The first Superb was a breakthrough, the designers recall

The first Superb was a breakthrough, the designers recall

The first modern generation of the Škoda Superb came out in 2001, opening new horizons for the brand. The Czech carmaker’s designers look back on it as a car that boosted the brand’s self-confidence.

25. 9. 2023 Škoda World

The motoring world has changed a lot since the beginning of the millennium, but the Škoda Superb is still the flagship of the Škoda brand. In 2001, the Superb was first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show as the “Montreux study”. The car then went on sale as the Superb in the autumn of that year. It was uncharted territory for the Czech carmaker, but the car will soon have its fourth iteration.

The qualities of the cleverly conceived car quickly made it popular. Today, the car’s first generation is remembered by employees at Škoda Design as a truly groundbreaking car. “It was a surprise to me that Škoda went for something like this. It was a segment the company hadn’t ventured into at the time. I saw the finished model basically on the first day I started work. And the car really impressed me. Its large size was a bold step, in my view,” recalls Jiří Hadaščok, now coordinator of exterior design. In 1998 and 1999, when the Škoda Superb’s looks were being finalised, he worked as a trainee in the design department.

dsc6478-jiri-hadascok_96f9cb3f-copy_35099480 Jiří Hadaščok
exterior design coordinator

According to Jiří, cars at the time had full and relatively simple shapes, which made the first Superb look unexpectedly massive. It was based on an extended version of the Group’s platform, which was also used by the Volkswagen Passat,” recalls Hadaščok.

Škoda Superb (2001)


“Preparations started in 1995; we went to Germany for this. We had a hard model cut up there, and we moved its sections around until we found the ideal dimensions,” recalls Zdeněk Cibulka, who worked on the model at the time and who works in the Škoda design department.

The elegant lines of the first-generation Škoda Superb

He and his colleague Raul Pires, who also contributed to other models for the brand, worked on the first design. The Cibulka-designed version was given the green light for further development, and it was Pires who was in charge of refining it under the guidance of chief designer Dirk van Braeckel. “The resulting car had some of my ideas, some from Raul Pires and, of course, Dirk van Braeckel’s hallmark,” Cibulka explains.

zdenek-cibulka-copy_0a4a687b Zdeněk Cibulka
Škoda Design

“European cars at that time used simple lines and proportions, they were clearly legible, balanced, elegant, even beautiful – that was the trend at the time,” says Cibulka, explaining the reason for the certain similarity of cars in the same class at the time. But otherwise, the Superb was sufficiently distinctive.

Sketch of the first generation's radiator grille

“For me, the first generation represents a rational entry into a new segment. Customers could buy a bigger car than they were used to, but everything about it was as they expected, as they knew it. The first generation simply fulfilled customers’ expectations while bringing them something a bit different,” says Petr Nevřela, a designer who specialises in headlights at Škoda. In his opinion, the first generation was primarily sober and practical; the technology at that time did not yet allow for much playfulness in design. This is evidenced by the splitting of the headlight and front indicator into two parts.

Petr Nevřela
head of exterior lights design

The first Superb was also practical in its interior, where it was after all necessary to use some Volkswagen Group parts and finished solutions. “We used all of the Group’s technology and some specific solutions, and we tried to wrap these in our own design as much as possible. But the top of the dashboard, for example, is taken from the Group. What we could play with were the materials, and that’s why I think the first Superb still gives an unexpectedly high-value impression,” says Miroslav Jaskmanicki, who worked on the interior design at the time. “We came up with our own wood panelling and other decorative elements, for example, and we worked on a number of details for the door panels and the lower part of the dashboard,” Jaskmanicki recalls.

The hugely roomy interior of the first-generation Superb

Hugely spacious and an enjoyable drive

One important feature that became characteristic of the Superb was the famous umbrella. The first generation had it in the rear door, and the designers had to take this into account. “The rear doors were very long and we designed both the door fill and the umbrella. Thanks to the size of the doors, they could hold a long umbrella. The umbrella detail was the icing on the cake, proof that the Superb is an unexpectedly luxurious car,” says Jaskmanicki.

The first generation didn’t lack the umbrella housed in the rear door.

All the designers agree that the car’s dimensions, sense of solidity and huge interior space, especially in the rear seats, are the hallmarks of the first generation Superb, which have been adopted by subsequent generations. “The spatial dominance was very clear. Today, we may like cars that don’t look that big on the outside but are big on the inside, but back then the Superb was a limousine in every sense,” says Jiří Hadaščok of the first generation.

“For me, it was always a car that gave me a bit of a dilemma whether to drive it or ride in it as a passenger. When I was driving and there was no one in the back, I actually missed that person a little bit and thought that I should be in the back,” smiles Peter Olah, who is currently head of interior design at Škoda and was involved in the work on the first generation as an intern.

peter_olah-copy_63648a46 Peter Olah
head of interior design at Škoda

As a limousine and unexpectedly luxurious car, the first Superb was also great to drive. “I had it as a company car. It was such a no-nonsense car, big, and nice and powerful in the six-cylinder engine version – it was a real pleasure to drive,” recalls Zdeněk Cibulka. The next generations would build on this, although each was different in its own way and brought its own evolution to this model series.

Škoda Superb from 2001

The name Superb

The first modern Škoda Superb was launched in 2001, but the name is traditional for the Czech carmaker. It was first used on a large luxury model back in 1934. That version was produced until 1943, then in 1946 a new version was created, which remained available until 1949. The cars usually had six-cylinder engines under the bonnet, but an eight-cylinder version was also available.