First drive: Skoda’s electrified Superb iV plug-in hybrid hits NZ

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Words: Matthew Hansen
23 Jul 2021

“Ha ha ha, the police will be 30 minutes late to the scene of the crime waiting for their tree-hugger EVs to charge.”

“All the crims need to do is keep driving in a pursuit until the cops run out of juice, har de har.”

“Give it five years and they’ll all be on the scrapheap with dead batteries, huhuhu.”

If the reporting about the New Zealand Police even daring to consider adding a plug-in hybrid to their fleet has exposed anything, it’s that there are stacks of misinformed Kiwis out there who don’t know a plug-in hybrid from a hybrid from a toaster.

At the launch of the newly arrived Superb iV plug-in hybrid, Skoda said as much … although in slightly more commercial and kind terms. Dealers offering the new electrified model, the company’s first sold here, have fielded all sorts of oddball questions from customers about various PHEV myths. This no doubt has been spurred on by social media ramblers and grifters.

But I digress. Getting behind the wheel of the new electrified Superb iV and actually driving it, I can confirm that it hurtles along a road much like most other Volkswagen Group products. It’s an incredibly clean, refined experience. If you’ve sampled an ‘ordinary’ internal combustion engine Superb, the plug-in is about 90 per cent identical.

Four Superb iVs will be offered to New Zealand; two shapes (sedan and wagon), and two trim-levels in Style and Sportline. The wagon variants are expected to be the nameplate’s heaviest hitters, with the sedan only available in Style trim initially. All models get an identical plug-in powertrain, front-wheel drive, and a five-year/150,000km warranty.

Pricing kicks off at $71,990 for the Style sedan. The swanky Sportline version is another $5000, with the all-important wagons $74,990 and $79,990, respectively.

Each model is currently eligible for the government’s full $5,750 Clean Car Discount for new plug-in hybrids, the flagship Sportline wagon narrowly slotting in under the $80,000 threshold. This means you could, theoretically, have one in the driveway for $66,420 at the bottom end and $74,240 at the top.

You’d hardly call that ‘cheap’, but Skoda says that’s not the point. These models are not only aimed at cops with an environmental mandate, but also at families who want an electrified lifestyle vehicle that won’t totally break the bank. They’ve got a point, too. There aren’t many other plug-ins under 80 grand that pack the wagon’s boot capacity, rear passenger space or towing capability of the Superb. It’s mostly hatchbacks and compact crossovers.

Speaking of, the wag can hold 510 litres in its boot and tow up to 1.6 tonnes braked. That boot capacity is some 150 litres less than a standard model, thanks to some of the rearranging Skoda has done to accommodate the battery in what was formerly a cubby on the left side. The spare wheel has been kicked to the curb, too, a hidden under-floor compartment for the charging cable in its place.

The are other differences between the plug-in and the pure-petrol models, too. The iV gets an ‘E-Noise Generator’ speaker next to its grille-mounted plug, which emits a noise to warn pedestrians and the like. The grille itself is now solid, instead of perforated. The infotainment system has added menus and gauges for monitoring electric usage.

But obviously the biggest change is the powertrain and drivetrain. It comprises a 115kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder paired to an 85kW/330Nm electric motor mounted within the housing of the six-speed DSG dual-clutch box, and a 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Overall output is rated at 160kW/400Nm.

It’ll take around seven hours to charge when plugged into a traditional home socket, or three hours if you’ve got a wallbox. It also regains power through regeneration while on the move, either through the brakes or through its on-board ‘B Mode’. CO2 emissions are rated at 40g/km according to the WLTP (standard models produce up to 176g/km), with economy rated at a mere 1.7L/100km combined. Play your cards (and plugs) right, and the plug-in iV could save you about $10,000 annually in petrol prices.

The 7.8-second 0-100km/h time seems merely adequate on paper. But, like a lot of plug-ins, the iV feels much quicker in person. This is something you feel most once in motion. In sport mode (this prioritises the petrol engine) the electric motor is a credible wingman, supporting the DSG’s proven ability to rapidly drop a cog or two at any given moment with noticeable torque fill.

With charge up your sleeve, the iV is a motorway overtaking-lane machine. Much quicker than the VF and ZB Holden Commodores being phased out of the New Zealand Police fleet, too, just quietly.

Our launch drive was a very brief one, lasting just over an hour. In that time (give or take about 20 minutes; me and my co-pilot were last back to base. The sacrifices we make for journalism) we were able to drive from Mangere to Maraetai and back via Clevedon. Over some of the more challenging bits of roadway, the Superb iV Sportline we drove performed as you’d expect. Along with its ample pace, it also manages its weight neatly while packing plenty of mechanical grip.

Skoda claims a range of up to 62km when fully charged. Naturally, this varies according to how you use your car and the kinds of roads you drive. Our car showed 45km of range from start-up. After an hour of brisk backroad driving in Sports Mode with some motorways thrown in, an 84km round trip, it still showed 16km left of electric range. Not bad at all.

Like a lot of Skoda’s current line-up, bonafide complaints are hard to come by. The six-cog DSG is outdated on paper compared to the eight-speeds that get thrown into other models, but feels slick enough in practice. And who needs the extra two gears when you’ve got an electric motor to aid your economy? If there’s a negative about the driving experience, it’s how derivative it can feel to those wanting fun, who’ve perhaps stepped out of other Volkswagen Group product.

The infotainment system did cause one or two gripes. Skoda’s integration of the new live electric information is well done, and the resolution of the Sportline’s 9-inch screen and digital cluster are excellent. However, the satnav is incredibly laggy, and the 123rf-style stock images used for the main menu icons are a little corny. 

Thank goodness wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard I suppose.

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