Skoda Superb: Plugin option makes saloon more sensible still

Electric range of 62km makes this big cruiser potentially perfect for commuters

Skoda Superb’s 62km electric range means for anyone with a county-to-city commute, you could conceivably get from Monday morning to Friday evening without a single millilitre of petrol being burned

Make: Skoda

Model: Superb

Year: 2019

Fuel: Hybrid

Date Reviewed: December 3, 2019

Wed, Dec 4, 2019, 01:00

   

The thing is that the Skoda Superb’s petrol engine is so quiet these days, that it actually becomes pretty difficult to tell when this iV plugin-hybrid version is running on electrons or hydrocarbons. Skoda’s big four-door saloon (and staggeringly capacious estate) has already been updated this year in its conventional diesel and petrol forms (new lights, upgraded interior, some new options) but this is our first chance to drive the plugin-hybrid version; Skoda’s first ginger steps on the path to an electric future.

So, just as the Superb is, mechanically speaking, a Passat in an XXL jacket, so too this Superb iV is a Passat GTE with extra space in the back. It uses the same 1.4-litre 156hp TSI petrol engine, combined with a 13kWh battery, snuggled under the back seats. That battery drives an 85kW (equivalent to 115hp) electric motor, which is sandwiched into the six-speed DSG gearbox mechanism. Actually, that DSG nomenclature is a bit wrong this time – instead of a dual-clutch gearbox, this one is actually a triple-clutch unit, with the third clutch engaging and disengaging the electric motor.

Running the Superb on just electric power is a silently enticing process. A refined car at the best of times, with only the volts providing the velocity, driving the iV as an EV becomes positively sepulchral
Running the Superb on just electric power is a silently enticing process. A refined car at the best of times, with only the volts providing the velocity, driving the iV as an EV becomes positively sepulchral

On the new WLTP economy and emissions test, the Superb iV scores a potential 62km driving range on a fully-charged battery, and Skoda reckons that on a combined full battery and full tank of petrol, you could potentially go for more than 900km.

That, though, would probably require you to go match the claimed 1.9 litres per 100km (148mpg – cough, splutter) fuel economy figure. A more realistic assessment, based on our (relatively gentle) drive around the environs of Amsterdam and The Hague (favoured for electric and hybrid car launch events thanks to the lack of anything resembling a gradient) would suggest a combined range of about 650-700km, with average fuel economy of about 6.0 litres per 100km.

Running the Superb on just electric power is a silently enticing process. A refined car at the best of times, with only the volts providing the velocity, driving the iV as an EV becomes positively sepulchral. Performance is still decent. Okay, so with the petrol engine locked out, you have 115hp to play with, rather than the headline petrol-and-electric-combined 218hp, but that hardly seems to matter, to be honest. It’ll haul up to 60km/h from rest in a brisk 5.0 secs, and will easily run at 120km/h on the motorway, although you’ll be running the battery down rapidly at that point. Driven gently, the Superb iV will likely manage a realistic 45-50km on battery power alone; driven with a bit more vim, that will fall to more like 35km.

The Superb iV model includes automatic transmission and the biggest of the available infotainment touchscreens
The Superb iV model includes automatic transmission and the biggest of the available infotainment touchscreens

Still, for anyone with a county-to-city commute, and especially those who can plug in at work, that means you could conceivably get from Monday morning to Friday evening without a single millilitre of petrol being burned. Which is, of course, the point, and the reason that many carmakers still argue that plugin-hybrids such as these – more affordable and potentially more flexible in their performance than battery-electric cars – can make a huge dent in a nation’s Co2 emissions. If they’re used to their full capacity, of course, which does rather require their owners to be fairly conscientious about plugging in regularly.

The battery will charge from flat in three to five hours, depending on how much wattage you can pump into it, and you can charge it on the go too – we managed to top up the battery from flat to 56 per cent in only about half an hour’s driving.

The battery will charge from flat in three to five hours, depending on how much wattage you can pump into it, and you can charge it on the go too – we managed to top up the battery from flat to 56 per cent in only about half an hour’s driving
The battery will charge from flat in three to five hours, depending on how much wattage you can pump into it, and you can charge it on the go too – we managed to top up the battery from flat to 56 per cent in only about half an hour’s driving

As a cruiser, the Superb deploys its full resources of nominative determinism. It is comfortable, quiet, and rides with a fluid compliance. It is not a sports car, though, and the extra weight of the iV version (the battery weighs 135kg all by its lonesome) means that the standard car’s languid steering responses are further blunted by weight. It will corner briskly, if you make it do so, but it won’t enjoy it and neither will you. Just sit back and relax and let the Superb do its thing.

Those in the back, as ever, will enjoy copious legroom and, on ritzy versions, even have little extra foot-rests lurking in the floor. At this point we would normally rhapsodise about the Superb’s unmatched boot capacity and practicality, but this time around we can’t. Because the battery and associated high-voltage gubbins take up so much space, the boot has had to give way, to the tune of about 100 litres, falling to 485 litres. That’s still pretty roomy, but anyone trading out of a regular Superb will notice the slightly reduced luggage/pet/Ikea capacity. The Combi estate suffers similarly – its normally gargantuan boot has dropped to 510 litres. Again, this is hardly practicality purgatory, but it’t not quite the paradise of loadspace to which we’ve become accustomed.

The Superb is comfortable, quiet, and rides with a fluid compliance
The Superb is comfortable, quiet, and rides with a fluid compliance

Other upgrades for the iV model include standard-fit automatic transmission, and the biggest of the available infotainment touchscreens. Prices start from €40,350 for the saloon version in Ambition trim – a useful saving over the price of the VW Passat GTE plugin, albeit the Passat GTE is effectively the top-spec version, whereas the iV plugin tech is available on all Superb trims and versions, aside from the base Active. Ireland will only get 250 of them in 2020, thanks to restricted supply, and Skoda Ireland reckons it could, potentially, sell two or even three times that number if it could. Why is supply restricted? Production ramp-up, claims the company. Sinister holding back of electric tech, claim eco-watchdogs. Who knows?

The only dilemma, really, is whether you’re locking yourself in for years of ownership of technology that’s, possibly, fast being overtaken by pure battery-electric models. My gut feeling, though, is that this isn’t the case. In fact, more than one emissions expert has calculated that – given the limited resources and constricted battery-building capacity at the moment – hybrids and plugin-hybrids such as this, if used to their utmost, can actually make a bigger dent in Co2 emissions than pure electric cars for now. Whether this is or is not the case, this new dual-fuel Superb is as (quietly) impressive as the rest of the range.

Skoda Superb Liftback iV Style: the lowdown

  • Power 218hp
  • Torque 400Nm
  • 0-100km/h 7.7sec
  • Top speed 224km/h
  • Combined economy 1.9 litres/100km (148mpg) (WLTP)
  • CO2 emissions 35g/km
  • Motor tax €170
  • Price €43,859 as tested; Superb iV starts at €43,350
  • Verdict Nigh-on perfect commuting tool.