It seems to be that every manufacturer is trying to push out their PHEV offerings to buyers, and with good reason; with the recent announcement of Clean Car Discount scheme, buyers are now seeing that having a PHEV is a great stepping stone to a full EV, and with that price drop, much more affordable.

Skoda, hot on the heels of their announcements around the New Zealand Police buying up loads of Skoda Superbs, invited DriveLife to the launch of their first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in Auckland.

In what’s turning out to be a sea of options, can the Superb PHEV stand out from the crowd?

AUCKLAND

First up, as always, it was time for an update on where Skoda is at, and where the Superb iV fits into the picture.

Apparently, this is the first time the Superb iV has been sold outside of Europe, so a nice little coup for New Zealand right there.

We were told by Rodney Gillard, General Manager of Skoda New Zealand, that the iV (PHEV) model of the Octavia is coming to New Zealand. That’s not until Q3/Q4 of this year, but it will be an eagerly anticipated car. Skoda NZ will be bringing both the Style and an RS model of the Octavia iV to New Zealand.

Apparently, there are still lots of challenges around the supply of vehicles. Even with those challenges, June of this year was the largest month ever for Skoda at 191 sales, and July is set to exceed 230. That means that this quarter, Skoda NZ is expecting to sell 100 units more than any other quarter ever.

Rodney went on to say, “It’s a tough gig to get cars out of the factory, as production is still not 100%, there’s the semiconductor supply issues. It is true that they are producing cars in Europe, and then parking them up until they can get the semi-conductors they need to finish the car.”

Back here in New Zealand, sales are still outstripping supply, especially after all the positive media Skoda has had over the New Zealand Police taking the Superb. “The market is still driven and strong,” he says, “well up on 2019, it is flying. The private market is up 40%, rental market down 40%. All in all, Skoda is doing extremely well in New Zealand.”

At the moment he says there’s a 4-month wait to deliver from order time. Even the Octavia that DriveLife went to the launch of last month is still facing issues. Stock comes in and is gone, says Rodney.

Ongoing deliveries are factoring in majorly to Skoda’s sales and presence in the market. To date, they’ve delivered 71 Superbs, and are still on track for 350-400 to be delivered this year. Skoda’s dealer sales network is 9 at the moment, and about to be 10. There’s another 18 dealers that are full dealers – sales as well as parts and service.

Skoda New Zealand is aiming for 4% market share by 2025, which will mean around 5,000 vehicles sold in 2025. 2019 was 1450 cars, this year target to 2,000 sales. The Police supply is a Category 1 supply arrangement, so it overrides market supply. Police come first, is the bottom line, he says.

SKODA ENYAQ

Rodney went on to give us an update on the Enyaq, Skoda’s full Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV). He mentions that having the government change its policies is massively helping the drive getting this vehicle to New Zealand. The Enyaq is still on for a 2023 arrival here, but with the momentum behind the interest in the car, this may change to be earlier than that. Basically, he says, it should arrive at the same time as VW’s ID4 – another BEV sharing the same platform. One thing he mentions around trying to get cars earlier is our size; New Zealand represents just 0.1% of global Skoda volume.

He also told us about the facelifted Kodiaq, coming in Q4. There are new engines and new specs. The Kodiaq was 50% of Skoda’s volume in its heyday, but now it’s in run-out mode. Still, it’s the biggest seller for Skoda NZ at 30% of volume.

“68% of Skoda New Zealand clients want to embrace EV or PHEV,” he said, “and this is why we will be advertising the Superb iV as an Electric Plug-In Hybrid. So, did the Clean Car Programme hasten the Superb iV? Apparently not, it was just good timing by Skoda NZ that they managed to get the car confirmed to come here mere weeks before the announcement.

“We have a large car that is a PHEV – no one else has got that.’ Rodney adds. “You don’t have to have a small SUV that’s a PHEV, because that’s what a lot of buyers settle on.”

He ends his chat with their current catchphrase: “It might be designed in Europe, but we believe it’s made for New Zealand”.

SKODA SUPERB iV

This takes us to the car we’ve come to see and drive. Apparently, iV is a new label for e-mobility at Skoda, and it will represent any Skoda vehicle that is electric in some way. But what does iV stand for? I can mean intelligent, inspiring, iconic, and some key other I words, while V simply stands for Vehicle. So now you know.

But that’s not to take anything away from the Superb iV – “Skoda’s first-ever iV car”. In saying that, other than the drivetrain there aren’t many changes; there’s a charging socket in the front, some new functionality for the infotainment system, boot storage for charge cables, badging on the boot and an E-Noise generator. That’s pretty much it and I for one am happy about that. If you want to appeal to a mass market, there’s no point making it so different it puts people off.

The storage area in the boot for charging cables is a nice touch, but it does mean the spare wheel has gone and in its place a tyre pump and emergency kit. The storage area itself is pretty large, and will allow buyers to fit more stuff in there if they want to. Boot space is 485 litres in the sedan, and 510 litres in the wagon.

DRIVETRAIN

Finally, we get to the core of this car. Gone is the 2-litre turbo of the standard Superb, and in its place a 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder TSi engine. The electric motor is in between the 6-speed DSG transmission and the engine, while the battery is in front of the fuel tank. The fuel tank itself is reduced by 5 litres, to 50 Litres.

All hybrid tech other than the battery is under the bonnet. The air conditioning compressor has been changed from the non-hybrid model; this is now electrically driven rather than belt-driven.

CHARGING AND RANGE

Skoda claims it will take 7 hours to charge the iV from flat, from a 230-volt power outlet. For public charging, it will take 3 hours and 30 minutes at 16amps. Surprisingly, there is no fast charging (no DC charging) for this model, so 16 amps is the maximum charge you can get into the battery pack.

Of course, there is brake regeneration available. By tapping the gear lever down, a B mode is engaged which means regen is turned on. With the level in D, there is no regen so the car will simply coast along (if you are running in EV mode). You can also do brake regen by using the brakes.

Range in EV mode up to 62km under optimal conditions but turning on any consumer electrics such as air conditioning will reduce this. Hybrid range is claimed to be up to 930km. There is an E Mode button on the console to select one of three modes; Sport (primarily uses the motor, and then adds the electric motor to boost), EV mode (forces EV mode if there is enough battery charge) and lastly, Hybrid mode. The car will always default to EV mode when you get into it, if there is enough battery charge, and that’s great to see.

The lithium-Ion battery pack has a capacity of 13kWh, and comes with an 8-year or 160,000km warranty. Towing is rated at 750Kg unbraked, and 1,600Kg braked.

While the 1.4-litre engine produces 115kW of power and 250Nm of torque, these combined (in Sport mode) means a total of 160kW/330Nm. More than reasonable figures. Running solely on the electric motor will give you access to 85kW of power. In Sport mode, the Superb iV will get to 100km/h in 7.7 seconds.

So, the Big Question; what about fuel economy? Skoda rates the car at 6.8L/100km in petrol mode, while using it combined is rated at 1.7L/100km.

TRIM LEVELS

The Superb iV will be available in two body styles; sedan or wagon. Since the car just squeezes under the $80,000 cutoff point for the Clean Car rebate, this means the RRP drops by $5,750 for each model listed below

Skoda Superb iV Pricing (RRP).

Style Sedan $71,990

Sportline Sedan $76,990

Style Wagon $74,990

Sportline Wagon $79,990

All three models are front-wheel drive only, and all come with wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, which is a nice touch. The infotainment system has been upgraded, with (for example) an E-Manager to schedule charging, and also to schedule the AC to turn on before you get into the car.

DRIVE TIME

It was time to hit the road for a one-hour round trip to Clevedon. It wouldn’t be much of a test, but would give us an idea of how this car drives.

We’d only be driving the one model today, a base Style Wagon, finished in black. This car had only done 50Km from new, so it wasn’t ideal to see how it went, but it was the last one left to drive. As a passenger, of course there’s no noise as the Superb iV automatically defaults to EV mode, and the car was fully charged. As was usual for any Skoda Superb, the ride was near on perfect, the car is very refined and our rear-seat passenger was almost sticking his feet straight out in the back. If you haven’t seen the legroom in a Skoda Superb, you’d be blown away. It’s like a limo back there.

Almost to Clevedon, I jumped into the driver’s seat, the car still in EV mode. It performs reasonably well while only using the 85kW electric motor. Up one particularly steep hill, it did seem to run out of acceleration, but I was already going at a good pace, so I wasn’t too concerned. I took the car out of EV mode, and stuck it in Sport, which is the mode that will combine both the petrol engine and electric motor for maximum performance.

And perform it did – sprightly, and the chances I got to overtake cars were a cinch, as the car shot forward using the 160kW of combined power. Slipping the car back into EV mode, we drove to our destination then turned around for the return trip. While we didn’t measure how far we got, not far from our meet point, the car automatically switched into Hybrid mode, where the engine started and powered the car as well as charging the batteries back up.

It was a short trip, but so far the Skoda Superb iV impresses with its drivability. We’ll wait until we get one to review before getting to a true conclusion.

POLICE

Our last event for the day was to hear from the New Zealand Police Fleet Manager, Brian Yanko. He manages one of New Zealand’s largest fleets with over 3500 cars, with 2500 of those in front-line roles. “Equipment our staff operate must be safe and ready to deploy 24/7, and we must get to our destination without exception and in a timely manner.” Said Brian. That’s putting it lightly. Surely we all want the Police to get to where they are going in an emergency without any issues.

In November 2020, the Police announced that Skoda was successful in tendering to supply their patrol vehicles. All vehicles went through a large testing trial, which Brian detailed out. “The Skoda Superb was the best fit for purpose vehicle,” he says.

He went to great lengths to explain that it wasn’t just about placing an order for a large number of cars. “At the time of selecting our new vehicle supplier, we weren’t just after another brand to supply. We wanted to have a trusted partnership, one that would allow us to sit around the table and go through the dangers our staff face daily and how the vehicle environment can assist.”

Part of the selection process included the goal to lower Carbon emissions in the New Zealand Police fleet, as part of their social responsibility. So what about the Superb iV? “Demands that are placed on our vehicles places a challenge on lowering our emissions. However, we are having discussions around the Superb iV and will assess its potential as a patrol vehicle.”

All personal opinions have to be put to one side during the process of selection, he says, and the decision has to be one their staff will have faith in. “We will constantly watch for new vehicle technologies as they come over the horizon. We are looking forward to our assessment of this vehicle,” said Brian. Watch this space.

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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