What Car? says...
Think of the Skoda Superb executive car as the Professor Brian Cox of motoring – like the TV physicist, it's a world expert on space. You see, in saloon car terms, the Superb is galactic inside.
We're not saying the Superb has enough room inside to let you do a moonwalk across the parcel shelf, but you and your passengers can certainly have a good stretch out as you orbit London on the M25. There’s more to a large executive car than merely its proportions, though, so what's the Superb like beyond its capaciousness?
So, is the Superb also generously equipped, comfortable, affordable, well made and good to drive? And which of the engines should you opt for, which is the best trim and is it the best executive car you can buy?
We’ll answer all those points over the next few pages of this Skoda Superb review, and also compare it with the main rivals as we rate its performance and handling, practicality, running costs and more.
Those rivals include some big names from premium brands, including the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, the Jaguar XE and the Mercedes C-Class. You might also be considering the more expensive but sportier Alfa Romeo Giulia.
In this review, we’re focusing on the Superb hatchback, which could carry a small satellite in its boot. If that's not big enough for you, there’s a truly gargantuan estate car version (see our Skoda Superb Estate review to read about that).
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you fancy a petrol engine, the entry-level 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 is surprisingly punchy, with enough mid-range guts to cope with the Skoda Superb's size. If you work it hard, it'll hit 0-62mph in a respectable 9.2sec and, with costs factored in, it's our pick of the range. If you need more power, go for the livelier 187bhp 2.0 TSI 190, or the 276bhp 2.0 TSI 280, which hits 62mph from rest in just 5.3sec.
The 148bhp 2.0 TDI 150 diesel might not feel rapid (0-62mph is a decent 9.1sec but that's a little slower than the Audi A4 35 TDI), but if you're likely to carry heavy loads or tow, it's got healthy low-down grunt. You can make handsome progress without needing to pay extra for the 197bhp 2.0 TDI 200 diesel, plus you can relax by not working it as hard as a petrol.
The only fly in the ointment is that the standard-fit automatic gearbox isn't as responsive as the best out there, tending to dither when you want to make a quick getaway to join a busy roundabout.
Suspension and ride comfort
While the Superb doesn't join the A4 among the best-riding cars in the class, it’s not far off and proves softer than the BMW 3 Series. If you want to put comfort first, stick to the smallest 17in alloy wheels that come with the lower trims. That said, the ride is hardly crude in Sportline Plus trim, with its big 19in alloy wheels and stiffer suspension settings.
The regular trims on their standard suspension soak up large speed bumps and expansion joints with ease and settle down nicely at motorway cruising speed. Due to the set-up being quite soft, the Superb is prone to feeling a little floaty on undulating country roads (less so with the stiffer Sportline Plus trim) and its body less controlled than the A4 and the 3 Series.
Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) is what Skoda calls its adaptive suspension. It's optional on all trims from SE L, and standard if you opt for the top Laurin & Klement trim. Driving in the softest Comfort mode is a lovely experience, like bobbing gently up and down on a waterbed as bumps come and go beneath you. Selecting Normal mode tightens it up a bit but it’s still very supple, while Sport mode is fairly firm.
The steering is accurate and light, which helps when manoeuvring in town, and it gains enough weight as the speed increases. The Superb is set up for comfort rather than careering around corners though, so the level of feedback you get with sportier offerings – such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia, the 3 Series and the Jaguar XE – just isn’t there.
It doesn't have the 3 Series' pin-sharp body control, either. It leans more in bends when you press on, but still has plenty of grip, and never feels less than safe, secure and predictable. Four-wheel drive – which is optional on the 2.0 TDI 200 SE L (but not the other trim lines) and mandatory for the 2.0 TSI 280 – gives you added traction for tackling greasy winter roads.
Sportline Plus trim is the closest the Superb gets to feeling sporty. It has ‘progressive dynamic steering', which varies its weight according to how much steering lock you apply, and stiffer suspension to reduce body lean. It's still not that sporty, though.
Noise and vibration
At speed, you’ll hear a flutter of wind noise and some low-level road roar, but, on the whole, the Superb is a calm cruiser. The larger wheel and tyre options kick up more of the latter and some added tyre slap over motorway expansion joints. If you want something quieter, try the A4, which is one of the most hushed executive cars.
The A4 also has some of the quietest engines around, especially its diesels. Again, the Superb’s engines aren't as good, but they're not raucous under acceleration and fade to a distant hum at motorway speeds.
The dual-clutch automatic gearbox (which is standard with every Superb) can be jerky in stop-start traffic and when you're edging into a parking space, but remains smooth when you’re on the move.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
All versions of the Skoda Superb have a multiway adjustable steering wheel, although the reach extension it offers isn't as good as in the BMW 3 Series. A height-adjustable driver’s seat and adjustable lumbar support are also standard, and from SE Technology trim, the driver's seat is electrically adjustable with memory settings.
With electric adjustment fitted, the driver’s seat doesn't drop down as low as the manually adjustable version, but either version will be supportive on a long trip. A large adjustable centre armrest is fitted to all models.
The standard digital dials are easily customisable, allowing you to display regular dials, or minimise them and devote the 10.3in screen to another use, such as showing a full sat-nav map. The rest of the dashboard is supremely easy to use, with thoughtfully positioned and simple physical buttons for most features.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
There’s a suitably superb view out to the front and sides because of the slim windscreen pillars and large door mirrors. It’s much the same story at the rear, with the view over your shoulder unimpeded by large pillars. The good view out of the back window means it’s easy to judge the proximity of the rear bumper to objects. Unlike with the Audi A4 and the 3 Series, you can add a rear wiper for free.
Parking is made even easier thanks to all trims getting front and rear parking sensors as standard, while a rear-view camera is a reasonably priced option or standard on the top Laurin & Klement trim.
Visibility is just as good at night. You get bright LED dipped and main-beam headlights fitted as standard, but it’s worth considering jumping to SE L trim for its excellent matrix LED adaptive headlights. They adapt their light output automatically to shadow the cars in front, so you can leave them on main beam without dazzling other road users.
Sat nav and infotainment
Entry-level SE trim gets an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, a DAB radio, voice control, and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. From SE Technology, you also get built-in sat-nav. Sportline Plus and Laurin & Klement models have a larger, 9.2in touchscreen that can display 3D maps and has enhanced connectivity.
Both versions have decent screen definition, easy-to-follow menus and software that's healthily responsive – although not always free of bugs. The buttons around the screen make flitting between menus quicker, but it’s annoying that they're touch-sensitive rather than ‘proper’ buttons. Some features can be controlled using the simple steering wheel controls or the fairly reliable voice control.
For a touchscreen-based system, the Superb's infotainment is fine, but we prefer the rotary iDrive controller in the 3 Series, which is linked to the best software around. If you're a music lover, you might appreciate the upgraded 12-speaker, 610W Canton sound system. It’s standard with Laurin & Klement trim and optional on all other versions.
It’s hard to fault the Superb's quality. The panel gaps are tight and its doors close with a reassuring thud. Inside, the materials are generally tip-top and appear well put together – more consistently than they are in the Mercedes C-Class in fact.
Attention to detail impresses, too. There are pleasant soft-touch materials on the upper interior surfaces, chrome elements, carpeted door bins and rubber-lined cubbies. Any harsher materials are generally restricted to out-of-sight regions. Even the switches are well damped.
We’re not claiming it’s the best there is, though. This class includes the beautifully made A4 and 3 Series, and the Superb isn't up to their standards.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s more room in the front of the Skoda Superb than you'll find in many premium executive cars – including the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class – so head and leg room won't be an issue unless you're really big. The interior is wider than average, which means there's plenty of shoulder and elbow room.
There are also lots of storage options, including a large air-conditioned glovebox, cupholders in the centre console and a hinged cubby below the steering wheel. The door bins are large and shaped to hold a 500ml bottle.
In true Skoda style, thoughtful touches include a sunglasses holder by the rear-view mirror and space for an umbrella to be stowed neatly inside each front door (you get one umbrella as standard).
Not many cars this side of a Mercedes S-Class offer as much rear leg or head room as the Superb. If your regular passengers are over six feet tall and you want them to have the space to relax, it's unparalleled at the price and certainly the one for you. Getting in and out is easy, thanks to its wide-opening doors and low sills.
The middle passenger isn't quite as well off. With a slightly raised perch, head room is reduced, and they'll also have to straddle the bulky central floor hump. For those of moderate height, though, the seat is comfortable enough to occupy for a reasonable distance.
The fold-down centre armrest includes two cupholders. There are two map pockets on the backs of the front seats and each door has a pocket that’ll hold a 500ml bottle.
Seat folding and flexibility
The rear seats are split 60/40, but there's also a ski hatch in the middle seat, allowing you to have two people in the rear with a long thin item (e.g. skis) between them. A fold-flat front seat is available with certain trims. That lets you carry extra-long loads, stretching from the tailgate right up to the dashboard.
The rear seatbacks can be lowered by pulling a lever on the top of each backrest. You can pay a bit more to have release levers next to the boot opening.
'Vast' is the best way to describe the Superb's boot. At 625 litres with the rear seats in place, there’s enough room to carry a whopping 10 carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf. Annoyingly, there’s a sizeable lip at the boot’s entrance, and no option of a variable-height floor, but the wide-opening hatchback tailgate means that it’s still easier to load bulky items than it will be in a saloon car, such as the BMW 3 Series.
Helpful standard features include hooks to hang shopping bags on, a large cubby on either side of the main boot area and a rechargeable torch. You also get two plastic dividers with Velcro feet, which can be attached anywhere on the boot floor to help secure loose items. A powered tailgate is standard on SE L and Sportline Plus, which includes hands-free opening on Laurin & Klement trim.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Keen list prices and competitive PCP finance rates make the Skoda Superb a shrewd private buy, but you'll pay even less if you look at our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. Competitive servicing costs make the best-selling versions relatively cheap to run, but depreciation over three years is predicted to be worse than some premium alternatives, including the BMW 3 Series.
If you’re a company car user, your best option is the entry-level diesel engine, as it produces the lowest CO2 emissions and therefore sits in a lower benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax band than the other engines. Even so, it can’t compete with plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class which have far lower CO2 emissions.
Private buyers will be happy to know that the Superb is pretty economical. Indeed, even our favourite engine, the entry-level 1.5 TSI 150 promises up to 44mpg – something we can believe. Those after even more efficiency will be interested in the diesels, with the smallest 2.0 TDI 150 officially managing up to 56mpg and the 2.0 TDI 200 around 52mpg.
Equipment, options and extras
Even the entry-level SE model has plenty of goodies, so don't feel under pressure to move up the trims if you're on a tight budget. It comes with 17in alloy wheels, cruise control, power-folding door mirrors, keyless start, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and dual-zone climate control. That's on top of the parking aids and infotainment features we've covered already.
If you step up to SE Technology, your Superb comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, privacy glass and adaptive cruise control.
We recommend going for our favourite SE L trim if it's within your budget. That will add 18in alloy wheels, dynamic indicators and keyless entry – plus the electrically operated tailgate and matrix LED headlights. Beyond that trim, the equipment lists get longer but the price advantage of the Superb starts to wane.
Skoda as a brand finished in a respectable 13th out of 32 manufacturers in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. That’s way below Lexus, which topped the table, but above all of the Superb’s rivals, including BMW (16th), Audi (21st), Mercedes (23rd) and Jaguar (26th).
The Superb comes with a three-year/60,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty and 12-year anti-corrosion guarantee. That's helpful, but beaten by the unlimited-mileage warranties offered by BMW and Mercedes, and the standard seven-year warranty you get from Kia. You can extend the Superb's warranty to five years or 100,000 miles for a reasonable one-off cost.
Safety and security
When it was tested by the experts at Euro NCAP the Superb scored the maximum five-star rating for safety. That was, however, back in 2015 and the rating has since expired. Testing has got more stringent since then, meaning that the C-Class, which scored five stars in 2022, will potentially keep you safer in an accident.
At least every Superb comes with plenty of standard safety equipment, including stability control, seven airbags – including a driver’s knee bag – and a post-collision braking system. All important automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection is also fitted to help reduce the risk of low-speed collisions. Meanwhile, blind-spot monitoring is optional on entry-level SE trim but standard from SE Technology.
The Superb comes with an alarm and immobiliser as standard, and security experts at Thatcham Research awarded the car five out of five for its resistance to theft and four out of five for safeguarding against being broken into.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Our favourite version of the Superb is a combination of the entry-level 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 petrol engine and the mid-spec SE L trim. That gives you a smooth engine with plenty of power and lots of standard equipment without breaking the bank.
The main difference between SE trim and our favourite SE L trim is the amount of equipment you get and the price. SE is the entry-level trim, so it costs the least, but it's well-equipped, with 17in alloy wheels, LED headlights and dual-zone climate control. SE L upgrades the wheels to 18in, and adds matrix LED headlights, an electrically-adjustable driver’s seat and other kit.
Yes – it earns a full five-star rating from our road testers. It's incredibly practical thanks to its size, the interior is impressive and you get lots of standard equipment for a competitive price. Indeed, it holds its own against the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series in the competitive executive car class.