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Sunday, 24 May 2015

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A superbly good choice

AS the saying goes, you pay your money and make your choice. And it seems that the Skoda car range is continuing to gather increasing strength among serious car buyers.

The recent results of the JD Power Auto Express customer satisfaction review puts the make as the best manufacturer for the fourth year running. So, this Skoda is an excellent choice.

The Superb is Skoda’s flagship model and comes in both hatchback and estate versions.

It is of generous, though not cumbersome, proportions and is an elegant-looking vehicle in either body version.

There is a wide choice of power units, ranging from 1.4 up to a 3.6-litre in both petrol and turbo diesel forms.

According to model, there is a choice between manual transmissions or the immensely popular DSG selectable automatic, plus a 4x4 option with some engines.

The specification levels are: S, SE, Elegance and the exclusive Lauren and Klement flagship version. Plus there is a Greenline economy package available on all variants.

This package involves the fitting of optimised rolling resistance, a 15mm lowering of the suspension to improve aerodynamics, better wheels on higher specification versions, plus appropriate body logos.

Tested here is what I consider to be an enlightening version – a 1.6-litre turbo diesel-powered car, fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox, kitted out to the Elegance specification and with the Greenline III treatment.

On this version this also includes attractive and relatively easy cleaning Helix alloy wheels.

So here is a commodious, extensively-appointed estate car that suggests it would be powered by a fuel- consuming, relatively large capacity engine.

However, it actually comes with a frugal, small capacity engine that certainly creates a sensibly-attractive vehicle for the cost conscious, high mileage user.

Opening the driver’s door, the interior appearance is that of a very high quality product.

It is attractively-styled, extensively equipped and boasts leather upholstered seating…at this price!

Cast away any thoughts that this small capacity engine doesn’t deliver a good turn of performance.

It is a prime example of how engine development has forged ahead in the past few years.

Power delivery is rated at 105ps (103.5 bhp) that proved to be quiet with a good degree of flexibility.

It is complemented by an easy-changing gearbox with well-chosen ratios to ensure smooth and relatively lively progression in the lower speed range plus easy striding motorway cruising.

Skoda claims a top speed of 121 mph with 62 mph (100 kph) reached in 12.2 seconds.

The combined fuel consumption is quoted at 65.7 mpg. I suggest a real world figure would be an acceptable one of around 50 mpg depending on load and use.

A Stop and Start system and energy recovery function also help with economy and keeping the CO2 emissions down to a very reasonable 109 g/km.

From the outset it is clear that the Skoda Superb is designed for extreme levels of comfort for up to five occupants.

The driving position proved excellent, with power adjustment, fully- adjustable steering column, good pedal positioning and an attractively-presented, logical fascia.

Apart from a slight vision obstruction caused by the rear pillars, driver vision is excellent, head lamp performance is impressive, and an audible parking assist system is standard fit.

Perhaps a rear view camera would prove a popular addition?

The driving character sets a high standard. The controls are smoothly responsive and the suspension ensures good ride insulation, strong stability and good road grip through the Continental tyres.

I would suggest these are qualities that make for an enjoyable drive no matter the distance.

There are a lot of impressive factors about this car, no more so than the interior space that is close to a limousine in the back.

Boot capacity is also impressive and aided by 60/40 split/fold rear seats, plus a ski hatch. Bright metal roof rails allow for more load potential.

Practical touches are the metal skid plate on the lower edge of the tail gate aperture and the useful bins either side of the luggage compartment.

Normally, road test cars come loaded with cost-extra items intended to indicate what customers can add to the basic item.

This test car came with no additions, though I note that polished wood veneer is an option on the Elegance specification cars.

Why no extras? The answer is that there’s pretty well everything on this car including: satellite navigation, adaptive headlights, LED daytime lights, heated front seats, integrated headlight washers, rain sensor wipers, tyre pressure monitor, electrically-adjustable heated folding door mirrors, trip computer, extensive air bag protection, a touch of chrome here and there, a good audio system but, and this is my sole moan, no spare wheel, though there is clearly room for a space-saver if one does not want to rely on the puncture repair kit.

Skoda’s Superb Estate is a class act created by a team that clearly understands the prime requirements in this type of vehicle and which has created a model line-up that strongly meets those requirements.

Shopping for an estate or a new car priced at about what is charged for a smaller mainstream hatchback? Then check out the Superb.