It's a smooth drive for Skoda Superb and Volkswagen Passat, thanks to their good looks and long list of features
When Skoda launched its Superb in 2009, a combination of factors made it a huge hit with the Indian market. Its German cousin, the Volkswagen Passat, in its latest avatar, is selling well too. The Skoda's styling and dimensions are aimed at being distinctive, and they've pulled the design strategy off with aplomb, culminating in the Superb having a very upmarket feel. The new Passat on the other hand, bears the image of a very stable, mature and well-rounded sedan that isn't radically different from the previous generation.
The Passat comes with gadgets and gizmos that would put cars twice its price to shame. Dynamic Light Assist with cornering lights is particularly useful, especially on a winding road. There is also the Attention Assist to alert drowsy drivers though we have not quite experienced how it works.
The Park Assist system, however, is an amazing bit of tech and it's eerie the way the steering takes charge of itself to slot the wide Passat into a parking slot. It's also equipped with BlueMotion technology which includes regenerative braking, stop-start, optimised ratios and early shift points for improved efficiency and a lower carbon footprint.
The Superb's rear is mostly where all the action is; its legroom is more than even a long-wheelbase S-class. Excellent under-thigh support, greater shoulder room, the creamy beige interiors along with the angled footrests and an LCD display are all attributes that add to the Skoda's appeal.
At the front, the driver is treated to a chunky steering wheel with a sporty feel. Plastic quality is superb but perhaps not quite to the exalted standards set by the new Passat.
However, the large, chrome-ringed instrument binnacles and curved dashboard have more of a sense of occasion than the Passat's simpler design. The Superb has quite a bit of kit on offer — 12-way powered seats with three memory settings, dual-zone climate control, touch screen music system, parking sensors and an electrically operated sunroof. The driver gets an adjustable armrest as well.
While boot space at 565 litres is identical to the Passat, the TwinDoor boot lid allows easy access to the storage space. To top it off, if you remove the parcel tray, and flip down the rear seats, the Superb has station-wagon levels of storage space!
Move over to the Passat's rear seat and you won't have too much of a cause for complaint unless you are a basketball player. Though legroom not generous, it is pretty decent by class standards and the stylish, ribbed rear seat is actually more comfortable thanks to softer cushioning and a backrest that has more rake. The Passat's front seats offer the same amount of legroom as the Superb, but they feel a bit flat and not as well-contoured.
The Passat's cabin, though simple in design, has a tasteful and classy feel. The dashboard and door trim plastics have a softer and richer feel and the all-new door trims are better built too. The driver is treated to a high quality, leather-wrapped steering wheel and matte silver accents around the air vents and door handles help liven things up.
Additionally, the Passat woos you with its extensive feature list. It offers an electrically-operated sunblind for the rear windscreen (the Superb has a manual version). The Passat though can't boast of an adjustable armrest for the driver but it has a four-way adjustable headrest for the front seats. The front seats can also cool, heat and massage you as you drive along. There's an optional keyless-go system and, apart from the trick parking system, the Passat also has a rear camera to help reversing. On the media front, the Passat features USB connectivity which is missing in the Superb.
The heart of the matter
By equipping it with a 2.0-litre 170bhp engine, VW has given the Passat a massive advantage in terms of drivability.
The Passat pulls cleanly from a low 2000rpm right up to the redline. Refinement levels are impressive and this is aided by a brilliant ride comfort that feels pliant and firm thanks to the grippy rubber.
Overall, the Passat keeps you happier during long runs, especially at high speeds.
The Superb has an involving driving machine and the meaty steering has immense feel.
Loaded with the BlueMotion technology, the Passat shows its might by returning 10.8kpl in the city and 15.2kpl out on the highway despite being heavier and more powerful. The Superb returned 9.9kpl and 14.3kpl in the city and on the highway respectively.
The Superb is, pardon the cliché, a superb car. Its back seat can rival any couch in any living room. With a rather dynamic drive, it is enjoyable from the driver's seat as well. Being well-equipped, well-built and offering adequate performance, it totally justifies its aggressive price tag. At Rs. 22.69 lakh, it's great value and it reminds us why it has been ruling the roost in its segment. However, VW has upped the ante substantially, the price too, unfortunately. Even though the Passat is dearer than the Superb, it also has a lot to offer.
The Skoda's styling and dimensions are aimed at being distinctive while the new Passat bears the image of a mature and well-rounded sedan