Skoda Superb iV first drive: electric executive express
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Skoda Superb Sportline iV wagon
- Luxurious character of Superb base vehicle
- Beautifully resolved PHEV technology
- Easy to drive, but power options if you want them
- Small petrol engine feels strained at speed
- Significantly reduced cargo space
- Would a Kodiaq PHEV have wider appeal?
New Zealand is the first market outside Europe to get the Skoda Superb iV Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). Supply of new models is difficult right across the car industry, especially so for EVs, where European makers need every unit they can get to meet tough emissions targets.
We're not saying Skoda NZ's cosy relationship with the NZ Police (police fleets generally are a massive priority for the Skoda factory at the moment) had anything to do with such a prompt launch. Although the first Superb iV was transported direct to NZ Police fleet headquarters for testing. But we digress.
So to business: "iV' is simply Skoda's new designation for electric vehicles. So if you see that badge, you know it's a plug-in of some kind.
The Superb iV is Skoda NZ's first EV. It matches a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine with a 13kWh battery pack that gives a WLTP pure-electric range of 62km.
It starts at $71,990 for the Style sedan (also available as a wagon) and tops out at $79,990 for the Sportline wagon (also available as a sedan). So yes, you get the full Government $5750 PHEV rebate right across the range, assuming you can negotiate onroads into that flagship model price.
Skoda owners are apparently an open-minded bunch: a NZ survey revealed 68 per cent of local owners want to "embrace" BEV and PHEV technology. The Superb iV is their first chance to do that - and the thinking is that this and forthcoming Skoda EVs (Octavia is next, before the end of the year) will also bring a bunch of new buyers to the brand.
It's tricky to put the iV into context because it doesn't have a direct equivalent in the Superb Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) range. The Sportline iV wagon featured here lines up against the $70,990 Sportline TSI and actually looks like good value once you subtract the $5750 rebate to get an adjusted price of $74,240.
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But then you're getting a bit less car in some respects: the iV is not AWD like the TSI and it makes 160kW, not the 206kW of the conventional model.
Let's not beat about the green stuff too much with Superb: it's a car we know well and you'd be hard pressed to pick the iV from any other. Up close you might notice that the grille is actually solid and of course there's the charge port on the left-hand side, although it's all very low key.
Inside, there's slightly different instrumentation and a boot that's 150 litres smaller than the ICE Superb wagon. Which sounds like a lot, but it's still 510l.
The spare wheel is also AWOL, with some of that underfloor space devoted to storage for the portable charging cable. The fuel tank is 5l smaller, but the 930km hybrid range more than makes up for that.
Skoda says the battery can be charged in seven hours on a domestic socket or 3.5 hours on a wallbox-style AC fast(er) charger.
As seems to be the PHEV fashion at the moment, the Superb iV is completely normal to drive. There's a singe "eMode" button that allows you switch between pure electric and hybrid operation. You can go another layer into the latter by leaving it in "auto" and letting the car make the big decisions about what to do and when, or untick that box and select your preferred state of battery charge to maintain. So yes, the petrol engine can actually charge the battery if you want.
We spent about an hour behind the wheel and managed to extract 47km out of the battery, which is a bit short of the claimed 62km but did include a lot of open-road running and some reasonably spirited driving.
The Superb has always impressed as a refined, pseudo-luxury large car and the iV simply amplifies that impression. It also amplifies an "e-noise" out a speaker at the front in low-speed running as a safety measure (mandatory for Europe), but otherwise it's a genuinely quiet and relaxing executive express.
There's no noticeable brake regeneration when coasting with the six-speed transmission in Drive (there is under braking), but you can shift into a "B" mode to crank up the regen-drag and achieve something closer to EV "one pedal driving".
There's an additional Sport mode that throws the eco stuff out the window and gives you maximum petrol/electric power for press-on driving. Nice touch, although the Superb isn't really that kind of car, and when the 1.4-litre engine really starts to work it feels a bit thin. Eager, but thin in such a large and imposing car.
But that small-capacity engine is opportunity cost for the eco-focus of a PHEV. And overall the iV powertrain is a beautifully executed piece of work, which bodes well for future Skoda plug-ins - like the Octavia iV that's on the way later this year.
SKODA SUPERB iV
ENGINE: 1.4-litre turbo-petrol with 13kWh plug-in battery pack
POWER: 160kW/400Nm (combined)
GEARBOX: 6-speed automated dual-clutch, FWD
ECONOMY: 1.5l/100km, EV range 62km