Car reviews - Skoda - Superb - Ambition TDI 5-dr sedan
Interior spaciousness, unique tailgate, smooth, economical powertrain
Room for improvement
DSG operation at parking speeds, rear vision
14 Oct 2009
By PHILIP LORD
THE large-car market might have shrunk, but it has not disappeared. The Holden Commodore is still Australia’s most popular car, and the likes of the Ford Falcon and Toyota Aurion are still alive and well. The big-car market may have taken a turn, but has not keeled over just yet.
However, it is a gutsy move to introduce a new model to the declining large-car segment, especially if you are a small, unestablished brand such as Skoda.
The Skoda Superb is a big car that borrows many of its parts from relatives in the Volkswagen family, and the result is a unique blend. Despite bold elements such as the grille, overall it looks conservative. Yet a large sedan that also has as a hatchback plus an element of European cachet is mildly exotic for this category.
If you like to drive something unique, then the Skoda will stand out from the regular big-car pack. Just because it is different won’t be enough to earn it sales though, and this is the hardest barrier the Superb will have surmount.
The unique and attractive interior has a familiar feel, giving the sense that it all came from the VW Group parts bin. If you have driven a recent Volkswagen or Audi, you’ll notice some switches and controls are the same.
The seats are supportive, with more than enough legroom and headroom up front.
The driver gets a good view out to the front and sides. The slimline mirrors do not follow the current trend of being the size of Mickey Mouse ears, but do not offer the rear-vision depth that some drivers may prefer. Over-your-shoulder rear vision is not ideal through the deeply raked rear window, and the thick D-pillars do not help vision either.
The rear seat is not especially supportive but appears well enough padded, and there is an enormous amount of legroom for outboard passengers. The prominent centre transmission tunnel soaks up much of the middle occupant’s legroom.
The boot is also a generous size with an easy-to-operate traditional boot opening that will be all that most people will ever need. The small and light boot lid easily pivots out of the way.
Like many such fastback designs with a long rear window, the boot aperture is small. Skoda has devised a clever solution, called Twindoor, allowing the opening of both the boot and glass hatch as one piece.
The 2.0-litre TDI engine and six-speed DSG automated manual gearbox are a great combination. The diesel engine is relatively smooth with sufficient low-rpm torque, revving out so smoothly and quickly.
The DSG is fuss-free and predictable, with snap-fast gearshifts. Only when the driver tries to negotiate a tricky angle park up a hill, where gentle creeping forwards or backwards is required, that the DSG is not quite as seamless. It hunts and jerks, unable to smoothly relay torque to the wheels. You get used to its irritable slow-speed nature, but it makes you realise for all its faults, an old-fashioned hydraulic transmission with a torque converter is much better at such delicate, slow-speed manoeuvres.
Fuel economy is where the Superb turbo-diesel excels for a large car – consumption of around 8.3L/100km around town with some open-road running is pretty impressive where the six-cylinder petrol opposition would struggle to achieve high 12s.
Although the front-drive Superb does not have the finesse of the better rear-drive cars in its class, it is enjoyable to steer along your favourite piece of twisting road, if you don’t mind the front end becoming floaty over undulations and steering that lacks a little precision of tactility. Clearly, this nice-riding car is built for cruising rather than slicing up corners.
The Superb allows buyers the justification for a large-car purchase without the need to feel guilty about it. Not only does it get the green vote with low fuel consumption and greenhouse emissions, but it also offers plenty of performance and a practical and spacious body configuration
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