Car reviews - Skoda - Superb - SportLine range
Simple and stylish tweaks to already good-looking car, absolutely loaded with kit, high levels of safety tech
Room for improvement
Engine loses a bit with local tune, silly ergonomic annoyances in the cabin
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24 Feb 2017
By TIM ROBSON
SKODA has decided it is no longer happy being a bit player in the Volkswagen Group. It’s gradually eschewing the quaint, quirky edge that has underlined the Czech brand since VW took over ten years ago, in favour of more sensibly optioned, sensible-looking cars that will, it hopes, appeal to a wider audience.
Gone are cars like the Roomster, and going are cars like the Yeti, to be replaced with more attractive, more mainstream vehicles like the Kodiaq.
The Superb, though, is one of the products that helps define the brand’s not-quite-premium, but more value-added mantra. It also shows that the days of Skoda needing to wait for VW tech to trickle down are all but gone.
It comes as no surprise to learn that the Superb SportLine drives no differently to the 206TSI 4x4 on which it is based. The $1000 price premium comes from an array of 17 trim and exterior changes that manage to neatly move the Superb into range of something like an Audi A6 for feel and perception. No, that is not a typo.
The plan is to run both the 206TSI and the SportLine side by side, and depending on which way the market goes, one car will likely make way for the other – and our bet is on the SportLine taking number one spot.
The Superb 206 TSI already presents well, but the SportLine kit – which compromises largely of an interior redone in proper Alcantara and an exterior festooned with blacked-out parts, new exhaust tips and new 19-inch rims – takes it further along the scale of quietly cool.
The quilted Alcantara material feels and looks fantastic, while the black headlining adds sophistication to the cabin that is accentuated by LED lights throughout.
And then there are the uniquely Skoda touches, such as small bins in the door pockets, cargo netting throughout the load area and umbrella slots in both doors.
A level of kit that would cost four times as much if there were a four-ringed badge on the nose complements it perfectly, too. Automatic everything, a decent multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, multi-mode drive selection, adaptive dampers – it is a long list of goodies for a sub-$55,000 car.
There is also nine airbags, radar cruise, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and lane-keeping guidance, so it misses out on very little.
A couple of foibles – the plastic paddle-shifters feel a little out of place and Skoda’s insistence on fitting Lilliputian cup-holders continues to confound.
The drive experience is excellent with a Golf R engine and all-wheel-drive underneath, the Superb feels smaller than it actually is out on the road.
We have tried the full-fat Euro tune of this version of the EA888 in the similar-sized VW Passat and there is no doubt the extra 16kW and 30Nm would be handy from rest. The 206kW and 350Nm on offer, though, still give the 1600kg Superb something to play with.
It is rated to return 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, but we only managed a best of 12.2L/100km over 380km – not even close, really.
There is a marked difference between adaptive damper settings, with the comfort mode providing a cossetting, comfortable low- to mid-speed ride that can get wallowy at higher velocities.
Normal mode adds that mid-range support back into the mix, while Sport gives the steering a bit more edge at the expense of some ride brittleness.
With a robust platform beneath, the Superb steers and brakes like a smaller car, but that huge cargo area out back – 660 litres with the seats up and 1960 litres down – and the acres of leg and headroom inside tells a different story.
It’ll even tow 2200kg of braked trailer.
As a brand, Skoda barely troubles the scorers with less than 5000 sales a year but those sales are of clever, value-laden cars that stand out from the crowd.
While its new direction will introduce it to a new generation of buyers, Skoda’s strengths of giving owners more car for their money will always catch the eye of people who are not afraid to walk their own path – and the Superb SportLine is a great example of that trait.
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