The latest Superb is a very nice thing, but I’m concerned that it lacks the essence of Skoda.
The other morning I had the pleasure of parking up at Milton Keynes Central Station car park early, and was struck by the profile and form of the two cars between which I had inserted my C6 (I still can’t drive a manual, which is no significant hardship really, but now I’m threatened once again with immobility as the Citroen’s power steering is definitely on the blink – there always seems to be something …) It was still quite dark, with just the dull glimmer of a January dawn to take the edge off the night sky, together with the drizzling amber tones of artificial lighting, and so it took me a moment to register what they were.
New Passat? No, sleeker than that. New A4? No, these were too long and more sleek than that, too. No, both proved to be new Superbs – one in dark grey, one silver (so far, so dull), one a 4×4 according to the rear badging, both in high-end Laurent & Klement trim. The dark 4×4 had 19” alloys and low profile tyres. I spent a minute or two walking around this one – it was the more striking of the two for some reason – and could not help but sense two feelings.
First, admiration for some really beautifully executed elements in what is, overall, a very attractive shape. The shut-line of the bonnet to the wing – I think it has been commented upon here before – is, I decided (even viewed in the gloom), one of the best examples I have ever witnessed of this tricky element of a car’s styling.
Then, the front wheel arch, when viewed 45 degrees from behind, is a fabulously executed example of being subtly pumped up over the front wheel, leading the eye quickly up to a very sharp crease. Coupled with the sportingly (over!) sized wheels, I have to say, it really works. Even though I don’t normally approve of such unnecessary and unrealised hints at sporting potential on a car designed for more prosaic purpose, I felt a small surge of excitement at seeing something so perfectly formed.
There are elements I am less keen on. There are too many sharp feature lines breaking up the body panelling along the flanks and, in particular, too many folds in the rear tailgate panel. Both create too much visual noise within an elegantly sleek, albeit traditional, three box profile (having the C6 alongside provided all the relative comparison needed to justify me making this important caveat). Overall, though, it’s a really nice example of a current saloon which conservatively conforms to today’s styling trends – I’d be very tempted.
The second feeling links back to that first reaction of mine; what is it? This Superb would make a very nice Audi A6 (it is big enough, making my C6 seem normal-sized, when normally people perceive the big Citroen to be at least A8 super-sized), or a long wheel-base VW Passat/ CC. Other current Skodas (Fabia, Octavia, Rapid and Yeti – let alone the Roomster (do they still make it?)) – all share a slight oddness in some aspect of their proportions, for what I have always perceived as being linked to packaging practicalities, that marks them as Skodas.
The Superb has none that I could detect, and so its design excellence borders blandness (I am not saying it is bland, but we know that that many call the Golf or Up “bland” when, actually, both just reek of fastidious attention and deliberateness to every line, every form (sigh!)). However, my point is that the Superb, as much as I admire it, could mark the loss of design identity of Skoda, and so the loss of the point of the marque in itself.
And so, I found my two minutes in the viewing of the Superb a bitter-sweet experience and confusing mix of emotions; my heart leaping in appreciation of the styling and yet the pang in the pit of my stomach told me at the same time that here, once more, is a marque that lost something in feeling a need to conform to the norm. I have since noted a number of them ploughing up and down the M1, so it seems that few seem to mind this very much in practice, and so I conclude it matters little to the reality of other people’s lives and so VAG has probably called it right, for the moment at least.