Oliver Hammond is back on the road to review the best business cars for Talk Business. This month he has taken the ŠKODA Superb SE for a spin.
Rather like a kid who was the butt of most school jokes until a cool and intelligent classmate took him under their wing and helped sharpen his image and boost his confidence to the point where all the girls started to take note, ŠKODA is one hell of a transformation story after joining the VW fold. Once upon a time, perceiving a ŠKODA as an object of desire may well have won you a ride with some nice people wearing white coats.
Fast forward to 2015 and the latest ŠKODA Superb is nothing but desirable, its vast proportions adeptly carried by the masterly hewn styling, characterised by sharp, elegant lines that whisper, not shout. The confident grille is flanked by subtly aggressive Bi-Xenon headlights, and sexily captivating front and rear LEDs bring a healthy dose of modernity to the mix. The all-new Superb leads the class when it comes to aesthetics, bettering its Volkswagen Group cousin, the Passat, plus the Mondeo, Insignia, Avensis et al, but it does so in an almost apologetic manner. Only the Mazda6 really stands in the ŠKODA’s way in the sector, and the Superb doesn’t even appear incongruous alongside the A6, E Class and5 Series from the class above.
The ‘SE L Executive’ specification Superb I tested for a week sits just below the range-topping 4×4 Laurin & Klement models and although it’s not quite up to Audi standards, its interior is robustly constructed – fastidiously so, in fact – and certainly surpasses most other rivals on quality, matching VW in the process. I would specify my Superb with full quilted leather in a lighter colour, but the Alcantara seats with leather outers are supremely comfortable nonetheless. The 8-inch touchscreen, which houses the Columbus satellite navigation system, DAB, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and other multimedia systems looks sophisticated and is logical to operate as part of a cabin that is ergonomically impressive. An optional TV tuner can be fitted to the Superb, but curiously, no reversing camera is mentioned.
ŠKODA‘s flagship has long been renowned for providing an immense amount of space for the price tag, and luggage capacity along with head, shoulder, elbow and legroom are positively copious inside this all-new model, partly owing to it sitting on a longer and wider platform. Offering a ridiculously massive 625 litres with the rear seats raised and 1,760 litres when folded, it trounces the Mondeo hatchback for size and even beats the Audi A6 Avant in litres. The previous incarnation incorporated a unique ‘twindoor’ tailgate that could be opened in a hatchback or saloon manner. This design quirk has been dropped, the new Superb’s boot opening conventionally like a hatchback, albeit electrically at the push of a button – or even the gesture of a foot under the rear bumper, if the right option is ticked.
The brand’s Simply Clever ethos means that, as is typical across the marque’s entire range, the latest Superb incorporates a veritable explosion of genuinely useful and practical features. For starters, an umbrella is holstered inside each of the front doors, which is mighty useful if you live in the UK. I live in Manchester, but I’ll say no more. There’s an ice scraper clipped on the inside of the fuel filler cap, saving any frantic fumbling in the porch or garage when winter arrives. The boot light doubling as a rechargeable torch is ingenious, as is the cleverly designed front cupholder, which allows the singlehanded unscrewing of a bottle top. Myriad nets, straps, compartments, cubbies, waste bins and other storage aids complete the package, making the new Superb excellent for families. My test car was fitted with Park Assist, which takes the stress out of parallel and perpendicular parking, and the Superb has been given a 5-star safety rating by EURO NCAP.
Airport transfer, chauffeur firms and upmarket taxi companies all love this Czech hero in hatchback guise and particularly as an estate, and ŠKODA‘s primary market is actually the company sector, aiming to peel fleet drivers away from Mondeo, Insignia, Passat and even A4, C Class and 3 Series at a push. CAP has forecast class-leading 48% residuals after 36 months and, heck, even my local mayor is wafted around in a Superb hatch.
On the road, Comfort and Sport modes are selectable using Dynamic Chassis Control and the latter does what it says on the tin, firming up the chassis and sharpening the throttle response for more zealous driving – but the Superb is probably best suited to the smooth ride availed by Standard mode. The previous generation Superb felt as light as a feather to drive and the new model follows suit, the fact it has lost 75kg working in its favour. Diesel thrum is discernible when it’s given the beans and the occasionally CVT-esque DSG automatic gearbox is kicked down, but otherwise, it’s a creamy experience, nicely insulated from the outside world, with barely perceptible gear shifts. The steering could still do with more of a connected, communicative feel, but the suspension is damped nicely and the large Czech hatchback doesn’t end up red-faced in the corners. During my week with it, I covered 250 miles, divided equally between urban/rural and motorway driving, and averaged 52.4mpg in the process, which is pretty good, having chauffeured four elves at one point. Don’t ask.
Priced at £31,625 as tested, this 2-litre, 190PS Superb with 18” wheels emits 119g/km CO2 and sits in VED band C, meaning its BIK rate is 21% for year one and 25% for year three. The less gutsy and lower-equipped Superb models will likely prove the fleet darlings, but for entrepreneurs, contractors and private motorists seeking a bit of luxury, SE L Executive trim provides serious bang for one’s buck.
ŠKODA Superb company car leasing deals for businesses start from as little as £208.99+VAT per month from Contracthireacar.com for a hatchback in 1.6 TDI CR S specification, with the as-tested 2.0 TDI in SE L Executive guise offered at £261.99+VAT per month. Their personal contract hire offers on the new ŠKODA Superb commence at £250.99 per month including VAT.
The all-new ŠKODA Superb is unarguably desirous and in most ways does indeed live up to its name. Having assertively shed any remnants of a classroom joker image, the ŠKODA brand is now something of a teacher’s pet – but a cool one, at that.
Words: Oliver Hammond — Photography: Isabel Carter