The Superb iV plug-in hybrid opens Skoda's electric account as a cheaper rival to the Volkswagen Passat GTE and BMW 330e. Smooth and slick, it's also temptingly economical if you drive it right.
In the metal
You'll have to be paying quite close attention to tell the Skoda Superb iV plug-in hybrid apart from its more conventionally-powered brethren. Because the charging flap for the battery is tucked behind the radiator grille, there's really only the 'iV' badge on the boot to give the game away. Other than that, this is as the rest of the Superb range, updated this year with new lights, mildly tweaked styling and some new alloy wheel and colour options. It's a handsome beast - sleeker in person than you're expecting, and it responds well to some options. Our Style-spec test car (which will be the best-selling version in Ireland) looks good enough, but go for the pricier Sportline model, and pick both black alloy wheels and the gorgeous almost-matte finish grey paint option and you've got a seriously good-looking car.
As ever with the Superb, it's even better inside. The iV version comes with standard digital instruments and the eight-inch central touchscreen, so the cabin looks expensive as you sit in. Space and seat comfort have always been Superb high points, as has the sheer acreage of rear legroom, and nothing has changed there. The Superb remains one of the best-built and most comfortable cars around.
But, wait, record-scratch-sound-effect! The boot is smaller. A vast load space has long been a Superb calling card, but the need to package the large 13kWh battery, as well as a 50-litre fuel tank, means that something has to give, and that something is the boot. Capacity for this hatchback version falls by 22 per cent to 485 litres - still a reasonably respectable figure, but not the vastness that we're used to. The Combi estate suffers similarly, sacrificing 150 litres to end up with a 510-litre boot. Now, the Superb is still practical and useful, but it is just a little less so, and that does take some of the shine off.
The overwhelming impression of driving the Superb iV is one of refinement. That's perhaps hardly surprising, as of course when it's running in electric mode, there's no engine noise. Even when the engine does join in, the 1.4 TSI is generally pretty quiet (although it does become a touch thrashy as you reach for the redline) so progress is smooth and silent most of the time.
Fully charge the battery (which takes between three and five hours, depending on the output of the socket you've hooked it up to) and Skoda claims that you can go for fully 62km without using the petrol engine. Most likely, in real-world conditions, you'll manage more like 45-50km, and thanks to some extended running on Dutch motorways at speeds of up to 130km/h, we recorded 35km from a 98 per cent charged battery before the Superb asked for petrol assistance.
You can charge the battery as you drive, too, and this process is pretty efficient - we managed to top it up to 56 per cent from flat in less than half-an-hour's driving. Obviously that won't be good for your overall fuel consumption.
Running in hybrid mode seems to elicit good fuel economy, though. Over 122km of driving around Amsterdam (noted for its lack of hills, so often a favoured location for car makers to launch new electric and hybrid models), we scored an average of 3.4 litres per 100km. I suspect in Irish conditions, you'd probably be looking at an average figure of around 5.0-6.5 litres per 100km, so it should be comparable with diesel running costs, overall. Better yet, if your daily commute is relatively short, and you can charge up at work, you could conceivably make it through the week without ever using the petrol engine - which is, of course, the point.
In handling terms, the Superb iV generally follows the regular Superb playbook - smooth and steady, and it prefers not to be rushed through corners too much. Ride comfort is exceptionally good, but if you're looking for drawbacks, you can certainly feel the extra weight and heft of the electrical system, and the brake pedal feel as you go from regenerative braking to mechanical braking is a little mushy and inconsistent.
What you get for your money
A price of over €40,000 might still seem like rather a lot of money to pay, but the Superb iV does represent rather good value. It's cheaper than the mechanically identical Passat GTE for example, and it's available across Ambition, Style, Sportline and Laurin & Klement model lines. Extra toys over and above a petrol or diesel Ambition include dynamic chassis control, the bigger infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, online services with a year's subscription and a multi-function digital display - you do have to sacrifice the spare wheel for a repair kit, though.
If you're a medium-haul commuter, and have a driveway so you can charge at home, there's very little reason not to buy one of these. The Skoda Superb iV is smooth, refined, economical (if you keep it charged regularly) and still has that soothingly comfortable and beautifully made cabin. Electric enough for now? We think so.