Let’s put the two head to head and see how they compare in each key area.
The latest Passat is sleek, stylish and modern-looking, with the now ubiquitous LED lights contributing to a very grown-up look at the front of the car. There’s quite a bit of chrome on display here, but not enough to encourage too many bad memories of the 1970s. There’s definitely a more premium fell about how this latest Passat looks, which can only be a good thing.
To our eyes at least, the Superb is a huge leap on from the old version (see how they compare in our old Superb vs New Superb guide), and it looks more upmarket than ever. The Passat has a saloon-style boot, whereas the Superb has a hatchback which lifts the rear window glass as you open it, so you can chuck objects into the back seats if needed.
Both cars play it fairly safe, but the Skoda has made the biggest leap over the previous generation so we’ll give it the nod here.
If Skoda is trying to make up the ground between itself and VW, then the Passat is definitely trying to do the same between itself and Audi. While the inside of the new Passat is conservative and a long way from groundbreaking, the level of fit and finish on display here has to be seen. If you were blindfolded and put inside the Passat, you really couldn’t tell it from more prestigious German cars.
Not only is the quality of workmanship on par with just about anything else within reason, the materials and attention to detail are also above reproach. There’s even a little more room inside this one compared to its predecessor, although headroom for taller passengers is a little restricted in the back seats.
The interior of the Skoda Superb is another area that shows how far the Eastern European brand has come in the last 15 years. While you can tell the difference between the interiors of the Superb and the Passat apart from each other, there’s plenty to like with the Skoda and it leaves some similarly priced rivals in the shade.
We’ve already become used to Skoda cabins being pretty classy, but there always used to be at least a few signs of economising. That’s no longer the case here though, with quality materials throughout, an excellent driving position and a build quality that definitely doesn’t shout economy.
The Passat’s interior is the better of the two, but it’s a much closer thing that many would imagine.
Diesel engines are the norm in this part of the car market, and VW claims that less than one per cent of Passats sold in the UK are petrol, which is a major contributing factor to the new car only coming with diesel engines.
The entry-level engine is now a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder TDI that develops 118hp. Next up is the 148 horsepower 2.0-litre unit, with 187 and 237 horsepower versions also available. Apart from the range-topper, all manual versions produce 110g/km or less of carbon dioxide, which makes them a plum choice for fleets and company car drivers. The 148hp version of the 2.0 TDI should account for the majority of sales. Delivering more-than respectable economy of 67.3mpg and emitting just 106g/km of CO2, it’s easy to see why this will be most people’s first choice.
You’re certainly better taken care of by the Skoda Superb if you prefer petrol engines, with four of them to choose from. As well as a 1.4 TSI in 123hp and 148hp forms, there’s a 2.0-litre TSI petrol with either 217hp or a 276hp. The most efficient one to choose is the 148hp 1.4, which returns 57.7mpg. The fastest is the 276hp, which will rocket the Superb from 0 to 60mph in just 5.8 seconds.
The Superb’s range of diesel engines starts with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder affair developing 118hp while returning 70.6mpg. More powerful diesels start with a 148hp 2.0-litre engine, which can be upgraded to a 187hp version if you prefer. With the more powerful diesel costing just £900 more than the less-powerful 2.0-litre unit, and only being a couple of miles to the gallon worse on fuel, it really is the standout choice.
White-knuckle thrills have never been part of the Passat’s armoury, with refinement and comfort top of its list of performance priorities. The new model is no different in that respect, although this is perhaps the best handling Passat ever.
The Passat’s steering is nicely weighted, accurate and precise, there’s plenty of grip, and it doesn’t lean much in corners. The area where the Passat really does excel though is motorway cruising, with engine, wind and road noise all fading away to become a barely audible backing track to a beautifully calm environment.
If you want to counteract the effect of the UK’s ever-worsening roads then a supple suspension that allows fluid handling without feeling vague or sloppy is what you need. If that’s the diagnosis, the Superb is the prescription.
The Skoda manages to take care of what our hideous roads throw at it without compromising on driving pleasure. Like the Passat, the Superb comes into its own at motorway cruising speeds.
There really isn’t much to choose between the two as far as driving is concerned. The Passat delivers what you want and expect, and the Superb is a hushed motorway companion too.
The Passat has plenty of room inside for both passenger and luggage, although rear headroom can be a slight issue for taller passengers.
The infotainment system is spot-on too: A 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard kit, and it includes Bluetooth and DAB digital radio, and it’s really user-friendly with quick responses, and bright, clear graphics.
You’re also able to add Mirrorlink technology, which allows you to connect your Android smartphone to use as a sat-nav. There’s even now a ‘Car Net’ feature that uses your phone’s data connection to deliver the latest traffic and weather reports. It’s worth noting that the Superb gets this system too.
The boot is marginally bigger than the previous Passat’s, with a reasonable 586 litres of room behind the rear seat backs and SE models and above having a 40:20:40 split-folding seat arrangement. You also have a pair of plastic levers that let you drop them down to expand the load capacity even further.
The Skoda Superb doesn’t have quite the same issue with rear headroom as its VW rival, and the rest of the cabin is as equally spacious as the Passat. However, you do have more boot space in the Superb with 595 litres with the back seats up, and a very useful 1,700 litres with them down.
The Superb also has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to add to its practicality credentials. In proper Skoda style, you get quirky features such as umbrellas built into the doors and an ice scraper hidden in the petrol filler flap. You’ll also find the Superb isn’t lacking in terms of the latest safety technology either, with the likes of adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and park assist all now available.
In summing up what these two cars offer against each other, it’s a hard fact that you get what you pay for here. The Skoda starts off at just £18,640 for the 1.4 petrol manual, while the least you can get into a Passat for is £22,320 for the manual 1.6 S model. The most expensive models are the top-of-the-range Superb is the £30,785 2.0-litre 4×4 276hp SE L Executive, with the VW’s top-earner being the R-Line 4×4 at £35,620.
If both of these cars cost the same, it would be a simple fact of the Passat being better in almost every way. But they don’t cost the same, and the price difference is noticeable if not seismic. The Superb does everything the Passat can do; you’re just paying extra for a more prestigious badge and a little more refinement in the Volkswagen.