Excellent as long as you avoid entry-level petrols and diesels
Both the entry-level 123bhp petrol and 118bhp diesel engines feel a little lacklustre when the car is heavily laden. The 148bhp petrol engine, on the other hand, is easily gutsy enough to cope with a car this size, although you do need to rev it hard to make decent progress.
The 148bhp diesel isn’t quite as quick as the petrol but, with more torque lower down in the rev range, it offers better real-world pace; it’s also quicker than the equivalent Ford Mondeo. In fact, it’s so good that the higher-powered and more expensive 187bhp diesel isn’t worth the extra.
For a real turn of speed there’s the 2.0-litre petrol engine with 217bhp, or a super-quick version with 276bhp and four-wheel drive.
Skoda Superb ride comfort
Comfortable, but best avoid larger wheels
On standard suspension and smaller wheels the Superb rides very well, even when compared with the smooth-riding Ford Mondeo. Around town it deals admirably with patchy surfaces and large speed bumps, and it settles well on a motorway cruise. Because it’s so soft, the only problem is some unwanted body float along undulating roads.
Adaptive suspension is standard on the top of the range Laurin and Klement trim, and optional on everything else apart from the basic S version. The system enables you to choose between various modes, ranging from Comfort to Sport. In the softest Comfort setting the Superb wafts along, soaking up all but the sharpest of bumps, but as with the standard set-up, the trade-off is a fair amount of vertical movement over crests. Selecting Sport mode tightens everything up, but then you feel more general surface imperfections.
Whichever suspension option you choose, it’s best to avoid the larger 19in alloy wheels. These tend to make the ride more fidgety and prone to thumping over large intrusions. This is even more pronounced on the four-wheel-drive versions.
Skoda Superb handling
Safe and assured but a little dull
Whichever version you choose, the Superb offers safe, secure and predictable handling. The two-wheel-drive cars have plenty of grip, while four-wheel drive, which is available with the 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines, throws in added traction and better stability on greasy winter roads.
Although the steering offers little genuine feedback, it is at least precise and well weighted, making it easy to place the Superb where you want in corners and keep within your lane on the motorway. The brakes are strong, with enough feel through the pedal to make the Skoda easy to drive smoothly and with confidence.
That said, the Superb can feel a little dull. If you prefer a more exciting drive, you’ll find the Ford Mondeo a more engaging proposition, while the premium competition, such as the Audi A3 Saloon, BMW 3 Series and Jaguar XE, offer the most thrills for keen drivers.
Skoda Superb refinement
Only the gruff diesels spoil the party
At speed you get a flutter of wind noise from around the Superb’s windscreen and mirrors; larger wheels also cause some road noise, accompanied by tyre slap over motorway expansion joints. However, these are issues that could be levelled at any of the Superb’s chief rivals, and they don’t prevent the Skoda from being a relaxed cruiser.
The diesel engines - particularly the more powerful 187bhp version - are rattly from cold and slightly gruff under hard acceleration but settle to a distant hum at cruising speeds. You also feel some vibration through the controls, particularly the pedals. All the petrol engines are smooth and refined.
The manual versions have a slick gear change and a positive clutch action, which makes them easy to drive smoothly around town. The dual-clutch automatic gearbox on the other hand, which is offered with all engines bar the 1.4 TSI 125 petrol, can be jerky in stop-start traffic. Once on the open road it changes up and down through its ratios seamlessly, though.
We wouldn’t bother with this least powerful petrol engine and go for the much better 1.4 TSI 150 instead. The problem is 123bhp isn’t really enough to pull the big Superb, especially with a few people on board.
Our pick 1.4 TSI 150
The most recommendable petrol engine in the range; pulls well from low revs and remains refined even under load. Steady driving will produce decent fuel economy, while relatively low emissions make it affordable as a company car. Available with a manual or an automatic gearbox.
2.0 TSI 220
Offers plenty of power but it isn’t a cheap engine to run because of its relatively high CO2 emissions and higher than average fuel consumption. Available only with an automatic gearbox.
2.0 TSI 280
This is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. It looks completely standard from the outside but offers the pace to rival a BMW 330i. It’s very smooth and comes with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, but running costs are quite high. There's no manual gearbox option available.
1.6 TDI 120
This is the entry-level diesel engine in the range. It’s adequate but can struggle to pull such a big car, especially when fully laden. Greenline models use this engine but with longer gearing, which further hampers performance.
Our pick 2.0 TDI 150
This is our favourite engine in the Superb and is suitable for business users thanks to its low CO2 emissions. It can sound a bit gruff when you accelerate hard but the combination of strong performance and low running costs compensate. Available with a manual or an automatic gearbox.
2.0 TDI 190
The more powerful diesel has a bit more punch but the margin over the less powerful version isn’t worth the extra noise and higher running costs. Available with a manual or an automatic gearbox.