Ambition Dogged by Image Issues
December 19, 2013
The Superb has everything you’d expect from a luxury car. It’s comfortable, safe and well equipped, and at the same time relatively easy on the pocket. The only problem is that customers don’t see it as a luxury car. At least not yet.
The Superb is among the largest models in its class. At 4.83 meters long, it is a substantial presence on the road. However, the design may leave some cold, even though a facelift a year ago slightly improved the car’s appearance. Its large ribbed grille with the new Skoda logo (without the green background) combined with new-look headlights and a well sculpted hood give the car a muscly feel. The rear is calm, if not a bit boring. The large LED taillights, despite their rather banal styling, are nevertheless the main attraction when you look at the car from the rear. The taillights extend onto the fenders and make the car appear wider. They are also more expressive than in the previous version. Fortunately, the designers moved the number plate from the fender to where it belongs: between the rear lights.
Alas, seen from the side, the car remains unchanged. And it’s hard to find any harmony in the proportions of the body. It’s like someone stuck together two different cars—the Skoda’s light and dynamic front contrasts with its heavy, sturdy rear. In the automotive industry, this trick has only worked for two cars, the Maserati Quattroporte and the Saab 9-5. And the Superb still has a long way to go before it catches up with either of these.
Paradoxically, the design, which is the main drawback of the Superb, is at the same time its biggest strength. No middle-range or executive car matches the Skoda when it comes to the roominess of the passenger cabin. Even when the front seats are moved all the way back, there is plenty of legroom as well as headroom for backseat passengers.
In addition, depending on preference, the Skoda can be either a four-door sedan or morph into a five-door liftback. The concept is called “Twindoor.” There are two buttons under the tailgate handle: one opens only the trunk, while the other opens the trunk together with the rear window. Another thing going for the Skoda is the capacity of its luggage compartment. The Superb’s trunk is a generous 595 liters, which means it will accommodate just about any baggage you want to carry.
The dashboard may not be perfect but is beyond reproach in terms of clarity and ergonomics. It slightly resembles those used in some older Audi models. The finishing materials used inside the vehicle are of a high standard. You can see that in terms of quality the Skoda is aiming for the premium class.
The Superb comes with a wide range of safety and driving comfort features. These include a set of front, side and curtain airbags plus a driver’s knee airbag, as well as a full gamut of active and passive safety systems such as ABS/ESP, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, a multifunction steering wheel, and parking sensors at the front and rear of the vehicle. Travel comfort is guaranteed by a dual-zone, automatic Climatronic air-conditioning system, Audio/CD/MP3, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, and heated rear seats. The exceptional attention to detail is evident—the producer has even provided a folding umbrella cleverly hidden in the rear doors, as well as footrests attached to the mats. Generally, what other automakers offer as an option Skoda offers as a standard feature. And all for under zl.140,000.
The test-drive unit was fitted with a powerful turbodiesel engine perfectly matched with an automatic dual-clutch DSG transmission and an electronically controlled 4x4 system. The turbocharged 2.0l/170 hp diesel engine copes surprising well with the 1,559 kg vehicle, and the car is responsive thanks to its automatic six-speed DSG transmission. According to the automaker, the Skoda takes only 8.7 seconds to hit 100 kph from standstill and achieves a top speed of 219 kph. An additional advantage of the Skoda is its fuel economy (the car used up about 7.5 liters to travel 100 km during the test drive), thanks to features such as its Start/Stop system and smoothly running engine.
Earning a Premium image has taken most cars in this segment decades. Although Skoda began producing the Superb before World War II, the long years of communism in Eastern Europe prevented the Czech automaker’s flagship model from being seen as a luxury car. In terms of technology as well as comfort and the quality of the materials used, the Superb can already be regarded as a premium car. It’s just that time is needed to persuade customers that this really is the case.