PRODUCT EYE: Skoda Superb Outdoor

22 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on PRODUCT EYE: Skoda Superb Outdoor

PRODUCT EYE: Skoda Superb Outdoor

The Outdoor comes only in estate form

The UK is now Škoda’s third largest market behind only Germany and China. What’s more, brand image and pricing is a long way from cheap. Glenn Brooks reviews the Superb Outdoor, a near-GBP30,000 model.

Last month, British market sales for Škoda surged by 39% to more than 10,000 vehicles. Just another 425 cars would have pushed the year to date total above the magic 50,000 level. That’s over 14,000 more than fellow Volkswagen Group satellite SEAT (35,478 according to the same SMMT-supplied data) but of course, way fewer than Audi’s 114,261 or Volkswagen Passenger Cars’ 154,536.

The market was up by 10.76 percent as at the end of Q3, but Skoda is able to boast of a 19.40 percent YoY improvement for the same period.

What’s behind the rise from 2.6 percent market share to the current 2.8 percent? Nothing more complex than the usual formula employed by the more enlightened car makers; a constant renewal of products, and the addition of extra derivatives and models. In Škoda’s case, a fresh Octavia, plus the publicity from launching the vRS (RS outside Britain) at which is the UK’s national motor show in all but name, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, this summer.

That halo derivative did a lot of the heavy lifting with the previous Octavia, changing the nameplate’s image from worthy but forgettable, to a kind of sensible-but-secretly-wicked.

Get those intending to buy onto your configurator, and as long as your image can be associated with near-premium pricing levels, tempting prospects with a car such as the Superb isn’t that big a deal for a brand such as this. Look at what Kia has done by similarly luring people out of some German brand cars and into a GBP30,000+ Sorento. Ford might be the number one nameplate for passenger vehicles but the cars it needs to help put it in the same league as the Czech and Korean challenger brands are still a year and a bit away: the next Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy.

All of which brings me to the Superb. Škoda lent me an Outdoor, which is a newer name for what the company used to term its Scout derivative. Think of it as a sort of cheaper alternative to the Volvo XC70 as well as a direct rival for the Passat Alltrack and Insignia Country Tourer. You get grey plastic extensions for the bumpers and wheelarches, big wheels, but no lift in ride height nor is there pneumatic suspension.

If you are in any doubt about how far the image of Škoda has come in Britain, for a car that costs GBP28,735 in as-tested form, both SatNav and heated seats are missing from the standard spec. There IS a sunroof, but it makes up GBP1,060 of that total, while floor mats are also an extra – GBP75.

What does come as standard is a leather-covered steering wheel; 18-inch alloys; acoustic rear parking sensors; alcantara upholstery; puddle lamps under the mirrors; hill hold; dual-zone A/C. shall I go on? OK, you also have electrically folding mirrors; heated washer nozzles (why do so many brands consider these a luxury model grade item rather than something that ought to be standard for safety reasons?); tyre pressure monitoring (ditto – the US has mandated this, why hasn’t the European Commission?), the delightfully named ‘sunset’ glass from the B pillar back; and, just like in Rolls-Royces, a pull-out umbrella in the rear door compartment. What you won’t find in an RR is the clever tailgate which also contains a bootlid – it can be opened independently and the hatchback looks like a saloon.

Has any car I’ve borrowed from a manufacturer ever had an official name as long as this? Here goes. Škoda Superb Outdoor 2.0 TDI CR 170PS DPF 4×4. In fact, in most countries, the word ‘Combi’ is added before Outdoor but here, buyers seem to realise that it can only be ordered as an estate.

I was surprised to note the lack of an automatic gearbox as standard but then the six-speed manual is an easy shifter. It also helps a lot with the official Combined economy number of 44.8mpg, which is realistic. The Outdoor isn’t the fastest car in town, taking 9.1 seconds to reach 62mph but its top speed of 135mph is as good as most others in its fairly small class.

The CO2 average is 165g/km.

The Outdoor isn’t the priciest version of the Superb, that honour belongs to the GBP33,245 Laurin Klement 3.0-litre petrol V6 with DSG dual clutch transmission. Not that you have to pay anything like this sort of money if you prefer a lower trim level: prices start at just over seventeen thousand, for which you get a 125PS 1.2 TSI hatchback in base S form.

The local importer has always pushed the line that the Octavia should be thought of as a rival for the Astra and Focus but it’s bigger than most in that class, and is therefore a D segment model. It follows that the Superb is up in the E segment (the Outdoor is 4,833mm long). If you’re still a doubter, consider that the previous Superb was rebodied and turned into the Made-In-Tennessee Passat and SVW’s New Passat – those US/Chinese market twins are close in size to the Camry and old Accord, the class giants – they also have the same 2,803mm wheelbase as the 2001-2008 Superb.

With average transaction prices presumably in the mid to high twenties, this must be a superbly (?) profitable model for Škoda and it no doubt helps immensely with the ongoing quiet push towards VW-lite pricing and image-building. Britain might be one of the major markets for this big hatchback and estate range but elsewhere in the world, it’s a growing part of the brand’s sales too.

The current generation hatchback’s debut was at the Geneva motor show in March 2008, with build at Kvasiny following two months later. The Czech plant supplies kits for vehicle assembly in both Russia, at the VW Group’s Kaluga factory, and Kazakhstan (in partnership with Asia-Auto at its Ust-Kamenogorsk plant).

Assembly also takes place in China, courtesy of the SVW joint venture. There, the car had been known as the Škoda Haorui but after the local launch of the facelifted model in August, it changed names to ‘Supai’. The updated model is also the first vehicle to be made at SVW’s fifth plant which has just opened.

Located in Ningbo in the country’s south east, this facility has its own press, body and paint shops plus a final assembly unit. The Volkswagen Group says MQB platform vehicles will follow. Total annual capacity is 300,000 vehicles.

All versions of the estate are imports in the Chinese market, and therefore not cheap but Škoda’s image there is able to command the higher prices. Czech build of the Combi commenced in November 2009 (right-hand drive from Jan 2010), the wagon bodystyle having had its world premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2009. The Superb Combi Outdoor was announced in June 2012 and all variants had their first and likely only facelift at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013.

The current hatchback is now in its fifth year of production and shares its PQ46 platform with the Passat and CC, though it is a larger car and has a wheelbase that’s also 51mm longer. The successor model (SK471 – the current car is SK461) will almost certainly use the Volkswagen Group’s Modularer Querbaukasten architecture. At a guess, its debut will probably be at the 2015 Geneva show.

But the current model will no doubt sell well right up until it is replaced – it’s a great car, and for the money, offers a convincing value package. Its job is to keep Škoda buyers from shifting away from the brand, so don’t be at all surprised if the rumours about further new models – an SUV and an MPV from 2015 – come true.

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