As the flagship of Czech car-maker ŠKODA’s model lineup, the SUPERB brings a distinct sense of identity in a package that just keeps on giving. Ultra-competitive pricing, truly-generous passenger and cargo space, impressive quality and equipment and refined, secure on-road performance are just some of its strengths. At $45,690 drive-away, the entry-level ŠKODA SUPERB 162TSI wagon is hard to beat as a family car.
Low expectations can often be a fortuitous thing. In some ways, not expecting too much from a new experience, or a new thing, is a hedge against disappointment. In others it’s a matter of trying hard not to pre-judge. And, many times, it’s simply realistic: you just know you’re about to be let down.
Dealing with Volkswagen-owned Czech manufacturer premium model, the 2019 ŠKODA SUPERB wagon, low expectations are a matter of yielding to perceptions that are rooted in the past.
Even though ŠKODA’s these days are still seen as lower-cost alternatives to more familiar Euro models – particularly those in the Volkswagen group – this is far from implying there are any compromises in its range.
To the contrary, ŠKODA is more than a match for established brands, in terms of the quality and capabilities of its products, its warranty provisions and, as current indicators would seem to have it, in the resale values of its expanding Australian fleet.
The new ŠKODA SUPERB, more than any other current ŠKODA locally on sale, is proof that the company is a worthy contender in the prestige sector. In wagon form, it has the sub-$70,000 large-car class almost to itself.
Priced from $45,690 drive-away for the entry-level 162TSI model tested here and peaking at $55,290 for the range-topping AWD 206TSI, its only so-called full-size competitor is Holden’s new Commodore – which isn’t in the prestige class anyway. There’s a new Peugeot 508 coming, but it’s not here yet and that means, really, that the closest thing to a genuine SUPERB wagon rival right now is Volkswagen’s minimally-smaller Passat.
Mid-sizers a step down in status, such as the Ford’s Mondeo and the Mazda6 – and even the Commodore – tend to meet the ŠKODA at their most expensive (albeit prior to on-road costs) price-points where the SUPERB is only just starting.
Room to breathe
There can be no questioning the ŠKODA SUPERB’s provision of internal breathing room.
There’s more than ample stretching space for full-size passengers travelling in front or rear, and the maximum, all seats down luggage area is quoted at a massive 1950 litres. Even with all seats up, a generous 660 litres is available to swallow a sizeable mountain of cargo.
And, above the properly-supportive seats and the wealth of simply-clever ŠKODA thoughtfulness (such as the umbrellas secreted in both outboard front armrests, the carpeted, removable floor-well footrests and the little rubbish bins in the front-door pockets), there’s always the underlying sense of quality you’d have a right to expect of a car in this price range.
Although the dark-grey interior colour choices in our particular car tended towards mono-chromatic and drab, there was no doubting the general passenger amenity – there are central rear air vents, cooling for the glovebox and front central storage bin, plus roll-up side window blinds – or the overall quality of this entry-level SUPERB.
It was all helped in our case by the inclusion of the $1500 Comfort Pack which added leather trim, power adjustment not just for the driver, but also the front-seat passenger, heated seats everywhere and switches high on the front-passenger’s seat backrest that could be activated from the rear seats, or by the driver.
An extra $4300 had also been spent on ŠKODA’s Tech Pack which, in addition to the standard (low speed) autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and wireless phone charging, brought adaptive chassis control and added safety features including automatic parking, traffic jam assist, a hands-free tailgate and a premium 12-speaker audio system.
The ŠKODA SUPERB comes with the omnipresent feeling that you are experiencing something special. The dash is clean and minimalist, yet features technology you’ll find in prestige Volkswagen group cars from Volkswagen or Audi, including hand-swipe activation of the colour LCD display that brings access to things like sat-nav, radio and phone.
And the touch-screen controls are more user-friendly than many: They’re within easy reach and feature landing pads that are large enough to be quickly identified and activated. As also are the rotating knobs on the steering wheel spokes that are identifiable by feel and can be operated without the need to take your attention away from the road.
From both driver and passenger perspectives, the SUPERB wagon always feels composed and, providing the rear seat isn’t folded, quiet on the move. Drop the 60:40 split fold back seat to open up that massive luggage area and you’ll notice the noise levels increase noticeably. More than some other wagons, the ŠKODA SUPERB is prone to the internal harmonics created by a large, unsupported roofline extending from the A-pillars to the D-pillars. It’s not to a disturbing degree, but a noticeable hush does descend once the rear seats and cargo blind are returned to their original positions.
Moving to stand still
And though the 162kW/350Nm 162TSI direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo might play second fiddle to the power-rich 206kW 206TSI version (although both engines produce the same torque), it copes comfortably with the 1510kg tare weight, quoting a swift 7.1sec for the zero to 100km/h sprint (5.8sec for the 206 TSI).
It’s also well-matched to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, only let down by an initial tardiness when moving off from a standing start. The quick-shifting transmission also offers steering wheel paddles to satisfy the driver who likes a certain amount of self-control.
And there are very few moments in a normal day’s driving when you’ll be aware the 162TSI SUPERB wagon is a front-driver. Torque-steer under acceleration is, to all intents and purposes, absent and there’s no tendency towards front-wheel slip when you encounter a smattering of gravel spread across a sealed bitumen surface.
With its adaptive suspension, the test car bordered on SUPERB (pun intended) in terms of its ability to swallow any of the bumps you’d normally expect to find on a reasonably well-maintained road. Yet the big wagon pointed with precision and the steering’s well-judged weighting (and nice, fat wheel) made it feel more like a driver’s car than you might have expected.
And we didn’t do too badly with fuel economy either, recording 8.0L/100km on test which could be considered reasonable even if the official claim is 6.7L/100km. The only downside is that ŠKODA asks you to top up your 162TSI SUPERB wagon with 95 RON unleaded fuel as a minimum.
In terms of the retained values that have long been a sticking point with ŠKODA, it appears the tide is turning. According to Redbook values, a 2017 ŠKODA Super wagon will retain something like 72 per cent of its new price while a Volkswagen Passat wagon of the same age works out to around 69 per cent.
The figures degenerate with older models but, with the company’s pro-active approach to shoring up values by extending the warranty to five years and offering a guaranteed future value finance option, it seems right now that the only way for ŠKODA is up.
And, rather than being seen as a brand that has the potential to bring long-term ownership woes, the carefully-nurtured, distinct individuality of all ŠKODA’s is actually building a degree of – shall we say – upmarket street-credibility.
Something that many a proletarian car manufacturer would die for.