A New Era. That is how describes the launch of the 3rd generation of it's flagship sedan, the Superb. In some ways the company is more right than it realises. It was a glitzy affair in Prague's Forum Karlin. Besides Skoda Chairman Winfried Vahland, we also got to see everyone from supermodel Adriana Karembeu to Queen on Funk - Chaka Khan on stage!
The new Superb is bigger, roomier, more proportionate and much better looking than the car it replaces. The thing is that the 2nd gen Superb was already a vey compelling package - ticking most boxes and getting nearly everything right - especially with context to our market.
But what the 2nd generation lacked was sex appeal! It was limo-like in its length, and had all the right features. But it wasn't gorgeous - even though it's understated looks found many admirers. The new Superb is built on the Volkswagen Group's MQB or modular platform - on which we also get the Audi A3 and the Superb'a sibling - the Octavia. The upcoming next generation VW Passat is also MQB, and in fact shares a lot with the new Superb.
In design terms what this has meant is that the car has been able to increase it's wheelbase by 80mm, and yet have much shorter overhangs - thereby giving it a more proportionate look - and not one that looks stretched like the 2nd gen. The increased wheelbase enhances cabin and cargo space. Skoda has ditched the twin boot function which allowed the Superb to go from hatch to sedan, and now the new car is only a hatch. But has more bootspace than the older one at 625 litres. Fold down the rear seats and bootspace becomes downright cavernous!
The global debut of the new Superb has the car driving in with 5 petrol and 3 Diesel engine options. In India though we will get one each. And most likely that will be the updated iterations of the existing 1.8 TSI petrol & 2.0 TDI diesel units. Skoda India will likely continue to offer both with manual and DSG (dual clutch automatic) transmissions.
The Superb has been a reasonably well-loaded car on the equipment front. The new car adds a panoramic sunroof, reverse camera and 3 zone climate control. Expect all to make it to the top trim in India too. The cabin is well laid out, and the company says particular attention has been given to improving material quality on the new car. That does show instantly, though I would have liked a bit more flair and flamboyance when it comes to interior styling.
The main reason I say this is because the exterior is now a pageant winner. Skoda cars were never ugly, but they weren't va-va-voom either. The new Octavia have us a hint, but the new Superb transport us directly into the bold new direction that Skoda's Head of Design, Josef Kaban is taking us. Sharp lines, sculpted metal and musculature dominate the car's body panels. The shutline on the good has been moved to the fenders - which is expensive and difficult to achieve, so hats off to Skoda for that. The head and tail lamps have elements inspired by Bohemian Crystal - much like the Vision C concept car shown at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. In fact the new Superb's face and styling elements borrow heavily from the edgy styling on that concept.
The new styling language coupled with the great proportions make this car look sexy, attractive and a bit sporty too. It remains feature-rich and has the right engine options to boot. That all adds up to a car that is even more compelling than the one it is succeeding. Skoda seems to have hot it more than right. The bits that remain to be seen though include the big one - I still need to drive it! And then there's the timing of the India launch (I expect it should happen around a head from now), and the prices Skoda is able to offer. I certainly am looking forward to how this car might change benchmarks, and attract buyers to the segment once more. Also don't forget that it will now deal with not just the new Passat which will launch before it or the Toyota Camry, but also the Audi A3 & Mercedes-Benz CLA.