Volvo V60 VS Skoda Superb
- Stunning design inside and out
- Strong value for money across all grades
- Big on safety equipment
- Lower grades only have one powertrain option
- Ownership costs
- Climate controls through media screen
- Subtle good looks
- Stands apart from the rabble
- Performance and handling to match
- Badge can work against it
- Thirstier than its claimed fuel economy
- Misses out on full engine tune
The Volvo V60 is perhaps the best representation of how far Volvo has come in recent years. Why? Because it’s not an SUV - it’s a wagon. It’s a modern-day counter-argument to the XC40 and XC60 models that have impressed many over the past few years.
But is there a place for a mid-sized Volvo wagon? One that sits low to the ground and isn’t nearly as boxy as those of old?
Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Skoda Superb SportLine wagon with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Sydney.
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Anything with large wheels and a taller stature is simply muscling other, equally capable cars out of way on the showroom floor, and there seems to be no end in sight.
It's a bit heartbreaking, then, that cars as capable – and as relatively affordable, spec wise – as the Skoda Superb SportLine are in danger of being overlooked because it's not an SUV.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It's genuinely difficult to fault the Superb in this spec, although the front-wheel drive 162TSI version is on par in practical terms and can be had for almost $12,000 less, albeit with fewer toys.
However, the Superb SportLine wants for almost nothing in terms of specs and appointments, and it differs from the regular 206TSI thanks to its subtle, sporting demeanor.
It's flexible, strong and elegant, and it's as practical as any sports utility vehicle on sale today.
Skoda does well with the Superb in relation to the rest of its line up, but even within its own ranks, a coming challenger in the form of the Kodiaq SUV will make life unnecessarily difficult for this well-priced, well-specced wagon.
If you don't need a high-riding 4x4-esque SUV, and you're not concerned about the badge your car wears – or even if you are – you really need to short-list the Superb for a test drive.
Can you walk past an SUV for a great wagon? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Look at the V60 before you - you can’t tell me it isn’t one of the best looking cars on the road. Well, actually, you can tell me - do it in the comments section below.
The car we had on test was the mid-range T5 Inscription, and the colour is called Birch. It’s a beautiful colour, and helps the svelte lines of the V60 stand out and blend in, all at the same time.
All models have LED lighting across the range, and Volvo’s ‘Thor’s Hammer’ theme Volvo adds a little aggression, too.
The rear lives up to the boxy Volvo wagon look you’d expect, and in fact, it almost looks like the XC60 SUV at the back. I like it, and I like what it offers, too.
It carries its size well, being identical in most dimensions to the S60 sedan. It measures 4761mm long on a 2872mm wheelbase, it’s 1432mm tall (just 1mm taller than the sedan) and 1850mm wide. That makes it 126mm longer (96mm between the wheels), 52mm lower but 15mm narrower than the last model - and it’s built on the brand’s new Scalable Product Architecture - which is the same underpinnings from the range-topping XC90 to the entry-grade XC40.
The V60’s interior design is familiar to Volvos from the past three or four years. Take a look at the interior pictures below.
There's a feeling that the Skoda brand has supplemented the now defunct Saab as the thinking driver's car of choice. In fact, Skoda defies its origins as a discount sub-brand of Volkswagen, with almost every vehicle sold locally optioned up like, as Skoda's product manager Kieran Merrigan told us, "a Christmas tree."
The Superb has a bold, masculine, yet friendly shape that manages to avoid being slab-sided and dull. The blacked out presentation of the SportLine variant is nicely underplayed, while the distinctive alloys give the Superb a real presence.
Its front end is not a million miles away from the one that adorns its smaller Octavia sibling, but in its wagon guise, the Superb SportLine is a genuine head-turner.
Inside, the Superb is clearly a high-end VW Group car, but the unique seats and sports trim and interesting Skoda touches - door bins, for example - set it apart.
The Swedish brand’s current interior design language is premium, plush, but not sporty. And that’s totally fine.
The cabin of the V60 is lovely to look at, and the materials used are all sumptuous - from the wood and metallic elements used on the dashboard and centre console to the leather on the steering wheel and seats. There are some lovely elements like the knurled finishes on the engine starter and other controls, too.
The 9.0-inch tablet-style vertical media display is familiar, and while it may take a week of driving to figure out how the menus work (you have to swipe side-to-side for detailed side menus, and there’s a home button down the bottom, just like a real tablet), I find it mostly very usable. However, I do think the fact you control the ventilation (air con, fan speed, temperature, air direction, seat heating/cooling, steering wheel heating etc) through the screen is a little annoying. However, the de-mister buttons are exactly that - buttons.
The volume knob below doubles as a play/pause trigger, and you get steering wheel-mounted controls as well.
Cabin storage is okay, with cup holders between the seats, a covered centre bin, bottle holders in all four doors, and a rear flip-down armrest with cupholders. But there isn’t as much in the way of smarts as, say, a Skoda wagon.
Now. The wagon bit. The best bit of all!
The V60 wagon is clearly a more practical pick than the S60 sedan, with 529 litres of cargo space (the S60 has a still decent 442L boot). The rear seats fold down flat for extra room, and there’s also a clever partition wall you can erect to stop things moving around in the boot. The opening is a good size, easily broad enough to make loading luggage or a pram in easy. The boot can cope with the bulky CarsGuide pram and a large suitcase side by side, with space to spare.
The Superb wagon is an amazingly versatile car that's easy to live with. Its electric tailgate opens to reveal a cavernous luggage space; there is 660 litres behind the seats, which expands to 1960 litres when the seats are flipped down.
We love the handy seat releases near the rear door, along with shopping bag hooks, cargo cover, load restraint points, nets and a 12-volt socket. The load cover can interfere when larger bags or boxes are stowed, though, and the Skoda also sports an odd pseudo storage hammock that could easily be deleted.
Storage is plentiful, and there are two cupholders up front and another pair in the flip-down rear centre armrest – though the cupholders are frustratingly tiny in their diameter, defying even a regular can of drink.
Another four bottles can be stashed in the front and rear door pockets.
Rear seaters can also control the climate via temperature adjusters if they so desire. The SportLine even has heated rear outside seats, which also have ISOFIX child seat mounts added to them.
Up front is an inductive phone charging slot; simply place a suitable phone flat on the pad, and the car will charge the phone without a cable. Not only that, but the pad can enhance the signal of the phone. It didn't work with every phone we tried, though, and the slot is too small for huge devices like Apple's iPhone 6S.
Seating is generous and supportive in all positions, with loads of room throughout the car for five people. Rear legroom is a particular standout, with our lanky teen enjoying limo-like space in the back seat.
The Alcantara fabric isn't perhaps as soft and as luxurious as the leather you'd find in the 206TSI 4x4, but it's grippy and comfortable, and cleans up just as easily as the leather, despite having perforations. Don't ask how we tested that...
And as usual, Skoda adds its cool little touches, with small umbrella ports in both front doors and garbage bins in the door pockets, as well as sun shades on the rear side windows.
Oh, and if you're worried about ride height, don't be; the Superb cleared our steep drive test front and rear with ease.
Price and features
The V60 wagon line-up is attractively priced, with entry level variants undercutting some of the big name competitors.
The starting point is the V60 T5 Momentum, which is priced at $56,990 plus on-road costs (a $2000 premium over the equivalent S60 sedan). The Momentum has 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, a 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as DAB+ digital radio, keyless entry, auto dimming rear vision mirror, auto dimming and auto folding wing-mirrors, dual-zone climate control and real leather trim on the seats and steering wheel. It also gets a power tailgate as standard.
The next model up the range is the T5 Inscription, which lists at $62,990. It adds plenty of additional gear, with 19-inch alloy wheels, directional LED headlights, four-zone climate control, a head-up display, a 360-degree parking camera, auto-parking assist, wood interior highlights, ambient lighting, heated front seats with cushion extensions, and a 230-volt power outlet in the rear console.
Stepping up to the T5 R-Design gets you more grunt (info in the engine section below), and there are two options available - the T5 petrol ($66,990) or the T8 plug-in hybrid ($87,990).
Extra equipment for R-Design variants includes ‘Polestar optimisation’ (a bespoke suspension tune from Volvo’s performance division), 19-inch alloys with a unique look, a sporty exterior and interior design pack with R-Design sports leather seats, paddle-shifters on the steering wheel, and mesh metal interior finishes.
There are some packs available to add more to your V60 if you want it, including the Lifestyle Pack (with panoramic sunroof, tinted rear glass and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo), the Premium Pack (panoramic sunroof, rear tinted glass and a 15-speaker Bowers and Wilkins stereo), and the Luxury Pack R-Design (nappa leather trim, blonde head-lining, power adjustable side bolsters, front massage seats, heated rear seat, heated steering wheel).
The Superb is based on the same Volkswagen Group MQB platform that underpins the Volkswagen Passat. This particular model is known as the SportLine, and supplements the previous range-topper, the 206TSI 4x4, by dint of a handful of extra bits and pieces and an extra thousand dollars on its price ticket.
The sedan costs $51,990, while it's $53,690 for the wagon tested here (plus on-road costs).
On top of the already well specced 206TSI the SportLine picks up a black finish on the mirror caps, rear diffuser, roof rails and front grille, as well as black door trim pieces, unique 19-inch alloys and SportLine badging on the front guards.
A new dashboard instrument cluster is finished in white trim, there are Alcantara-trimmed front and rear seats and door card inserts, a flat-bottomed sports wheel, alloy pedals, black roof lining and a sports monitor that adds boost, power, and engine oil temperature gauges as well as a lap timer.
The SportLine also gains all the standard inclusions of the 206TSI, including auto lights and wipers, LED headlights and tail-lights, heated front and rear seats and an inductive phone charging bay.
The only options on the SportLine are metallic/pearlescent paint ($700) and a sunroof ($1900).
Engine & trans
All Volvo V60 models are petrol-powered, but there’s one that adds electricity to the mix. There is no diesel this time around.
Three-quarters of the range are powered by the T5 engine, which is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo motor. However, there are two states of tune offered for the T5.
The Momentum and Inscription get the lower state of tune - with 187kW of power (at 5500pm) and 350Nm of torque (1800-4800rpm) - and it uses an eight-speed automatic with permanent all-wheel drive (AWD). This powertrain’s claimed 0-100km/h sprint time is 6.5 seconds.
The R-Design model takes a higher tune of T5 engine - with 192kW of power (at 5700rpm) and 400Nm of torque (1800-4800rpm). Still eight-speed auto, still AWD, and a little quicker - 0-100km/h in 6.4sec.
At the top of the range there’s the T8 plug-in hybrid drivetrain, which also uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine (246kW/430Nm) and pairs it to an electric motor with 65kW/240Nm. The combined outputs for this hybrid drivetrain equate to a phenomenal 311kW and 680Nm. Unsurprisingly, the 0-100km/h time for this grade is a startling 4.5sec!
And then there’s the fuel consumption…
Torque is rated at a hefty 350Nm from a low of 1700rpm, and it hurls the SportLine wagon to 100km/h from rest in a claimed 5.8sec.
It's backed by a six-speed dual clutch transmission and runs a Haldex all-wheel drive (AWD) layout that biases traction to the front wheels. The Superb also has a drive mode select switch that modifies the behaviour of the throttle, gearbox and steering. It also runs adaptive dampers.
The official combined fuel consumption of the V60 varies depending on the powertrain.
The T5 models - Momentum, Inscription and R-Design - all use a claimed 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, which on the surface appears a little high for a vehicle in this segment. On test in our V60 Inscription we saw 10.0L/100km - not terrific, but not terrible either.
But there’s a great evener in the T8 R-Design, which uses a claimed 2.0L/100km - now, that’s because it has an electric motor that can allow you to drive without petrol for up to 50 kilometres.
Skoda rates the Superb SportLine at 7.3L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, and it needs 95RON fuel as a minimum. Its 70-litre tank should yield 958km of range.
Over 380km of testing, the Superb returned 12.2L/100km according to the dash, which is a surprisingly high figure when compared to the claimed average. The majority of the test was conducted with the car in Sport mode, but this has only a marginal effect on consumption.
It’s hard to find much to complain about in the Volvo V60 - if you approach it like a Volvo driver would.
If you’re an enthusiast who wants a sports wagon, then maybe it’s not quite the right car for you. But if you’re after a luxurious family conveyance with comfort and plushness on its side, then this could be just the thing for you.
At the time of writing we’ve only managed to get into the V60 Inscription, which is indeed the plushest of the pack. And despite not having tricky air suspension or even adaptive dampers, it manages to offer the luxurious ride you’d expect in most situations, even though its riding on big 19-inch alloy wheels.
I would say that the ride will almost certainly be even better in a Momentum grade version, which has 17s as standard, and for those who spend a lot of time on bad road surfaces or areas where pockmarks or potholes are prevalent, that could be a consideration.
That said, the 19-inch Continental tyres on the V60 Inscription - in combination with the car’s deftly tuned chassis and its handy all-wheel-drive system - means that there’s no issue with traction or body roll in the bends. It hangs on very well indeed.
Its steering doesn’t offer the level of enjoyment that some others in the segment do (like the BMW 3 Series), but it is easy to steer around town and at speed, with a light, accurate action and predictable response.
Although the Inscription variant doesn’t get the zestier T5 engine tune, the engine response is measured and still eager enough for everyday duties, without being overly urgent. If you plant your right foot it’ll apparently get you from 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds, though the seat of the pants feel wasn’t quite that spectacular. The transmission is smart, shifting smoothly and cleverly and never really setting a foot wrong in terms of gear selection.
The Golf-R engined Superb belies its size with mid-range urge that would shame a lot of larger capacity engines. It's not as vocal – it's not an RS model, after all – and it's missing a bit of the oomph that Skoda Australia's hot weather tuning takes out of the European spec engine (about 16kW and 30Nm), but it's still a marvel to think this big car has such a relatively small engine under the bonnet.
Its chassis balance is spot on, too, with the 19-inch wheels and 235/40 R19 tyres still offering a decent ride compliance, as well as sharper handling when the dampers are turned up to Sport.
The AWD system, too, is a great addition, providing a more stable, connected feel that ties both ends of the car better than the FWD-only versions. Be warned, though – AWD cars need to have all four tyres replaced at the same time, even if you've only worn the fronts or damaged a single tyre.
Steering feel is good, if a little isolated, but overall, the Superb shrinks around the driver, behaving for the most part like a smaller, more agile car.
Volvo’s V60 scored the maximum five star Euro NCAP crash test rating when tested in 2018. They haven’t been put through the ANCAP ringer yet, but a maximum five-star score is as good as a given, based on the equipment fitted to the entire model range.
Standard safety equipment for all V60 models includes auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, rear AEB, lane keeping assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with steering assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors (plus 360-degree surround view standard on all but Momentum grades).
There are six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), plus there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top-tether restraints, too.
The five-star ANCAP Superb is well equipped with safety kit, including nine airbags (front driver and passenger, driver's knee airbag, front and rear side airbags and front and rear curtain airbags), AEB (auto emergency braking) which operates at speeds of up to 65km/h, lane departure assistance, adaptive cruise control, side assist and rear traffic alert.
Volvo offers a three year/unlimited kilometres warranty plan, and backs its cars with the same cover for roadside assist for the duration of the new car warranty.
Servicing is due every 12 months or 15,000km, and Volvo offers two different levels of pre-purchase servicing for customers to choose: SmartCare, which offers the basic maintenance cover, and SmartCare Plus, which includes consumables like brake pads/discs, wiper blades/inserts and wheel alignments.
And customers get the choice of a three-year/45,000km plan, a four-year/60,000km plan, or a five-year/75,000km plan.
Skoda offers a pre-paid 'Service Pack' for the Superb , with a three-year/45,000km plan costing $1299 and a five-year/75,000 plan coming in at $2650.
Service intervals of 15,000km or 12 months are suggested.
The car is covered by a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.