Long-term report: Getting used to plug-in hybrid life with our new Skoda Superb iV

Long-term report: Getting used to plug-in hybrid life with our new Skoda Superb iV
We’ve taken the keys to Skoda’s latest PHEV for an extended period. Darren Cassey welcomes it to the fleet.

I’m a big fan of the executive car market. Models in this segment tend to be big and spacious with comfortable, wafting rides that make late night airport runs and day-to-day motorway commuting a breeze.

However, we took the keys to ‘our’ new Skoda Superb iV a few months back, just before the coronavirus pandemic really took hold. With the editorial team deciding to work from home a few weeks before Boris announced lockdown, everyone picked a car to take home and the Skoda was left in the office car park.

Skoda Superb iV
(PA)

It took less than two weeks for the novelty of ‘living with’ the ludicrously massive Isuzu D-Max AT35 pick-up truck I’d decided to take home, so I swapped back into the Superb. It was the correct decision. No sooner had I done so, but we were all shut indoors, so I would have been stuck with the Arctic Truck for months on end.

With my essential trips incredibly rare, the Superb has effectively been an ornament outside my home, but with lockdown restrictions easing and a better understanding of how social distancing is the key to keeping each other safe, I’ve found a couple of excuses to go for a drive, and I’ve immediately fallen in love.

The recipe is a good one. The appeal of the Superb is that it’s as big, practical and comfortable as anything in this class, but without the premium price tag. From the outside it has an understated class, helped by the dark-on-silver colour scheme of ours; then when you jump inside there are no obvious cost cutting measures.

Skoda Superb iV
(PA)

This being the hybrid, it has a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor that work together to provide 215bhp and 400Nm of torque. Keep the batteries topped up, and in normal driving you’ll rarely even need to use any petrol thanks to the 34-mile electric range.

In EV mode it’s quiet and serene, with enough performance to punch the car out of a junction without calling on fossil fuels, and the silent operation suits the car’s character perfectly. But what’s perhaps more satisfying is that when the engine does switch on, it’s almost imperceptible.

Skoda Superb iV
(PA)

One minor bug-bear is that the car sometimes defaults to EV only mode when you turn the car on. Though this is ideal for shorter trips, for longer journeys the hybrid mode is better because you can save the battery for lower speed work and use the petrol for motorway cruising when it’s at its most efficient. Forget to make the switch, and you’ll notice your battery has drained because the car has kept you in electric mode despite being on the motorway. Then, when you get close to your destination, you need the engine in the city and your economy takes a massive hit.

Speaking of economy, official figures are naturally silly, measuring up to 217mpg. If you’re only ever popping to the shops and charge your battery every day, that’s entirely possible. Perhaps even higher. But for me, I’m finding that in mixed driving I can get 80mpg or more – providing I’ve topped the batteries up. That’s very, very impressive.

However, if I get lazy or forgetful and jump in with a drained battery, that figure plummets to just 31mpg. It really goes to show that if you aren’t able to take advantage of the electrification you’re better off getting a pure petrol or diesel model that doesn’t have heavy batteries to lug about.

Skoda Superb iV
(PA)

Back to the interior, and it’s typical Volkswagen Group fare. But what it lacks in character it more than makes up for in build quality and ease of use. The infotainment system is a breeze to use, and the buttons are all clearly marked. I figured out how to change drive modes and view economy figures at the first attempt, something that took lots of frustrating searching through menus to figure out in the Ford Kuga PHEV I also have on test at the moment. The touch-sensitive buttons that border the infotainment screen can be tricky to use on the move, though.

It’s also big. If you’re regularly carrying passengers and their things, it’s the perfect car. You could easily have four adults travelling in comfort, and the boot is so big you don’t even need to consider the estate, in reality. I’m lucky to live close to some forests with excellent mountain bike trails, and on a weekend trip my bike fitted in the back with the seats down without any hassle.

Skoda Superb iV
(PA)

Normally our long-termers would have racked up a few thousand miles after a few months of ‘ownership’, but my trips in the Superb are still sadly quite restricted. With no launches abroad there are no airport runs, there are no multi-hour round trips to photoshoot locations, and not even a daily commute to contend with.

So it’s been a pleasant if low mileage introduction to the fleet. Hopefully as life returns to normal over the coming weeks we’ll have the chance to really put the PHEV to the test. In fact, it was factory fresh when we got it, and still hasn’t broken 1,000 miles, so that’s going to be the first milestone!

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