Car reviews - Skoda - Superb - 5-dr wagon range
Value, space, TDI refinement and torque, TSI smoothness and punch, cabin quality and presentation, versatility, styling
Room for improvement
Some road noise at speed, bigger wheels introduce firmer ride
14 May 2010
QUICK! In 10 seconds, name the best Holden ever. Need time to think? How about the greatest BMW of all time? No can do? Ferrari then? Cannot possibly decide right away?
For many of us it is not easy choosing the star number one car from a brand’s back catalogue, especially in a hurry … unless we’re talking about Skoda.
That’s right. Because the new Superb Wagon is, hands down (and even after our all-too-short first taster), the best production vehicle the Volkswagen Czech marque has ever made. No ifs, no buts. And this is from an outfit in existence since 1895.
Now, in this context, we define ‘best’ as the model we’d choose ahead of both anything within a car-maker’s range as well as among similarly-priced competition. And on both counts the largest ever Skoda scores a decisive victory.
Sampled over urban and rural Victorian country roads over just one sunny day, the VW-based newcomer (current Passat underpinnings mixed with lots of latest Golf gear) is the sort of big roomy wagon you might have once associated with Volvo, Saab or even any pre-VE Commodore. Indeed, we hear that Skoda is really aiming to secure customer types that may have once aspired to the Swedish marques. And there are still plenty of ageing 240s, 740s and 9-5s needing replacement.
That’s nothing to scoff at either since the virtues of solidity, quality and skip-loads of space abound in the square-backed Superb. It also looks a whole lot less clumsy than the odd if oddly appealing TwinDoor liftback model.
Let’s consider that tailgate area for a mo. It’s vast in length, a triumph in depth, comes complete with a handy amount of height. Fork out for the $370 False Floor that slides several centimetres out of the car to aid loading and unloading and you’re in wagon heaven.
It isn’t quite Commodore Sportwagon-wide, and the dying Falcon wagon probably shades it overall, but in every other load area calculation it pretty much annihilates the Holden and Ford Mondeo (a favourite of ours) that Skoda is preying on with the entry level Ambition 118TSI (petrol) and 125TDI (diesel). This Czech’s cargo hold could solve Australia’s affordable housing crisis!
What we’re saying, then, is that if you have low-$40s to splash out on a big wagon, you mustn’t overlook the Superb.
But the Skoda doesn’t skimp in other key roles: for refinement, luxury and efficiency, it easily runs with the premium and luxury Euro ‘estate’ ensemble that in many instances cost heaps more.
Need convincing? A quick snapshot of the conservative but classy cabin might do the trick.
Volkswagen levels of feel-good surfaces, beautifully presented instrumentation, excellent attention to detail, easy to reach and use controls, well-shaped seats, acres of front and rear-seat space (including a vast amount of back legroom), a generous amount of standard goodies, and practicality galore are all Superb hallmarks.
Sure, there is nothing too exciting visually inside, but this is a step up from a Commodore or Mondeo in perception of quality. Volkswagen’s own Passat pales in comparison too.
We drove a pair of the front-drive 118TSI and 125TDI Elegance examples but sadly missed on the 191FSI 4x4 flagship.
The 125TDI is expected to be the big seller, and it does an effortless job hauling the Superb along, with pace and parsimony provided in equal measure across the rural landscape.
But we reckon the surprise package is the base petrol unit, because it is unbelievably sweet and smooth and quiet. Yes, the 103TDI is all these things too – for a diesel – but the refinement meter soars meteorically in the 118TSI.
An extra bonus is its lighter nose that seems to improve on the Superb’s already alert steering and agile handling characteristics.
Of course, this car needs to be sampled around town to unearth any ride quality issues (we suspect there might be some firmness on cars wearing the optional 18-inch alloys), but the Skoda’s generally quiet and cosseting qualities (some road noise intrusion was present over coarser bitumen) during our country-road sojourn were taken as generally promising omens.
So we think, new car buyers of Australia, you may have to mentally rearrange your brand perceptions thanks to Skoda’s latest family car.
Fit for purpose, fun to drive, cosy to sit inside, highly efficient mechanically, undeniably safe and secure, and a bargain compared to other large carryalls, the Superb Wagon represents something of a milestone for the company as well as compelling value for consumers.
That’s why it rates already as the best Skoda in history. We have every confidence that further exposure will only deepen our respect for this most underrated large car.
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