It has always been slightly confusing as to what the Skoda Superb is trying to be. It has the space and equipment to rival some large executives, but its price reveals it's positioned in-line with the best family cars.
For 2015, on paper at least, the Superb seems even better value than before. It's wider, longer and has a longer wheelbase than the outgoing model, but is also lighter, cleaner, more frugal and better equipped, too.
Estate, off-road 'Outdoor' and ultra clean and frugal Greenline models will all appear later in the year, but here we're driving the hatch as a best-selling diesel and niche high-powered 4x4 petrol.
Its competitive pricing and big space mean the Superb has a long list of possible rivals. However, with 70% of sales likely come from business users, it's Ford's Mondeo, Volkswagen's Passat and BMW's 3 Series Skoda will be most keen to steal sales from.
What is the 2015 Skoda Superb like to drive?
The Superb might be heavier than the equivalent Octavia, but the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine feels no less punchy in this larger car. It's pleasingly strong from as little as 1500rpm, but feels properly on-song by 1800rpm. It's a wide band of torque, too, which gives confidence when overtaking on fast country roads and the motorway.
The 276bhp 2.0 petrol is the same one fitted in the Seat Leon Cupra and Volkswagen Golf R - albeit detuned from the latter - and when pushed is extremely swift. It doesn't quite have the muscle of the six-cylinder petrol it replaces, but it's quicker to rev and is hot hatch-quick from a standstill and accelerating in gear.
It's the more refined of the engines we tried, too, staying smooth right across its rev range and only getting noisy past around 4000rpm - even then it's a sporty note rather than an annoyance. The diesel is quiet at idle and settles nicely at a cruise but does become vocal when pushed and sends some vibration through its pedals.
Both cars we tried came with Skoda's six-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Like in almost all its other incarnations, it continues to dither from standstill and manual downchanges can sometimes be slow. However, generally speaking, the auto 'box is smooth between changes and, left to its own devices, is a pleasant companion in and out of town.
The adaptive dampers, which were fitted to both test cars - have three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport, to slacken or stiffen the dampers at will. Normal gave the best indication of what a standard Superb might ride like; unfortunately, the experience wasn't great on large 18in alloy wheels.
Much like the smaller Octavia, the Superb becomes unsettled over rough roads at low speed and there's quite a bit of vertical body movement over bigger bumps and undulating roads. Switching to Comfort takes some sting out of the initial hit but brings even more body bounce. Sport keeps the body better tied down but causes the car to fidget more over sharp bumps.
While none of the settings help the ride, Sport does at least provide the best handling characteristics. Lateral movement is relatively well controlled in tight bends even in its more comfortable settings, but Sport keeps it to a minimum, as well as adding more weight at the wheel and giving you more confidence in the otherwise stable steering.
That's not to say the Superb doesn't turn well. There isn't much urgency from its front wheels, but learn to trust them and there's decent grip to exploit. Of course, once settled in to a fast bend, the sensation of grip is greater in the 4x4 model, helping you to push that bit harder. Ultimately, though, a Mondeo both rides and handles more impressively.
At low speeds, again, like the Octavia, the biggest disturbance inside a Superb is suspension noise, but build up to motorway speeds and it manages to keep road and wind noise outside well.
What is the 2015 Skoda Superb like inside?
As before, four tall adults will sit in complete comfort on a long journey, with much more room than in the Mondeo or Passat. Front and rear head- and legroom is brilliant, and now the Superb is wider, shoulder room is even better. It will still be a squeeze to fit three adults across the back seats, but it will do this better than most of its rivals.
The boot is 30 litres bigger than before, now a simply cavernous 625 litres. Again, that's easily bigger than all of its rivals'. There's quite a pronounced lip to haul bags over, but the space inside is deep and square. Gone, too, is the Superb's switchable hatchback-to-saloon boot lid, thankfully now just a practical hatch allowing brilliant access.
The rear seats split 60/40 and fold down using levers on each boot wall as standard. Once down, the seats lie almost flat, even if they do sit proud of the boot floor - meaning you'll need to lift long, heavy items over this step when sliding them in. With them down, a massive 1760 litres is available.
Our test cars were expensive SE L Executive and Laurin and Klement models, and their cabins looked and felt suitably well built and classy. Soft, dense plastics are found on the dash and door cards, as well as areas of stitched leather. From SE trim and up, Skoda now includes two umbrellas, one in each front door - a nice touch.
Ultimately, it's not quite a BMW 3 Series inside, but the Superb is verging on Passat territory and is some way clear of a Ford Mondeo.
Its infotainment system is better than a Mondeo's, too, and is the same basic system as found in VW's Passat. Ours was the biggest 8.0in touchscreen, which was bright, responsive and easy to navigate. BMW's even more intuitive iDrive system continues to lead the way, however.
All Superbs come with 16in alloy wheels, a leather multifunction steering wheel, air-con, Bluetooth, DAB radio, city braking technology and a 5.0in touch-screen infotainment system. SE models add bigger alloys, lumbar support, rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.
It makes more sense to buy SE business, though, as it gets more kit than SE, but for the same money. It adds Alcantara seats, climate control, front and rear parking sensors, and electronic parking brake and Skoda's larger 6.5in touchscreen with built-in sat-nav.
The more expensive SE L Executive and Larin and Klement trims don't make much financial sense, but add luxuries such as bi-xenon headlights, an electronic tailgate, leather heated seats, keyless entry and the even larger 8.0-in touchscreen system.
Should I buy one?
When judged against the equivalent Mondeo, Passat and 3 Series for value, there's no doubt you should. The Superb is extremely well equipped, very competitive on fuel economy and CO2 emissions and is vastly more spacious and practical.
The Passat has a slightly more expensive-feeling cabin, though, while the BMW's is even more plush. The Ford Mondeo still can't be beaten when it comes to the ride and handling either; it's noticeably more comfortable and agile.
We'll wait to see how a Superb on smaller wheels and standard suspension handles UK roads before giving our final verdict, but, its questionable ride aside, in most areas the Superb lives up to its name.
What Car? says...
Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 150
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £22,090
Torque 251lb ft
0-62mph 8.9 seconds
Top speed 135mph
Fuel economy 68.9mpg
Skoda Superb 2.0 TSI 280 4x4 DSG
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol
Price from £31,020
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 5.8 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy tbc