IT IS QUITE often the case in this gig that you are entrusted with certain cars which naturally excite great interest among the general public.
In certain such instances you will be inundated by excitable small boys, overwhelmed adults and all manner of other curious people. In recent memory, cars such as the BMW i8 and the F-Type Jaguar created just such a reaction.
We have even had people call to the front door — unannounced and spontaneous — anxious to discuss the merits of the new Ford Focus RS which they just happened to spot in the driveway.
Indeed, the enthusiasm of the public at large for cars which enthral, excite and enthuse them, never ceases to amaze. By and large though, you’d don’t generally expect that sort of reaction when you have a ?Skoda.
But such was the case recently with the new ?Skoda Superb which we had in our possession for a period longer than the normal week which is afforded by most car companies for test purposes. Throughout the time the car was with us, it was the subject of concerted and protracted public interest — to a level that you just don’t ever see with conventional machinery.
And do you know what? I was completely unsurprised by the levels of attention that the Superb generated because not only is this a stunning looking car — unlike its’ predecessor which was merely good-looking by comparison — but it is imbued with even more of the comfort, spaciousness, practicality and deft designs touches that made the previous car such a wild hit with the buying public.
Having seen the car in a static display in the Czech Republic back in February, I knew that ?Skoda had done a brilliant job of updating the Superb, but it was only when I saw the car truly in the flesh and away from the sterile forum of a Prague theatre, I realised just quite what a fantastic job Josef Kaban and his design team at ?Skoda Auto had done with this car.
I have heard it said that the look of the new car as being “an exercise in sculpted modern minimalism” but I have to say I have always been uncomfortable with all that arty piffle-speak some people come out with in relation to cars and find it best simply to allow your own eyes judge the beauty or otherwise of any automotive creation.
While such judgements are rightly and properly bound by personal subjectivity, I have to say I did not come across one dissenting voice during my time with the car that questioned its’ stunning looks.
From any angle this thing looks purposeful, modern, unique and, well, huge. The Superb has always been regarded as a big car and, to be honest, if I had a euro for every time I have bored people with the ‘it has more rear legroom than an S-Class Merc’ line, the bank balance would be a lot more prosperous looking.
For diehard fans (and there are already a growing number of ‘Superb lifers’ out there) it does need pointing out that one of the previous Superb’s most attractive features has now been removed from the new car.
The clever ‘dual boot’ system whereby with the flick of a lever, it could be transformed from being a saloon to a hatchback, is sadly no more.
Skoda cites weight considerations and packaging practicality as the reasons for this, but it has to be said it is something fans will definitely miss.
What they will not have to do without, however, is the core character of the Superb: more space, comfort and refinement than its rivals at a price that will astonish for what’s on offer.
The new car is longer (28mm), wider (47mm) and taller (6mm) and has a longer wheelbase (80mm) than previously and while the rear legroom has not increased (frankly, if it had any more it would be a shoo-in for the Harlem Globetrotters’ transport contract), everything else has — head room, elbow room, hip room and whatever else you’re having.
Flabbergastingly, the boot has also 30 litres more accommodation space — up now to 626, increasing to 1,760 with the back seats down. That is a remarkable 323 more than a Ford Mondeo, for example.
The only car I know of with more room in the back is a hearse. I swear, you could reasonably expect to fit a small European principality into that boot. Worth noting too is that the hatch opens automatically, either by using the button on the key fob or, as was the option on the tester, by waving your foot under the rear bumper.
All of that and the weight of the whole package has been reduced by 75 kilos too and this impacts on performance. Now I know that’s not necessarily a word that comes easily to mind when you mention the Superb, but there is increased fuel economy and performance on offer here in all engine options.
The one we tried — the 190 bhp version of the two litre TDI — is most certainly not going to be the most popular choice for Irish buyers (that will fall between the 1.6 120 bhp version or the 150 bhp 2.0 litre option — or even the 1.4 litre 125 bhp petrol option), but there is still little to dislike about what’s on offer.
It will do the 0-100 kph dash in just eight seconds and achieve a top speed of 237 kph, while offering a combined cycle economy return of 4.1 l/100 km (68.9 mpg) and annual road tax of €190.
It is allied to an excellent six speed gearbox which allows car and driver to mesh precisely and find plenty of grunt without having to explore the outer reaches of the performance envelope and thus it is a well tuned, driver-oriented machine which will cover vast distances without you having to break sweat, or re-fuel for that matter.
In Style specification little is found wanting and while the specification is massive (leather upholstery, reversing camera, electric driver’s seat, cruise control, three zone climate control and all that connectivity stuff today’s punters demand), it is apparent too that ?Skoda has upped the ante on the décor front, what with ambient lighting now coming as part of the deal. It might not quite be up to, say, Audi A6 standards, but it is not far off.
As a driving companion too, the Superb is now an even more rounded prospect than before and I know that few will quibble with what was on offer heretofore. But the ride and handling have been schmoosed to offer a more dynamic experience. It might be a small leap, but it is an upwards one nonetheless.
So, what more can I say about this remarkable machine? I mean, who’d have thought ?Skoda would have taken their already renowned ‘more for less’ standards to greater heights? Well they have and, judging by the numbers of people who wanted to know more about the car I was driving, you’d have to think this is a nailed-on winner.
In fact, I don’t just think it. I know it.
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