Skoda ushers in hybrid technology with its most emblematic model

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Skoda will give us no fewer than 10 new electrified models between now and 2022, and it starts here, with the Skoda Superb iV plug-in hybrid.

Along with every other manufacturer that sells cars in Europe, the marque finds itself facing the imminent introduction of severe fines linked to average fleet emissions. This electrification strategy therefore has more to do with economics than altruism, but the application of Skoda’s utilitarian thinking to the type of cars that have traditionally struggled with the concept of ‘utility’ nevertheless sounds like good news to us at Autocar.

Any Superb is fantastically dull yet you can’t help but wholeheartedly buy into their utilitarian appeal. It’s hard to imagine one of these iV hybrids, in estate trim, wouldn’t improve the everyday motoring lives of almost anyone

In the case of the Skoda Superb iV, approximately £10 million has been spent adapting Skoda’s Kvasiny factory in the Czech Republic, where the car will be built exclusively. The facility is now geared up to handle and install numerous lithium ion batteries and electric drive motors, and to weld the new car’s unusual floor, which is just as well because the plug-in hybrid Superb is expected to make up one-third of sales almost from the moment it’s launched.

The battery pack itself is made two hours’ drive away at Skoda’s Mladá Boleslav plant, which provides the same service for other Volkswagen Group plug-in hybrids, such as the Volkswagen Passat GTE, and is where the all-electric Skoda Citigo-e iV will be constructed.

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What, then, does success look like for this incipient generation of cleaner-driving Skoda models? The answer is normality. In this respect, the Superb provides an enviable starting point. Being spacious, comfortable, fine riding, economical on fuel and, perhaps above all else, priced aggressively against the opposition, it embodies the brand’s strengths better than any other model.

At less than £32,000, the iV hybrid would seem to play the price game smartly, but if it can meaningfully improve fuel efficiency and lower owners’ tax burdens – and do so with few or none of the usual hybrid drawbacks – it could be something special indeed.

The Superb line-up at a glance

Superb buyers are spoilt for choice when it comes to specification. In addition to hatchback and added-practicality estate bodystyles, there’s also a wide range of conventional petrol and diesel engines to choose from. Four-wheel drive is available, as is the plug-in hybrid iV model tested here.

The trim line-up is familiar, starting at S and moving up through SE, SE L, SportLine Plus to Laurin & Klement.

Price £34,755 Power 215bhp Torque 295lb ft 0-60mph 7.3sec 30-70mph in fourth 9.0sec Fuel economy 45.0mpg CO2 emissions 35g/km 70-0mph 48m



Skoda Superb iV 2020 road test review - hero side

What exactly the ‘iV’ stands for isn’t clear, although Skoda variously quotes the words ‘innovative’, ‘iconic’ and ‘inspiring’, all of which precede ‘vehicle’. In practical terms, any model with the iV badge is one with an electrified powertrain, and in the Superb’s case, that means pairing a 154bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine to an electric motor that makes 114bhp.

It’s a set-up borrowed from the new Volkswagen Passat GTE and both elements drive through the same six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. There’s also a 13kWh lithium ion battery that sits beneath the second-row bench, ahead of both the 50-litre fuel tank and the rear axle.

Unless you opt for entry-level SE Technology trim, matrix LED headlights with adaptive full beam come as standard. Scrolling indicators won’t be to all tastes, but they’re a slice of Audi-style luxury.

So unlike many plug-in hybrids that use the electric portion of their powertrain to independently drive the rear axle, the Superb iV doesn’t boast four-wheel drive. Nevertheless, the powertrain’s combined outputs of 215bhp and 295lb ft hint at effortless performance from a car for which point-to-point pace sits some way down its list of priorities.

Of more interest to most owners will be electric range, which is very competitive but not exceptional at 39 miles by WLTP standards. Recharging can take place on the move, courtesy of the engine (the idea being that the driver can cover a journey’s final, urban miles without generating emissions), or by plugging in, where using a 7kW wallbox takes around 2.5 hours. Because this is not a full-electric car, rapid-charging is off the menu.

Built upon the same modular MQB platform that now underpins the majority of Volkswagen Group models – albeit modified slightly to accommodate and protect the battery pack – the Superb iV also uses the same suspension hardware as the standard car. However, the software has been tweaked on account of the additional weight it now has to manage, which is some 260kg. The standard-fit DCC adaptive dampers therefore not only lower the ride height by 10mm but are also a touch firmer than usual, whichever of the three presets you’ve selected, and they control MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear.

As for the design, there’s little to tell the outside world that this car uses a hybrid powertrain rather than a regular petrol or diesel engine. Some may notice the ‘iV’ badging on the rear, but the redesigned front bumper, with its subtle air curtains, is harder to spot.


Skoda Superb iV 2020 road test review - front seats

As an already large car that makes intelligent use of its size, the Superb is ideally placed to weather the compromises so often enforced by plug-in hybrid powertrains. Skoda places power electronics under the boot floor, so the luggage capacity falls, but with 485 litres remaining, we can’t imagine too many owners will feel especially inconvenienced and, in practice, it is only the underfloor storage compartments that are lost.

It’s worth remembering that the Superb iV is also available with an estate body, and that elsewhere inside the cabin it remains luxuriously proportioned, with rear head and leg room still comfortably ahead of comparably priced rivals’. However, one tester did point out that families attempting to fit three child booster seats across the back bench may be better off looking elsewhere – an MPV, perhaps.

As more premium VW Group brands move to touch-sensitive climate controls, the Superb sticks with physical switchgear, and there’s little wrong with that.

The cockpit itself is uneventful and less inviting in terms of material richness than the Volkswagen Passat GTE, although there’s no question that Skoda has come an awfully long way from the days when its interiors felt outright cheap. Mid-range SE L models like our test car get pleated leather for the strangely flat but nonetheless broad and comfortable electric ‘sports’ seats, and the addition of privacy glass and various interior lightings lifts the ambience.

Conspicuous by its absence is much in the way of hybrid iconography, the only give-aways being an E-mode button on the transmission tunnel and various green graphics displayed on the 10.3in digital Virtual Cockpit, which comes as standard for SE L cars and replaces the traditional instrument binnacle.

Elsewhere, this cabin is geared for calm detachment rather than any level of excitement. Compared with the similarly sized BMW 5 Series, the seats set their occupants high, and with slim A-pillars and a generous glasshouse, visibility is better than most and contributes to the formal but relaxing ambience.

Skoda Superb IV infotainment and sat nav

The Superb iV comes with Skoda’s Amundsen navigation system, with its 8.0in display, as standard. It has excellent graphics and hallmark VW Group usability, despite the irritation of greasy fingerprints sullying the otherwise slick presentation. It’s possible to upgrade to the 9.2in Columbus system, but a lack of volume or map zoom knobs may affect usability.

Meanwhile, the Virtual Cockpit is standard with Columbus (which also incorporates gesture control) but optional with Amundsen. USB provision is excellent in either case, with Type-C sockets at the back of the centre console and in the rear, and a Type-A socket in the storage bin under the front armrest.

Unique to the plug-in hybrid is the ability to remotely initiate charging and to precondition the cabin – that is, set the temperature in advance of unlocking the car – via a smartphone app. There are also readouts that show how the powertrain is distributing power in real time and the car’s range and economy.


Skoda Superb iV 2020 road test review - engine

Lifting the 1.4-litre petrol-electric powertrain directly from the new Volkswagen Passat GTE was never really going to be a recipe for disaster. In fact, given the Superb iV’s comparative absence of performance intent, you might well argue that it makes for a better fit under the bonnet of a nondescript Skoda than an electrified Volkswagen with mild sporting pretensions.

Viewed through a purely pragmatic lens, there’s a lot to like. Petrol and electric power sources are integrated cleanly and transition from one to the other is smoothly governed. The petrol engine itself is generally refined and well isolated and it can be used to charge up the 13kWh battery should you want to.

Opening up the taps for a climb makes the steering go numb and can create a bit of directional corruption, but nothing too serious

Admittedly, the throttle response can feel a touch muted in both electric and hybrid drive modes, but our testers agreed that what the Superb sacrifices in cut-and-thrust responsiveness, it more than makes up for in laid-back, refined ease of use.

With both power sources engaged, straight-line performance is brisk enough to garner praise but not so rapid as to be an entirely memorable characteristic. On a damp track, the run from standstill to 60mph was dispatched in 7.3sec and 30-70mph took 5.8sec – both times representing notable improvements over the previous Passat GTE (7.6sec and 6.1sec respectively). Although this translates to a useful amount of real-world urgency, it’s also worth noting that the Superb did display a tendency to tug at the wheel slightly during hard acceleration – particularly on unevenly surfaced stretches of road.

As for the car’s electric-only capability, our testers didn’t quite match Skoda’s claimed 39-mile range. Having set off with its 13kWh battery fully charged, the Skoda’s petrol engine came back to life after 28 miles on a mixture of roads that incorporated speed limits ranging from 20mph to 70mph. Given that the Superb was driven in a largely everyday fashion, it seems entirely reasonable to expect this figure to increase if a more sympathetic driving style were to be adopted.


Skoda Superb iV 2020 road test review - on the road front

In typical Skoda fashion, the Superb iV’s dynamic character is marked out far more by ease of use than any quantifiable amount of athleticism.

With 2.7 turns between locks, its steering is light and fairly relaxed in its gearing, translating to a rate of response that feels impressively deliberate if not exactly fleet-footed or spry. Nonetheless, the natural manner in which it weights up as you wind on lock allows you to flow the Superb through successive bends with plentiful accuracy, if little in the way of meaningful driver engagement.

Hybrid’s extra weight is detectable in corners, which the Superb iV negotiates with sure-footed, soft-edged dependability and decent composure rather than athleticism

But while the steering is rather mute when it comes to telling you what’s going on beneath the Superb’s wheels, it does at least instil a good amount of confidence in the road-holding ability of the Superb’s chassis. The car’s front end sticks to your chosen cornering line with conviction, although an unreasonably boorish driving style will cause its front end to begin to push wide.

That said, the manner in which it noses into understeer is very gradual and its electronic stability systems aren’t too authoritarian when they decide to step in and tidy things up again. Mid-corner bumps don’t unsettle the Superb’s stability to too great an extent, either, although hitting one at speed can transmit quite a forceful shock through the steering wheel.

The additional mass introduced by its battery pack and electric motor makes its presence felt through corners, too. The iV seems to be slightly more resistant to fast directional changes than conventionally powered Skoda Superbs and body roll is a degree more pronounced. Setting the Skoda’s DCC adaptive dampers to Sport does help to minimise the slight pause that occurs between the wheel being turned and the weight then duly shifting from one side to another, but it never really seems to be able to truly distance itself from its heft.

Driving the Superb iV up to the limit of grip reveals it to be the large, fairly soft and inert but still dynamically competent saloon car that you expect a Superb to be.

Much as the car only performs with any gusto if you get deep into the accelerator travel, so you only reach its lateral limits after plenty of wheel twirling and with reasonable body roll in evidence. Grip remains pretty well balanced under cornering load and the chassis tolerates being hurried meekly enough. Its electronics leave only the briefest snatches of wheelspin and steering corruption to let you know you’re approaching the car’s mechanical thesholds.

Hurrying it isn’t rewarding or fun, though; and the car’s shortage of dynamic poise over and above what you’d expect of a very ordinary family saloon is a tell-tale of how modest the car’s positioning is and how mainstream the plug-in hybrid has now become.


Here, the Superb really comes into its own – thanks in large part to the flexibility afforded by its standard-fit adaptive dampers. In Comfort mode, the pillowiness of the Skoda’s primary ride feels as though it could have been lifted straight from a luxury saloon a few price brackets higher.

On the motorway, the soft-edged, easy-going quality of its ride paints the Superb as a seriously comfortable long-distance machine. However, take it onto faster A- and B-roads and its elevated mass can cause it to begin to run out of answers when faced with larger undulations. Get a proper stride on and that well-judged sense of softness is replaced by the feeling that the suspension is approaching the point where it might run out of control over the car’s upwards vertical body movements, while the Superb iV threatens to run out of suspension travel through bigger compressions.

Firming up the dampers does help rein things in to an extent, but even in Sport mode, you remain mildly aware of its up-and-down bobbing. The optional 19in alloy wheels that came fitted to our test car only thudded and thumped over particularly sharp edges.

Past these intrusions, the Skoda’s cabin is a largely calm, quiet place. At a steady 70mph cruise, our microphone took cabin noise at 69dB, which is respectable enough if not quite as hushed as the previous Passat GTE’s cabin (66dB).


Skoda Superb iV 2020 road test review - hero front

As is the case with all plug-in hybrids, long-term fuel economy is going to entirely depend on your typical trip characteristics. That the Superb iV returns around 40mpg purely under the locomotion of its downsized petrol engine suggests that high-mileage drivers are still better off buying a diesel model.

However, if you drive shorter distances and have the ability to charge at home – and possibly also at work – you might manage half your weekly mileage on battery power alone, at which point you could expect an average economy of 75mpg.

Skoda holds its value well against its rivals. The BMW 330e outperforms the Superb iV by the narrowest of margins.

Company car drivers also stand to benefit from the Skoda's low benefit-in-kind payments, particularly after April, when changes to the way this tax is calculated will result in higher rates for non-hybrid cars and the iV will become the cheapest car to run in the range.

That the list price also undercuts not only the Passat GTE but both the Peugeot 508 Hybrid and, by an impressive margin, the smaller BMW 330e means private buyers benefit, too. The money saved could be put to use elsewhere or spent upgrading to L&K trim, which equips the Superb iV with almost every option it is possible to have and yet still brings the balance to less than £39,000.



Skoda Superb iV 2020 road test review - static

The Skoda Superb iV is a proud moment for Skoda and a promising sign of things to come from its fledgling line-up of electrified cars. And although it shares much of its architecture with the Volkswagen Passat GTE, its ardent commitment to normality and utility over and above any sporting pretence certainly has its merits.

In this context, the powertrain’s lack of character becomes a bit tougher to criticise, and its ability to wrap usable performance and efficiency up in a refined and impressively smooth package is all the more admirable. The same goes for its sensible handling and laid-back ride quality; for the savings in company car tax that it will offer over and above a traditional diesel saloon; and for the fuel savings that it’ll deliver if used properly and charged frequently.

Almost militantly normal, but all the more appealing for it.

So adept is it at tackling the demands of the everyday that you could almost forgive it for the pervading sense of indifference it displays towards the concept of actually being driven. Almost. Ultimately, its character remains just a bit too staid to allow it to rise to the top here. But as a mascot for the pragmatic approach, Skoda has done a fine job indeed.


Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017 and like all road testers is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests and performance benchmarking, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found presenting on Autocar's YouTube channel.

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat.