It’s not every day you are invited to travel on a private jet to a UK car launch. Unless you are a motoring journalist in which case, it transpires, fancy car events are your bread and butter. Or should that be your caviar and champagne?
Joining the team from Skoda on a plane up to the Scottish Highlands to test drive the new Skoda Superb was a new experience for me. I joined fellow outdoors blogger and mum Carly Morson from Adventure Mummy – my sole female companion and co-driver amongst a group of professional pen-wielding motor enthusiasts, all busily comparing their psi’s, ACE’s and all manner of other vehicular acronym. To the hopelessly stereotyping outsider they could have just returned from an audition for Top Gear.
Why was I on that flight? My reasons were simple. Firstly, I will never willingly decline an invitation to visit Scotland. It has long claimed my heart and I regularly return, usually by road, to its welcoming if damp embrace. Secondly and most importantly, I was genuinely pleased that a major family car manufacturer was reaching out to a family blogger – a female blogger no less. After all, when it comes to decisions on buying a family car, women remain firmly in the driving seat.
I have driven my fair share of family cars since the girls were born, covering miles on road trips to explore those special, wild and lesser known corners of the British Isles. I am the Chief Transporter of Children in our family and the Road-Trip Planner Extraordinaire with the Baby Routes series of motorway alternative stop-offs to prove it! As such I was keen to put the new third generation Skoda Superb through its paces.
I got to have a nosy at the whole spectrum of the new Skoda Superb fleet but it was in the Skoda Superb SE L Executive Hatch with automatic gearbox (towards the upper-end of the Skoda Superb range) that I set out to explore the beautiful Highlands scenery west of Inverness for a day of driving walking and exploring. Things got off to a bit of an embarrassing start. Privileged to be first in the driver’s seat I spent the first few minutes in full view of those road-hardened car hacks trying to remember the subtleties of a key-less ignition! Fortunately I figured it out before intervention was necessary.
As we drove I made mental notes about the new Skoda Superb against my fairly simplistic wish list for a new car. Don’t expect a techie review stuffed with stats – you’ve got those car publications and the Skoda website for that. If you want to know how an outdoorsy mum of two under 5’s got on with it though, read on…
Size Does Matter
Great things may well come in small packages but when it comes to a family car, small can also mean uncomfortable, well-scuffed and groaning at the seams. I prefer to opt for the capacious yet stylish changing-bag kind of vehicle, ideally saving a killer little clutch for the evenings…a girl can dream!
My first impression of the Skoda Superb was a gleaming row of shiny cars neatly slotted into their parking spaces outside Inverness Airport. At just over 4.86m, the new Superb is long. Longer than both its predecessor and most competitors. Somehow the tapered exterior seems to disguise this and the added length is put to good use inside. Despite its streamline profiles, it comes as a surprise to learn that the new Skoda Superb is also wider than its predecessor giving extra room in the cabin,
As for maneuverability? Well that is a welcome bonus. I challenge you to calmly park a tank in Reading’s Broad Street Mall car park (seemingly ahead of its time as it is clearly designed for smart cars) with two flailing-limbed tots in the back fighting loudly over who gets to hold Upsy Daisy! Fortunately despite its dimensions, the Skoda Superb is responsive to drive and surprisingly light to maneuver into standard parking spaces.
When it came to tucking the Superb into oddly shaped parking spaces though, length was an issue. Squeezing in between some trees in a walkers’ car park near Loch Garve, watched on by its smug, neatly parked petite neighbours was not the easiest. If you’re used to driving any large family car though, this will not be an unfamiliar scenario.
A Tardis on Wheels
I’ve never been one to pack light. Having children has not changed that. My car must be a Mary Poppins bag on wheels and transport all manner of outdoor and family kit. If you’ve ever owned an all-terrain running buggy you will sympathise with my space dilemma. Throw in the hiking boots, muddy wellies, baby rucksacks, suitcases, bike tools, tents, cooking equipment, cats and nappies and it’s no surprise that we once needed to take two cars for family Christmas!
I was skeptical about the Skoda Superb’s claims to exceptional space. Surely no hatchback would be capable of transporting a giant dolls house 70 miles west on behalf of Father Christmas? What about accommodating our giant Christmas trees? We barely fit them and the girls in our estate as it is.
For the Skoda Superb hatch, space is not an issue. A little like a tardis, the boot opens up to provide 625 litres of packing space, expanding to 1760 litres with the rear seats down. The estate model is even roomier.
In layman’s terms that meant I could happily stretch out in the back or use the boot for a spot of bird-watching, all without removing luggage. Like any good changing bag, there is also a cubby hole for everything – you never need be caught short without a spare nappy again. As for that Christmas tree? No problem although my husband says I should prioritise smaller trees over a new car. Pah!
As for whether to go for the hatch or the estate? Well, the nappy changing model, I mean the estate, comes with a flat access boot – perfect for those out-in-the-field quick changes that our humble Mazda is far too used to. It’s also perfect for perching the kids in whilst you change them into walking shoes and wet weather gear. Alternatively you can go for the playpen model (the hatch) whose lip would provide the perfect contained spot for the tots whilst you wrestle with the pushchair in a busy car park. The choice is yours…
Horse-power not donkey-trekking
I don’t care about those much coveted 0-60 stats (though the Top Gear crew reckon they are pretty good). When you live in the countryside though, it goes without saying that you need enough get-up-and-go in your car to nip past the odd tractor, not to mention the Sunday Cycle Club who always seem to accelerate at the merest hint that you’re going to overtake them.
A decent engine also comes in handy for dealing well with long motorway mileage and the burden of the heavy luggage and bikes required for our road-trip adventures.
Our test Skoda Superb featured a 2 litre turbo diesel injection (TDI) engine – the same capacity as my Mazda 6 Estate (albeit without the TDI bit). On the long, uninterrupted roads out to the West Coast from Inverness we had plenty of opportunity to let the Superb fly. The Skoda team had even thoughtfully arranged for a snail-like tractor to be out on the road for overtaking practice.This is a car that knows how to pick up its skirts when it needs to and is quick and sensitive in its acceleration.
I’d be interested to see how the Skoda Superb drives when it has two children, 40 kilos of luggage and several bikes on the back but it felt like there was still plenty of power to spare. What’s more, for a diesel engine the new Skoda Superb was surprisingly quiet in the cabin.
Sit back and enjoy the ride:
Whenever Granny comes to stay a very British kind of argument breaks out in our household. It’s theme is always the same – who will get a sainthood for subjecting themselves to the vice-like embrace of our rear middle seat. We use rear-facing seats for both our 3 and 1 year-old – something that is becoming increasingly popular amongst safety-conscious Europeans. Rear facing child seats are seriously chunky though. In our car this causes two side-effects: restricted leg-room for tall drivers and a serious challenge when squeezing in a third child seat or extra passenger. Choosing fly-hire over taking the car to Ireland with my mum last year was a no-brainer. If we have to accommodate our two girls and an extra passenger then it’s time to either swiftly offer to drive or get out your Spanx.
Armed with my trusty tape measure I wasted no time in checking out the Skoda Superb’s claims to limousine-like rear cabin space. At 5’9, fairly long legged and wearing 2 inch heels I had ample room to stretch out in the back. This would be a comfy car for all passengers on a long drive. Next I set the driver’s seat for me and measured the space left for a car seat behind. There was a staggering 17.5cm of clear space compared to the 0cm we are reluctantly accustomed to. The Head of Sales for Skoda UK wasn’t exaggerating when he told me his own children can no longer kick the back of the front seats. I reckon a Skoda Superb would buy us another blissful 4-6 years of kick-free time.
Seat width didn’t reveal quite the same dramatic difference. The seats were comfortably wide for normal use but our gargantuan car seat would still nudge at the middle seat allowance. We would need to road test it with seats fitted to really see how much difference it makes on Granny’s hips! What I do know though is that this is a car with a comfortable ride, even when dodging potholes on a rough track on the way to Little Garve Bridge.
The Swoon Factor:
Before we had the girls we frivolously splashed out on a BMW 1 series coupe. On one suitably smug DINKy (double income, no kids) outing, my husband lamented the sad plight of a colleague with a new baby who had traded in his fun company car for something ‘practical’. Two weeks later I discovered I was pregnant.
There seems to be a common misconception that when you have kids you somehow no longer appreciate the prettier things in life. The family car’s outward aesthetics are too often the motoring world equivalent of that comfy maternity top that you sneak into your post-baby wardrobe. It’s me that had the baby, not the car. What’s its excuse for letting itself go?
The Skoda Superb is not as athletically pleasing as our Mazda 6 but it is undoubtedly a good looking beast. With its glowering, chiseled front that gives way to strokeable sleek curves, this is the Mr. Darcy of the car world. A modern Mr. Darcy who isn’t afraid to tote round the changing bag and shopping. Throw in its sharp eye-catching lights and it’ll make cars parked next to it look like dowdy Mr. Collins. The dark steely Quartz Grey metallic paint of our Skoda Superb model (an added extra) only enhanced this impression being at once both stylish and practical. I renamed the colour ‘loch grey’. On a moody Scottish day it was a perfect match for steely Loch Glascarnoch .
When you’re driving with children it goes without saying that a car must be safe and reliable. The new Skoda Superb has gained the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests and offers a lot of extra safety features built such as a blind spot sensors, automatic light dimming for approaching traffic and lane drifting detectors. As for reliability? Well without driving it over a longer period I have no concrete evidence to give you regarding the new Skoda Superb but Skoda as a whole are well respected on this front and whilst now particular model got a specific segment award, Skoda as a whole have just topped the JD Power UK vehicle dependability survey. My sister owns a Skoda Octavia and it has just made it out to Italy from the UK without the least complaint.
The above criteria may be my car choosing staples but I’m not immune to the odd fancy but practical extra. The Skoda Superb features plenty of ‘Simply Clever’ solutions. Some are perhaps a little too clever for me. For example, the umbrella holders built into the doors are wonderful for the organised business person but we would never remember to replace the umbrellas and goodness knows what ‘nature treasures’ my three year-old would stuff in there instead. The Superb boasts a really impressive infotainment system. With it comes an app that allows passengers in the rear seat to control the heating and stereo. Clearly the designer of this feature does not have children. Even with car manual hidden it won’t take most kids with a smartphone long to figure out how to turn that eight hour drive to Scotland into a raging war over how many times the same Andrew Lloyd-Webber song is played in a row. Besides, what happened to talking?
This is a car that is so smart that it is constantly telling you something in the dashboard display: trips for driving efficiency, a close up of your sat-nav directions or even to warn of driver fatigue! Most of this information is useful, particularly if you’re trying to drive cleaner and more economically. I suspect it might take me a while to adjust the levels on my personal driver fatigue light though given the sheer volume of data available.
There are plenty of other little touches that are indisputably useful. For example, the built-in casing that helps guide your ISOFIX car seats (yes it has ISOFIX) onto the bar, preventing all that squeezing of fingers down the back of the seat past the usual mix of crumpled up leaves and old Peppa Pig stickers to find the darn thing. There is a pop-out tow bar built into the car, presumably for if you should ever have a fourth child. You can also open the boot simply by swiping your foot underneath it -something that sounds a bit gimmicky but given how often I find myself juggling children and ‘stuff’ in my arms, would be pretty handy. I also loved the things like the SD card slots for your music – simple yet useful additions that show this car has been well-thought through.
Overall I really enjoyed driving the new Skoda Superb. It’s a stylish, grown-up car equally suited to business as to family but is still fun to drive. It lives up to its promise of huge storage capacity and cabin space and is innovative in its use of extra features to make driving a more comfortable and organised experience. Of course, to give it a proper test drive it really needs the addition of two noisy, wriggly children and a whole lot more luggage but it looks promising in both respects.
The Skoda Superb has an entry price of £18,640 with plenty of different models, engine types and added extras to choose from. The SE L Executive Hatch model I drove had an on the road price of £28,720. This is not a cheap car but it does offer good value and is competitive in its category. I would be very tempted to invest in one myself should our Mazda 6 give up on us any time soon. Oh wait…it’s in the garage with a serious fault for the second time this month as I type. A more suspiciously-minded man than my husband might accuse me of foul play…