Blog : Skoda Superb proves the ‘Dad car’ isn’t quite dead

Keith Adams


Following my recent blog about the Citroen C5 bemoaning what appears to be the beginning of the end of the traditional ‘Dad car’, it’s good to know that Skoda still makes something perfectly suited for that role. Don’t know what I mean by ‘Dad car’? Think big saloon/hatchback of the non-premium variety, nice to drive, unpretentious and capable of dragging an ungrateful family to a wet Welsh holiday without resorting to a roof box.

In old-fashioned terms, that meant something like an Austin Ambassador, Ford Granada or  Renault 25. In more recent times, you’d be looking at a secondhand Rover 600 or Saab 9000 – or, perhaps, a Citroen C5 or Ford Mondeo – but never an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz. In recent years, we’ve added the Skoda Superb.

Ah, the Superb. I’ve always had a soft spot for these. Ever since the first-generation model went on sale in the UK (heck, I even preferred it to the Volkswagen Phaeton), which combined masses of rear legroom with a nice, soft ride, and won the hearts and minds of a generation of minicabbers in the process. I remember dashing to Poland in one on a long weekend and loved every minute of it – including setting the cruise control in Germany to 125mph.

In many ways, utilitarian – VW Passatesque – interior aside, that car was the perfect model for displaced Rover 75 owners, unable to buy a new one since the manufacturer’s demise in 2005. The second-generation Superb was a little more diverse in its appeal, with a split tailgate that could replicate your dad’s favourite saloon, and open up a traditional bootlid. Or it could open up like a tailgate. Nice…

The sharp new third-generation car carries its ‘Dad car’ credentials with honour. It’s big, has little in terms of aspirational appeal and continues to major (in modern terms) on value for money. It looks like a sleek saloon, but the new Superb is actually a hatchback – and, just like its two predecessors, it’s enormous inside. Perfect transport, then, for a week at the coalface of Britain’s tough motorway network, then.

Oh, yes. Regular readers will know that, out of the VW Group’s range of marques, it’s Skoda that lives closest to AROnline‘s heart by some margin. Many believe that Skoda’s renaissance is an exemplar of how BMW could have made a go of Rover.

The Octavia has always been the thinking man’s alternative to the Audi A3 or Golf, and the Skoda Rapid is an all-time great. But this Superb leaves me happy to report that it is still possible to buy a great car, and not shout a four-ring chorus of ‘LOOK AT ME‘ at your neighbours.

This one was a bit naughty, though. With a 2.0-litre TFSI engine under the bonnet, pushing out 275bhp for a maximum speed of 155mph and a 0-60mph time of 5.5 seconds, isn’t just a great ‘Dad car’, it’s a brilliant Q-car. With four-wheel drive added into the mix, this Superb is a great way of quietly getting from A-to-B quickly, and without fuss.

Oh, and what a hoot it is – not just because it’s so fast, yes that’s lovely, but it’s the way it metes out that pace. You’ll surprise anyone this side of an M3 in it, too – and won’t induce road rage when you loom large in Insignia-Man’s rear-view mirror.

We’re getting off track, though. The existence of the Superb confirms that the ‘Dad car’ is alive and well. It’s not the only one you can still buy new in the UK, but I’ll go out on a limb – the Superb, surely, is the best ‘Dad car’ of them all these days. It’s the Rover 600 or Saab 9000 for the 2010s – and, give it a few years, just like its Swedish forebear, the Superb will be the thinking dad’s load hauler of choice.

Me, I’ll save my pennies for the turbo one – I’ve always liked Saab 9000 Aeros and Rover 620tis, and I reckon this is their spiritual successor.

What say you?

Keith Adams


  1. Agree completely, a member of an ever diminishing and evermore exclusive club of a big non-premium saloons/fastbacks, the decline of the D segment is a topic that I lament.

    In some ways if the Octavia is a fleet favourite as per the Cortina/Sierra, the Superb is reminiscent of the Granada, mk1 and 2 saloons (albeit the mk2 Superb had the clever hatch-boot that gave the side profile a bit of a booted-2-box profile) and mk3 hatch. Here’s hoping it isn’t replaced by a bug-eyed slow seller before getting the axe!

    Over on the Saab forums, the Superb seems to scoop up a few ex-Saabers as well, the hatch is reminiscent of the 9000, the sub-premium branding appeals at a similar level.

    The decline of the “Dad car”, the mainstream D and E segments, I’ve been reading is also apparent over in the US where they can’t get enough crossovers

    However I do now see why.
    In the 90s the concept of PCP was pushed for getting a new car, this relied on calculating the resale value of the car after the lease term. For premium brands, this end value was higher, the difference was less, therefore the payments would be priced accordingly – ie. less than the equivalent non-premium. This helped people into previously expensive marques, and is probably part of the reason why the Merc C class crept into the top 10 UK sellers list.

    The lower C segment has also grown, with the likes of a modern Focus sitting higher, wider and merely 4cm (under 2in) shorter than a Sierra, while still offering plenty of useful interior space.

    But the other reason, being a ‘dad car’ it has to be suitable for being a ‘dad’. Back when many of us were younger, a family car journey meant getting into the car, clunk clicking the rear seatbelts (if fitted!), if there was a baby it was held in the front seat with mum, and away you went. These days you need child seats, booster seats, i-size rear facing seats, buggies and prams have gotten larger, the space and ease of getting at car seats without putting your back out has helped sales of the taller crossover.
    A go-anywhere image, plus the mutually-assured-destruction-like trend of everyone else seemingly having an SUV have probably also helped sales.

    Stories of the death of the dad car are exaggerated, though. Yes, let us raise a glass to recent absent friends – Accord, C5, Chrysler 300, MG6 spring to mind – and spare a thought for those on borrowed time such as Avensis and 508. But we still have the likes of the Mazda 6, a poor man’s Jaguar XE. Ford and Vauxhall still sell plenty of Mondeos and Insignias to fleets. Alfa Romeo is readying a RWD resurgence with the Guilia, from Korea the Hyundai i40 and Kia Optima, VW is halfway-premium with the Passat and Volvo have started selling their latest successor to the 760 line the S90. And let’s not forget premium brands – Jaguar, Lexus, Infiniti and the German big 3.

    My problem with the Superb is that I would be looking used, any good examples get snapped up immediately by taxi(minicab) drivers, however if anyone is a good judge of a good wearing, reliable, comfortable and day to day liveable car it is this group of professional drivers.

  2. The Superb does have a nice niche in the market, as a “large” car with a “budget” brand.

    Ford, Mazda and Vauxhall would all claim their products are more upmarket, while Germans, Jaguar, Volvo and Alfa are premium products, and apart from Volvo, not at all spacious either!

    It’s only the VW parts bin and shared chassis that make such a car economic.

  3. I’ve always thought that Skoda also carries on the BL/ARG/MGR tradion of confusing the marketplace. Seemingly totally different, it could be seen as a latter day Princess/ Ambassador in that it gives you more car than the equivalent Insignia. But also enough legroom to embarrass a 7 series! I think these days that Skoda have been pulled up to the top of mass marketplace ie. Honda, Peugeot etc. Very good for Skoda, maybe not so good for VW as folk are wanting even better value these days, and these cars might provide that. While their range of SUVs has increased with the new Kodiaq (bit flashy maybe), the main range is definitely a range of “Dad” cars, which are getting fewer every year from other makes. As the PCP (Personal contract purchase) makes it ever easier to step into a new car, it sometimes seems like the customer qualication these days is “what size SUV would you like”? Selling from a multi franchise dealer group, it’s interesting to now sell to customers who used to drive Primereas, Galants, Lagunas, Accords etc,. The Mazdas we sell remind me of Rover type DNA with a splash of sporty MG thrown in. Something a bit different from the norm, but not trying to be the dreaded “premium” that everybody else is trying to be.

  4. To me the Suberb is one of the crown jewels of the Volkswagen,it’s very keenly priced has enough versions to provide for the taxi driver with the S/SE versions up to a virtual limousine in the Lauren & Klement version, the massive space in the Superb is accompanied by the boot which is also on an epic scale, should you want yet more space there’s the estate as well There’s a good choice of petrol & diesel engines plus two and four wheel drive as well, To me I can’t understand why anyone would choose to buy a Passat or an A6 over the Suberb is one of the great motoring mysteries.berynot so much a case of badge snobbery,but brand stupidity

    • Lauren & Klement being the original name of the company that became Skoda..
      Oddly enough Skoda history mirrors BMW post war, both arms companies who went into cars.

  5. The Hyundai Sonata and Vauxhall Carlton/Senator were good “dads Cars”, I tended to buy the big ones as they gave value for money, space and spec. Now sadly road tax has killed off the bargains – a £1000 bargain with £400/550 road tax doesn’t add up xx

    • Agreed, there are so many good,cheap cars around. But the cost of taxing some of them is totally ridiculous.

  6. Goes away to check list prices… £31k for the cheapest 275bhp model, going all the way up to £38k for the top spec. OOF!

    No doubt there will be discounts, but this sounds like a car for the rich Dads only. Who is buying these these high-end petrol models new?

    I feel no sadness for the demise of the D/E segment. Crossovers are great – we’re on our second CRV and love it.

    • I’d rather pay £38k for a slightly lower spec or even a one year old E class or 5 series than see my money vanish in depreciation on a new Skoda.

      £21k gets an E220CDI estate with 18,000 miles, and £32,000 gets you a 5,000 mile E350 BluTec fully loaded (Mercedes approved used).

      I know where my money would be going!

      • Not quite a like for like comparison. Yes, the top price Skoda Superb are not cheap – £35k list for a 280ps petrol 4wd in the top spec. That’s about the same price as a bottom of the range E class. The Superb range starts under £20k.

        Stating the obvious, first year depreciation is high on any car, so if you’re talking used, £15-18k will get you a one year old Superb.

        • 6-12 month old cars can often be good value, and I’ve bought a few myself in the past. But someone has to be the first owner! I’m guessing the first owners of these high spec petrol Superbs will be Skoda dealer principals. Or the Skoda press fleet.

          I agree the entry level cars represent a lot of metal for the money at less than £20k. There are also some very good lease deals available on the diesels, thanks to the good residual values presumably due to strong secondhand demand from all those taxi drivers.

      • I take your point, but I’m expecting the depreciation on our CRV to be a lot less painful than on a Superb.

        Don’t want to be negative about Skoda – they’ve achieved a great deal in the last 10-15 years. The new Kodiaq looks good, and if it’s priced right then we’d definitely consider one of those when we’re next shopping for a family car.

        • The prices of the Kodiaq on the Skoda UK website,it’s very good value plus also there are both 7 seat and petrol 4×4 versions as well ,perhaps this is the new “Dad” car certain just the perfect car for the “Dad’s Taxi” role of carting sullen teenagers to their social events.

    • Definitely a lot of money but nobody’s paying anything like that in cash. It’s all “deposit contribution” from the manufacturer, sometimes several thousand pounds, the customer paying a few thousand deposit and payments of £300-£400 over 3-4 years on a PCP. Yes, you don’t own it until the final payment is made but it just gets traded in for another one instead. Around 80% of new cars are now sold this way. People don’t seem to be so bothered about “owning” a car, just running one with minimal costs.

  7. The next Insignia is rumoured to be taking a leaf out of the Superbs book by offering the space and spec of a premium car (thinking Audi A6 class) at Skoda pricing.

  8. Having owned 3 recent petrol Skoda’s from new (05 Fabia Estate, 06 Octavia L&K and 2010 Yeti 1.8 TSI) all three, bar the odd niggle, were fine till approx. 50k miles and then reliability fell off a cliff (mainly electrical), the Octavia’s electric memory seat would on its own accord occasionally pin me to the steering wheel whilst driving, the Yeti started consuming oil big style (treated by Skoda like nobody else has had this issue, nothing wrong with the car etc…) But in reality a well publicised issue affecting 1.8 and 2.0 engines of this type and vintage. Loss of all electrics on the drivers side also on the Yeti turned out to be ‘wear and tear’ in the drivers side door wiring loom (5 years/50k) – opening and closing the drivers door too much (how funny is that!) – We are giving VW Group cars a rest till they sort themselves out.

  9. This particular Superb ticks just about every box for most people. Audi build quality, 155mph when in Germany, 4 wheel drive when snowing and enough room to swallow an endless supply of IKEA flat-packs. Plus, other motorists will refrain from showing you a finger as you don’t have 4 x rings on the front grill. The best of all worlds. Skoda is so cool.

  10. As good as Skoda are today, there are always going to be those people who turn their noses up at the brand and others who are sceptical about the branding within the VW group. I’m one of those people who are a sceptic. For example I made a pre arranged appointment to have a test drive of the Citigo (or citygo?) last year. I turned up at the dealer in Bradford only to be told they didn’t have the car as one of the sales team had ‘borrowed it’. What I found was the salesman I was dealing with was not really apologetic.
    I went to Hyundai on the same road on the same day to look at the Hyundai I10 and the sales person who was more pleasant let me have a test drive there and then without even the need to book an appointment. I already had my head set on the Hyundai which in the end I bought, but I thought I would give Skoda the benefit of the doubt before hand. The Citygo is a poor car compared to the Hyundai I10 even if it has won a Whatcar award. The new model I10, has won Whatcar awards for 3 years running so that says something greater about the Hyundai.
    The I40 which I have driven is also a great car and a bloke I was talking to at a dealer with a Hyundai I800 van told me he had covered 200000miles without adequate servicing and it’s fair to say it was trashed but still going without one breakdown – that’s true and I have no doubt. I will never even think of buying a car from Skoda now or even any brand under VW for that matter, especially since ‘dieselgate’ as it’s my feeling amongst a great deal of others I know that VW have ultimately conned and fooled the world. As hard as VW are making up for wrong doing now, there are some people like myself who have lost complete trust and no amount of putting ills to rights will change that view.

  11. Peugeot 508sw, very dad and no VAG (which from my experience is not bad).

    Better looking and built imvho.

  12. I’ll buy a Skoda when I lose interest in cars and am in my dotage.
    Minicab fodder, sorry “private hire” fodder, minicabs are all Octavias.

    • Tony, Skodas are very good cars and if they’re used by taxi drivers a lot, it proves one thing, they’re reliable and take high mileages well. Also the Superb seems Roverish to me, a big, powerful car which looks upmarket and is nice to drive.

  13. Skoda aren’t just minicab fodder or boring vehicles. There is much more too them than that.
    I had a Superb and swapped it for an Audi A5 because it made more sense financially.
    The Skoda needed an air conditioning radiator, nothing more in 60K over 3 years. The radiator issue was caused by me hitting an owl on a lane at very high speed, not a build issue. After 2 years and 40K the Audi hasn’t needed anything. SO build quality on both is right up there.
    The Skoda was a remapped 170 Common Rail diesel, the Audi 184 Common Rail Diesel. After remaps the Skoda did 60+ mpg and the Audi does 56+ mpg. Not bad for the sizes of car.
    The surprising part is that the build quality on the Skoda at least matches the Audi. The interior never squeaked or rattled. The plastics felt high quality and there was no sign of wear anywhere. OK the Audi is a touch quieter on a motorway but not much and the stereo is better but under normal driving conditions, there isn’t anything between them.
    Where the Skodas really win is that they are thought out. Parking ticket holder in the windscreen. Ice scrapper in the filler cap. Hanging hooks in the boot. Storage net on the tunnel. All little things but make the difference when using the car in the real world. Add that with VAG group soft touch plastics and solidity, nothing touches them for the money.
    Are they exciting? Not really. Is any modern car exciting? I doubt it.They are all competent, reliable and sufficiently spacious. If you want exciting then get something old and quirky, something that gets you from A (probably) and (maybe) to B. In a world of CAD and Robotics exciting doesn’t sell in big enough volume to make it to production. In a sea of grey, competent vehicles from around the world a Skoda floats nearer the top than it maybe should for its money. It’s not a 3 series or a C class but it’s not far off them but with the savings in your pocket why not get an older 3 series and track it? Then go on a few holidays with what you still have left over?

    • SWMBO has an Audi A1. It has had a few issues to the [largely incompetent] dealers for warranty work including a catastrophic oil leak, tyre pressure warning indicator failure and complete failure of the “entertainment system” within 2.5 years. It’s a 105bhp 1.6tdi and you are lucky to achieve 50mpg after the “emissions fix”. That said, it was no great shakes on the fuel consumption side before the fix, mostly averaging a miserable 52-54mpg and if lucky 58 on a long run.

      In contrast, my C class has racked up 100,000 miles with just an aircon regas and a corroded parking brake cable replaced. The C class is perfectly suited to my needs having adequate space, and it’s averaged over 55mpg over the last 5 years often being driven well loaded (and I’m not known for hanging round when I drive). Thankfully it’s a lot more interesting than a Skoda as I spend about 20,000 miles a year driving.

      Sorry, but I associate Skoda Superbs and Octavias with minicabs and the carpet slippers brigade. Also, a Superb is not far off the price of a C class when you get up to an equivalent specification.

  14. A fair few Taxi’s I’ve used have been Skoda’s and their image is far removed since the 1970’s models. VW have done a heck of a job on the Skoda range to their credit… like them or not.

    I’m wondering, does the Astra Tourer & Focus Estates qualify as Dad cars? I would rather have one of those rather than a Crossover or SUV

  15. The ultimate in Dad cars and totally uncool and disliked outside the dealer network due to their badges, large Japanese cars from the eighties. Cars such as the Nissan Laurel, Toyota Camry and Mitsubishi Galant provided a massive amount of standard equipment for the money, were mechanically solid, quite cheap used, and were comfortable and spacious, but the badges meant any other dealer sneered at them. I’d love to know what would have happened if you decided to trade in your Nissan Datsun 200 L for a Mercedes 230 E.

  16. Yes Glenn, I remember the Datsun Laurel, 280C, big Toyotas & Colt Gallant well in the early 80s. While working in Iraq in 1979, we had the temporary use of a Datsun 280C estate with a driver for long journeys (up to 300 miles). Actually it was a pretty fast roomy and comfortable car – with good aircon.

    At the same time I owned a Cherry hatchback… much more modest.

    • Interestingly, some of these big Japanese cars, like Skodas now, ended up on the taxi circuit due to their ability to take huge mileages without problems and having enough room for four passengers and their luggage.
      As for any lingering quality issues with Skoda, I have had a look at a Fabia SE recently and the dashboard is like something on an Audi as the materials look so good and everything feels very well put together. Also 114 mph and 55 mpg from a one litre petrol is very tempting.

  17. Although all generations of Superb seem to have been good cars, the second hatch/saloon type was an ungainly looking thing, almost completely devoid of style. The current version is a big leap on the visual side and certainly attractive enough in a sea of mostly quite ugly and poorly detailed ‘modern’ cars.
    However, I have to agree that whenever I see a Skoda larger than a Fabia these days, it just shouts ‘Minicab’. I recently bought a new ‘Dad Car’, having the atypical 2.4 kids and after considering many options, (including other VAG makes) I settled on a heavily-discounted Golf Estate, which cost about the same as a normally-discounted Leon Estate or indeed, an entry-level Superb. Admittedly the Golf Estate would also make for a pretty good and refined minicab, but I’ve never seen one being used as such.

  18. @ Carroll, there is a 10 plate Golf estate used locally as a taxi and some Passats re used as taxis. It does seem where once Ford and Vauxhall dominated the taxi fleets round here, about two thirds now are the products of VAG, with Fords and Vauxhalls rarely seen. Also Kia has a big following due to the seven year warranty and good reliability.

  19. In my part of the world – Nottingham – almost all the taxis are Toyotas (Prius or Auris or Avensis) and the rest are Skoda Octavia or Superb. There is virtually no other marque used.

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