors in the segment, Skoda has put together some good equipment levels in the Superb range. All cars, starting with the Active trim grade, get dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a speed limiter and hill assist in addition to the usual safety assistance systems.
Most buyers are likely to see the best value for money in the mid-level Ambition grade. This is a €2,500 price walk from the Active trim, but you get a good deal more; most notable are the Bolero touchscreen infotainment system that includes MirrorLink, Smart Link and Apple Car Play smartphone connectivity. Buyers also get bi-Xenon lights, LED taillights, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, automatic windscreen wipers, a Maxi Dot central dashboard display and heated front seats. Annoyingly, a reversing camera doesn't come as standard on this trim grade.
That should be enough to keep most happy but if you're after more luxury, spending a further €3,700 will get you a full leather interior, ambient and rear footwell lighting, electrically adjustable driver's seat and three-zone air conditioning. There's also an eight-inch Columbus display that includes satellite navigation.
Ford Mondeo Estate: drives well but neither as practical nor accommodating as the Skoda. Or, dare we say it, as attractive.
Volkswagen Passat Estate: bereft of character and more expensive than the Superb; to pick this over the Skoda you'd have to be a huge Volkswagen aficionado.
Mazda6 Estate: great style and something a bit different, we love the 6... but we reckon the Skoda has it covered in all departments.
Skoda has carved out a healthy reputation for offering spacious, practical cars so it's fitting that the Superb Combi, its range-topping vehicle, should excel in these areas. It has more than enough room to suit most people's needs and it's all wrapped up in a very good-looking package. The fact that it drives every bit as well as the more expensive Volkswagen Passat only serves to strengthen the Skoda's case.