Skoda: The word is superb

Superb's new face features bi-xenon headlights and LED running lights
Superb's new face features bi-xenon headlights and LED running lights
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THERE’S a well-established salesman’s technique. “This is what I’m going to tell you. This is what I’m telling you. This is what I’ve told you.” In other words, if you want someone to know something, the most effective way to get over the message is to tell them and keep telling them.

In the world of cars, this is where the name is vital. Which is why Skoda has an excellent name for its top-of-the-range model. If you’ve got a superb car and you want customers to know how good it is, then the simple and clever thing is to call it the Superb. That’s the current Skoda approach to its cars and which is why its slogan at the moment is “Simply Clever”. Every car in the range, from the wee Citigo to the range-topping Superb, is refreshingly simple in its design, but built with attention to detail and innovation.

The Superb name has been around for some considerable time – since 1934, in fact, when it was a showcase for Czech engineering and set new standards at the time for comfort and refinement of ride. More than 2,500 of the stylish big black beasts were built over the following 15 years and, after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the merger in 1991 with the Volkswagen Group, in 2001 the Superb became the third completely new Skoda to be launched in Europe following on from the Octavia and Fabia.

The latest version, which is on sale from 17 July, gives the outgoing model a complete makeover to create a dramatic luxurious flagship of the range, providing fantastic space, comfort and equipment which would cost more than twice as much in an equivalent German make. Economy has been improved, emissions have been cut and the level of equipment fitted as standard is the highest ever.

The front end, from the nose to the A-pillar, is completely new with dramatic bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights on either side of Skoda’s familiar 21-bar grille. There are big changes at the rear end too, with the creases built into the boot lid and LEDs incorporated into the new-style light clusters. The car certainly looks much more expensive than its very affordable price tag.

The best bits about this car are the things which can’t be seen, such as the twindoor boot. It can be opened either as a hatchback with the whole rear section lifting or as a saloon with only the bootlid opening. The system was available in the previous model but has been refined with two buttons at either side of the bootlid lip to select whichever opening you want.

There are six engine options – three each of petrol and diesel – ranging from a low-power 1.4-litre entry level to a 
3.6 -litre V6 on the petrol side and 1.6 to 2.0 as diesel. On the road, the 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel was a steady, secure and capable cruiser – and quiet too. The estate version of the car has vast carrying space and 4x4 transmission is available in both the estate and hatch models.

On the inside, the layout is clean, concise, businesslike and functional and I find it fascinating to see how the designers across the Volkswagen Audi Group range have come up with what is effectively the same layout in Seats, Skodas, VWs and Audis but they have all held onto their own distinctive identity.

The level of equipment in the Elegance test car was literally superb with colour touchscreen satnav and DAB radio, heated windscreen and front seats, headlight washers and leather upholstery. But it’s the little touches that make this car something special. The front passenger seat can be adjusted from the rear – one of these things you don’t know you need until you need it, such as when you squeeze into the back and find the empty front seat is set too far back, reducing your legroom. 
What is really nice is the umbrella hidden in the armrest of the door of all models, except the entry-level S. The last time I saw that was in a £300,000 Rolls Royce Phantom, but it had two umbrellas and both were Teflon coated.

Prices start at £18,555 but even the range-topping 3.6 V6 estate with four wheel drive in Laurin and Klement spec – named after the founding fathers of Skoda – which will set you back just over £34,000 represents amazing value. Superb, in fact.

VITAL STATS

CAR Skoda Superb Elegance 2.0 TDI 170 PS Hatch

PRICE £25,640

PERFORMANCE Max speed 138 mph. 0-62 mph 8.6 secs

MPG (combined) 61.0

CO2 EMISSIONS 120g/km