In the old days you could shove a family of four (or more) into the back of a Morris Traveller and still have space for camping gear and your Border Collie.
In the twenty-teens though, it’s likely you’re going to want something bigger – particularly if your children are older – to give everyone a bit more room, not least the driver. If you want to avoid the crossover segment, you’re left with big estates so we’re pitting two of the biggest against each other, and both are from the Volkswagen Group’s extended family. So how does the Skoda Superb fare against the more upmarket Audi A6?
There’s not really much to write about the styling of either car. Both pretty squarely hit the mark of conventional and with the respective corporate fascias applied you’re going to struggle to tell the A6 Avant apart from the A4 Avant or the Superb from the Octavia.
If we’re going to pick up on any particular detail, it’ll be the rear-end looks. The tailgate of the Superb seems to follow a constantly diminishing radius curve all the way down to the top of the rear bumper (and thus the boot floor) which makes it look a bit bulbous. The Audi’s angular alternative, combined with ‘angry robot’ tail-lights make for a slightly sharper looking option.
Still, an exterior is only as good as the colours you wrap it with and Audi’s palette for the A6 leaves much to be desired. A variety of silvers, blacks and browns – with a pair of £655 red options – is just far too mundane. The Superb’s isn’t too much better, but does at least add the odd dash of blue to the mix. Again, neither is set to thrill.
There’s no flamboyance in the cabin from the vehicles either. That said, both have simple and ergonomically sound layouts that appeal to different aesthetics. You won’t be able to miss the family ties between the two though.
The Audi’s interior is far more contemporary and perhaps even clinical, some dislike the pop-up sat-nav screen which can interrupt the cabin’s lines when in use and awkwardly obscures the passenger side front corner of the car. Leather is now standard in the A6 and the materials used elsewhere in the car really are second to none outside of the ultra-luxury segment.
Hailing from the same stud, the Skoda touts equal fit and finish but, as befits the far cheaper option, you’re going to have to put up with some interior drabness and lower grade plastics and upholstery unless you’re spending big bucks. Build quality is just as you’d expect from the modern Volkswagen Group stable.
Even going for higher specification models only upgrades the car so far and still isn’t a match for the Audi. On the bright side, the touchscreen is a permanent fixture that doesn’t slide into or out of anywhere, though it’s mounted a little further below the driver’s eye line than is ideal. It’s still very comfortable though.
Both cars score extremely well here, but not necessarily how you’d expect. The A6 is based on the new MLB platform, but the Superb uses an older one that underpins the Audi A4 and previous generation Volkswagen Passat. So the A6 is bigger, right?
Not when it comes to moving stuff about. The Audi’s 564 litre load bay is not tiny by any stretch of the imagination, but the Skoda blows the Audi away by nearly 70 litres at 633 litres. Fold the seats down an the A6 gets a pretty cavernous 1,680 litres – enough to win any round of Top Trumps but this because the Skoda’s swells to 1,865 litres. It’s difficult to get more space without buying a van.
So the A6 gets more room in the cabin then? Guess again. It’s not like you’ll be crammed into the Audi – 730mm rear legroom is loads – but the Superb manages a barely believable 840mm of back seat leg space. This puts the Skoda not only at the head of its class and the class above it, but it nudges well into territory occupied by executive cars and limos like the Mercedes S-Class. Put simply, your back-seat passengers will feel like royalty – or at least, Czech dignitaries – while you drive them about.
Headroom is broadly comparable between the two models at more than 900mm, and front-seat occupants get nearly a metre of headroom and legroom in both cars, with the slight advantage to the Skoda again.
From the zenith of practicality it’s back to ordinary reading because both cars manage a safe showing in the driving department. Neither gives a properly engaging driving experience, as pitting faster versions of the Audi against its German peers will reveal, but both drive well enough that you can enjoy them.
When it comes to ride comfort, the A6 takes the edge a little as an unflappable motorway hack but like many modern Audis there’s a harsh edge to the ride in town made worse by larger wheels and sports suspension – the latter often being a free-to-delete option. The Superb is pretty well insulated from noise at speed too, but manages a more civilised ride in the urban environment.
Both are massive cars though, so don’t spend too much time in town because parking manoeuvres and three point turns aren’t a specialty. It’s worth noting that the majority of A6 options will bestow quattro four-wheel drive on you, but if you need the extra grip of two more driven wheels you’ll have to specify a 4×4 model of the Skoda and there are not many of them.
There’s a fairly generic range of engines in the Superb, directly from the Golf/Passat selection. The petrol options are 125hp 1.4 or 160hp 1.8 TSI units, while there are 1.6 and 2.0 diesels in 105hp, 140hp and 170hp flavours. The diesels all offer around 60mpg and 0-60 sprints in 9-10 seconds, while the petrols post similar performance but 40-50mpg instead.
If you fancy going a bit off the charts, there’s a lively 256hp 3.6 litre V6 petrol lifted straight out of the old Passat R36, which brings performance into the alarming part of the spectrum (6.5 seconds 0-60mph) but also slashes fuel economy to 30mpg combined if you’re very lucky.
The Audi’s range is all diesel and starts at 190hp from the 2.0 TDI option. The bulk of the range is made up of 3.0 TDI models though, with 218hp, 272hp and a potty 320hp BiTDI twin turbo car. This last unit will hit 60mph in 5.0 seconds flat and posts 48mpg combined figures, so the A6 at least has a significant performance edge – even if it sounds dieselly.
Value for Money
Unfortunately the A6 is on a hiding to nothing here. Even the cheapest Avant will cost you £33,310, while even if you go all out on the options list with the equivalent engine in the Skoda you’ll only just about break £36k. It’s a little apples-to-oranges, given that the A6 is supposedly in a class above the Superb, but the only real differences between the two cars at that price are the Superb’s superior space, a slight fuel economy advantage to the Audi and the badges on the front.
If you want an extremely classy and spacious family car, the nod has to go to the Audi A6 Avant but it’s going to cost you. For those who value space more than class – and their bank balance more than either – the Superb is the only sensible choice.
The wowscore ratings of 8.6 to 7.8 in the Skoda’s favour only rams this home. In the long run, the Audi will be cheaper to run and will lose less of its value over time, but you’ll need to pass over more money to start with to get an equivalent specification so you may lose more cash in real terms. The Skoda won’t satisfy speed freaks either, but your family will probably thank you for that.
The Superb then is a budget A6 that’s better – and that makes it a winner in our books.