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Skoda Superb

 

It's easy to laugh at the Skoda brand, certainly if you're familiar with all the jaded old jokes. It's easy to laugh at the Superb's name, too. Until you drive it that is, for it's rather impressive.

Sure, the car's profile is a little clunky - but the VW build quality, the thoughtful touches and above all the interior room it supplies are impressive, even before you weigh up the features list and see the price.

This generation's predecessor wasn't a good looker either, and its soft handling lived up to its waistcoat-and-slippers image. The new car's firmer; still comfy, but with less roll and a more confident approach to bumps and corners.

It comes as no surprise, then, to discover the suspension package is drawn from existing VW-group cars. As is the engine - the 125kW/350Nm diesel we sampled shared with Skoda's Octavia RS and VW's Passat, the less powerful model from VW's Tiguan. Oh - and the platform also underpins the Octavia and Golf, though here it's considerably stretched. Mind you it's 47mm shorter than the car it replaces. But Skoda has wrought a packaging miracle, with 19mm more rear leg room, and it was hardly short of rear space to start with. Now the Tall Blacks could hold a party back there, and as for the boot - at 565 litres it should come with a boathook to assist baggage retrieval.

The Superb does feature the next best thing, a rather clever tailgate. Under normal use it opens like a sedan boot. Want a wider entry, press another button and it hinges above the rear window like a liftback, to deliver a massive opening. Need it? Use it. Don't? Ignore it - the car's a sedan in every other respect.

There are quite a few BBQ-boasting features to this car. Like the AFS adaptive headlights, which widens and lowers the beam round town to light the verges; raises it at open road speeds; angles it to reduce glare for oncoming drivers when it's raining; and tilts it round corners.

No, it won't make tea. But this car will do virtually everything else, courtesy an impressive specification list. Dual front, plus side and curtain airbags for both rows and a knee airbag; traction and stability control; hill hold and tyre pressure monitoring; cruise control and auto air con; auto dimming rear view mirrors and a chilled glovebox; heated seats, a luggage net and a rear window shade; it's got the lot. Including an umbrella slotted into the rear door.

All this, and yet its frugal on fuel. Performance isn't startling, even with the clever DSG double-clutch transmission, but this car is aimed at everyday comfort and reasonable handling, not the race track. The bonus comes at the pump. Despite my hilly commute and very little highway driving, I saw a 6.9l/100km average, not far off Skoda's overall claim.

The Superb's not perfect. Unlike a Falcon or Commodore, it won't reward spirited driving, and the fat rear pillar reduces rear three-quarter visibility, partly offset by the standard park distance control.

But if you want a roomy, smart, large car that's comfortable, frugal, and loaded to the eyebrows with goodies; with a five-star crash-rating, a Euro badge and VW build quality - and priced at under 60 grand - you'd struggle to find anything on the new-car market to beat it.

But it's a Skoda? If that's your only reservation, get over it. People do, as Skoda's climbing sales in a falling market prove.
 


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