The D2 segment had only two options. The Skoda Superb and the Toyota Camry.
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Merriam-Webster defines luxury as “a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort”. A length of 4869mm? Abundance, check. A 2.0 Litre turbo-petrol producing 190 horsepower and 320 N/m of torque paired with a lightning-fast dual-clutch automatic gearbox? That’s more than enough to move around with great ease, check. A serenely supple ride and a hushed cabin paired with big and incredibly supportive seats draped in perforated, double-contrast-stitched leather? Comfort, check. That’s the Škoda Superb for you. A possible textbook definition of the luxury sedan. It’s got all their defining characteristics. So, what, you may ask, differentiates it from the big three German marques? Well, it’s also German underneath but on the outside, it’s Czech. It proudly sports the Škoda badge; one that doesn’t scream opulence or luxury, but value.
And that’s how I’d describe this car. Whether or not it’s the textbook definition of the luxury sedan is up for debate, but it’s undoubtedly the textbook definition of value-for-money. For around 35 odd lakhs, you can get a car that matches the E-Class, 5-Series and A6 in terms of size (even edges ahead in terms of space), almost matches them on interior quality and refinement but outright annihilates them with how much you get for your money. It punches FAR above its weight.
- Powertrain: The 2.0 TSI with 190 horsepower and 320 N/m of torque is an absolute bomb and is coupled with a lightning-fast DSG. Incredibly fun to drive.
- Ride quality: The suspension is extremely supple and absorbent, yet high-speed stability is very good; proves that the car was designed to cruise all day on the autobahn.
- Exterior & interior design: A simple yet extremely elegant and purposeful design that I feel will age like a fine wine.
- Perceived quality: The doors have a reassuring heft and shut with a muffled yet prominent thud. Panel gaps are amazingly even, and the interior is also well screwed together with generous use of high-quality materials.
- Equipment: Everything you could desire and then a bit more. There are so many little thoughtful touches that really brighten things up too, such as the felt-lined door pockets and the beautifully executed, configurable ambient lighting.
- Space and comfort: Acres of space, even NBA players won’t have issues with legroom. The powered 12-way adjustable front seats mean that you can fine tune your seating position, greatly reducing fatigue.
- Sound system: The 12-speaker 610W Canton sound system is incredibly powerful and punchy with extensive customisability. Great for the audiophile in me.
- Practicality: The boot is enormous with 625 cubic litres of space. No need to pack light! There are many well-thought-out storage bins in the car too, including a cooled glovebox and central storage bin.
- Safety: 5-star NCAP rating and top-notch safety equipment such as auto emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, etc.
- Handling: Now, this car is no corner carver; it was never designed to be one. Despite the soft suspension however, it is still an extremely competent and surprisingly agile handler for its size and weight. Power is put down effectively and there is quite a lot of grip when cornering.
- Fuel efficiency: I’ve seen stellar numbers up to 17 km/l on the highway on a good day. With a light foot (excessively light), you can coax the figure into double-digits in the city too.
- Perceived reliability and aftersales: Škoda’s horror stories do little to boost a prospective owner’s confidence in the brand and car. Case in point: we bought our Superb only after the infamous DQ200 transmission had been replaced with a wet-clutch unit with a higher torque rating (meaning that it’s understressed), the DQ381. We are watching out for the electronics too.
- No full-sized spare: I’d call it a necessity in India. This shouldn’t have been an omission. The way it’s placed in the boot also makes it inconvenient to check the tyre pressure.
- Rattles: This is something that seriously infuriates me, as a one-year-old car should NOT have them. Are our roads (Hyderabad’s ridiculous rumble strips) finally having an effect? There are a couple of persistent ones and others that come and go as they please (more on this later).
- Maneuverability: The sheer size of this car means that one has to be careful while taking it to tight spots. For example, Google Maps’ intermittent inability to distinguish between roads and barely motorable “gullies” once resulted in us having to make an unbelievably tight 5+ point U-turn in Lonavala. Credits to the fantastic driving skills of my dad who was driving at the time, for getting us out of there without a single scratch.
- Missing kit vis-à-vis the European car: A tyre inflator, adaptive suspension (the Kodiaq gets it even in India), matrix LED headlamps, auto high-beam, travel assist (adaptive cruise control), CD-player (I mean it’s the top-spec model and it’s offered abroad; why omit it here?), the option to display Android Auto in the virtual cockpit, etc. are available on the global Superb L&K but not in India.
- Blank buttons in the cabin: Despite this being the range-topping L&K trim, there are quite a few blank buttons around the gear lever (4) and on the steering wheel (2). Thankfully the ones around the gear lever are symmetrical, so it is still livable.
- Road noise: Now, this is far from an inconvenience but the level of road noise in the cabin is just a little higher than it should be. Getting quieter tyres should help.
- Piano black interior trim: I’m not the biggest fan, both in terms of looks and practicality (it’s a little too easy to scratch and sometimes catches a lot of glare). I’d prefer wood any day.
- Relatively low ground clearance + long wheelbase: This would, at least in theory, greatly increase the chances of scraping the underbody somewhere. Surprisingly, this hasn’t happened even once so far, and this car has been driven long distances across 4 states so far. Regardless, care has to be exercised.
How a Superb ended up in our garage:
My admiration for this car actually goes back a very long way; all the way back to 2014, when there was a brown second-generation Superb in the parking lot. Its limousine-like silhouette and the mind-blowing space at the rear, complete with rich-looking leather upholstery was enough to draw my attention each time I passed by it. I made sure to look for its name on the boot: Superb. Fast forward to 2016, when I first saw a brand-new white third-generation Superb in the parking lot. Its clean, sharp lines, the sculpted details, the menacing DRLs that double up as side indicators and of course the sheer footprint of the car ensured that the nameplate now had my full attention. I’d always admire it whenever I saw one waft by. Never did I ever imagine that one day, a Superb would be parked in our garage!
The story began in late 2020, when we were considering upgrading from our 2006 Ford Fiesta 1.6 SXI (A Feisty Fiesta | Our Ford Fiesta 1.6L Petrol). This was my first time being involved in buying a car (I’m 3 weeks younger than our Fiesta) and it was an exhilarating experience. The same criteria we had used in 2006 came into the discussion: “Sasti, sundar aur tikau”, which when translated from Hindi to English means “Cheap, beautiful and durable”. We clearly compromised on the first one, while the bar for our second criterion was raised into oblivion! As for the third one, let’s just hope that the DSG doesn’t decide to play spoilsport here. Our preference was petrol-automatic, but we were open to other options too. We started off by looking among the C-segment cars. We weren’t fully expecting one to completely satisfy our needs, but decided to test drive all the appealing candidates anyway, in an effort to gauge how the automotive scene had changed from 2006. As we’d half-expected, our search took us to the D-segment, and finally to the Superb.
- Honda City (4th gen, ZX CVT): The powertrain felt slow and disconnected (the CVT rubber-band effect at play), which put us off straight away, so did the uncomfortable placement of the head-restraints. I did like its design though, and the rear seat was a big plus.
- Maruti Ciaz (top end petrol-automatic): The dull powertrain, interior quality and slow and buggy infotainment led to its rejection.
- Hyundai Verna (SX(O) 1.6 petrol-automatic): The 6-speed torque converter gearbox was quite smooth but fumbled under enthusiastic driving. The lack of space was a downer too, weighing out the extensive feature list and comfortable seats.
- Toyota Yaris (top end petrol-CVT): The yawn inducing driving experience and the styling (mostly the interiors) resulted in a flat-out no.
- Kia Seltos (GTX-plus 1.4 petrol-DCT): This was the first car that had truly impressed us in our search, living up to the hype with its competent powertrain and features. However, shortly after the test drive, the announcement of its safety score put an end to any possible consideration.
- MG Hector (Sharp petrol-DCT): Like the Seltos, we felt that the hype surrounding this car made it worthy of a test-drive. The seats were very comfortable and the sound system was impressive, but the dim-witted DCT, sloppy handling and slow infotainment wrote it off our list.
This was when we decided to explore the D-segment.
- Honda Civic (1.8 ZX CVT): I absolutely loved the styling and comfortable seats. The handling was tight too. However, the cabin was surprisingly loud, and the powertrain seriously soured the experience. We got overtaken by a Ford Ikon 1.6 while getting up to speed on the highway!
- Toyota Corolla (top end 1.8 CVT): The powertrain was somewhat dull, but the car was extremely comfortable. However, the model was discontinued mere days after our test drive.
- Hyundai Elantra (could not test drive): We wanted to test drive the top end SX(O) petrol-automatic, but no dealer seemed to have the car available. The only one that did had just the pre-facelift car available. Even getting a response stating the same took forever, so we dropped it.
- Škoda Octavia (3rd-gen 1.8 TSI): We nearly brought this car home. The f-a-s-t 1.8 TSI and lightning quick DSG (my first dual-clutch experience) was a monstrous powertrain combination. I also liked the styling (yes, even the split headlights) and the interiors. However, the onset of Covid19 put an end to this consideration, so did the Octavia’s discontinuation due to BS-6 norms. In hindsight, it’s good that we didn’t end up with the infamous DQ200 transmission.
During the pandemic, we put off the purchase, since our running had dropped drastically, and buying a car in addition to our Fiesta made little sense at the time. It did, however, give us a lot of time to realise what a difficult car the Fiesta was to upgrade from, which is honestly the highest badge of honour I can give to a humble (only to those unfamiliar with it, of course ) C2 segment sedan from 2006.This played a key role in us making the jump from a C2 segment sedan to a D2 segment sedan. In mid-2021, we began our hunt again, prompted by the release of the new Octavia.
- Hyundai Elantra (second attempt, pre-facelift SX(O) petrol-automatic): Believe it or not, they STILL didn’t have the facelifted version to test drive even after over a year! They brought a facelifted diesel Elantra over to our place despite explicitly asking for a petrol. Then, a few days later, the same pre-facelift petrol automatic car from before Covid19 was brought to us to test drive. This left a really bad impression on us. In fact, my mom didn’t even bother coming for the test drive. The suspension tuning was a pleasant surprise, but the driving experience was totally numb. The interior also didn’t really feel special, outweighing the extensive feature list. The Elantra was out.
- Jeep Compass (S 4X4 Diesel Automatic): This car’s highway manners were great, but the awfully slow and dim-witted ZF-9 gearbox was a massive fly in the ointment, always shifting at inconvenient times (during a corner, etc). Besides, we didn’t warm to the idea of a diesel very much, resulting in the Compass being dropped from the list.
- Škoda Octavia (4th-gen 2.0 TSI L&K): I was somewhat let-down by this car if I’m being honest. The all-touch interface was almost a deal-breaker straight away, but other things also soured the experience. The throttle was like a hair-trigger, far too sharp. On the open road though, this Octavia put a smile on my face the same way the previous car did. Otherwise, it just felt less connected and more clinical than the last car. The pricing and missing equipment (ventilated seats for example) also led us to drop it from consideration.
We then finally forayed into the D2-segment. There were only 2 offerings: the Toyota Camry and the Škoda Superb. In the end, we ended up deciding to stick to sedans only, as we had owned only low-slung cars all the way from the very first car in the family up until the Fiesta. So, the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour were not considered.
- Toyota Camry (hybrid): I was very impressed by the seamless change between the source of propulsion between the electric motor and the petrol engine; it was incredibly refined. The car was extremely comfortable too, especially in the rear seat department (where I feel it beat the Superb comfort wise). The performance was quite exciting due the instant electric response. The CVT rubber-band effect did play spoilsport here too, though. The high pricing (hybrid taxes), outdated and confusing infotainment and the interior quality that left us somewhat underwhelmed finally swung the decision in the Superb’s favour. It was a very close fight though, requiring much deliberation.
Then, finally, the Superb. Seeing this car in the flesh and then opening the door to ride in one for the first time felt like a dream come true in itself. I was able to realise 5 years of silent admiration for this car! The ride quality and seat comfort left a great impression on everyone, so did the explosive 2.0 TSI and fantastic DSG. We (well, I) had almost decided by the end of the test drive that the Superb was the one. But the fly in the ointment was the aftersales in Hyderabad. Mahavir Škoda was the only dealership at the time, and its reviews were… less than satisfactory at best.
Even after verifying that the purchase made financial sense, we kept putting it off. Then, one fine day, we read about PPS Škoda and Mody Škoda that had just opened. After talking to owners who had gotten their cars serviced there, we finally decided to go ahead (we purchased the car from Mahavir Škoda as the pre-sales experience was top-notch, but have been getting it serviced at PPS Škoda). In September of 2021, thanks to an incredible series of events and a l-o-n-g car-buying process, the car I had been admiring silently for 5 years finally came home in Lava Blue guise.
Not visible here is the massive grin that I wore on my face for the rest of the day. On to the review!
Continue reading BHPian GForceEnjoyer’s review of his Superb for more insights and information.