Monday 26 September 2016

How much are we prepared to pay to be the snob driver everyone else dislikes?

Skoda's new flagship turns a corner

Published 23/08/2015 | 02:30

Flagship: Skoda Superb
Flagship: Skoda Superb

I have had a cascade of correspondence over my comments and coverage of a survey about how people love posh cars but thoroughly dislike those who drive them.

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You are probably aware of it at this stage. People want prestige motors but because they can't afford them they take out their frustrations on those who can - and do everything in their power to discommode them.

They won't let them out of side roads or change lanes. And they are quite open about it.

I've enjoyed the invective that has come my way this past while because I've had it happen to me when I was driving a Merc or Audi, but most especially a Beemer.

Hard to believe but there are people out there who thoroughly dislike others purely on the basis of the car they drive.

I don't think anyone will take an instant dislike to you for driving a Skoda Superb. But in a perfectly innocent way I think the car will raise questions and pose a conundrum for some.

(I am presuming we're all aware of just how good Skodas are these days - the only blip in the past few years has been the Rapid and it has had remedial work done).

Here's the dilemma. If you had €35,000- €40,000 to spend on a car would you buy a BMW 3-series/Audi A4/Merc C-Class for their snob value or go for the vastly roomier new Superb hatchback?

I know it is not a clearcut option for a lot of people so let me put myself in that position. It is a theoretical exercise for me but for many it could be, on the basis of my test drives, a practical challenge. In fariness too, Skoda would not view the 3-series as a serious rival; the buyers of Ford Mondeos, Volkswagen Passats, Hyundai i40s and Toyota Avensis etc are the ones they want to persuade to buy their new arrival.

But my point is that the top-equipped large family/fleet cars, including the Superb, are now in the sort of territory where they are good enough to make a case for anyone considering purchase of the lower-equipped versions of 3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class etc.

The dilemma is: Do they pay more for the emblem and skimp on the room and equipment? Or less for the mainstream with more space, lots of spec and practicality?

In other words just how much are we prepared to pay to be the snob driver everyone else dislikes?

For €35,000 you're going to get yourself a whole lot of a car with the Superb, believe me. It is ridiculously roomy for front and rear-seat passengers (especially) and has a boot you could nearly park another car in.

Okay, that's the way of the motoring world; each new generation of cars is bigger than those that went before; and better equipped and more powerful and better looking. It is the nature of things.

Only the Superb has done more than that. It has, quite unexpectedly for me anyway, become a significantly better car to drive now it has got itself solidly ensconced on a new platform.

All of a sudden it has mutated from being a 'huge car for the money' with good engines, to a particularly well-tuned motor throughout that's tangibly different to what has gone before.

Of course, it has its faults and flaws; every car has. But in the general scheme of things it does an awful lot right, or as near to right as make no difference.

And no, it won't match the new Jaguar XE or BMW 3-series on the finer points of agility and verve. Of course not.

But let me ask you this: who (apart from petrol heads like me) ever drives these cars to within the outskirts of their driving ability anyway?

Time to answer my own question. What would I buy? Give me €35,000 and I'd take the Skoda Superb with a good 2-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, maybe an automatic DSG gearbox (maybe not) and I wouldn't be bothered looking at another For Sale ad for five years. That's how good I reckon the Superb has become.

And I'd have no one glaring at me or hemming me in on side roads or squeezing road space so I can't change lanes.

Facts & figures

Skoda Superb Liftback, 2.0 TDI DSG diesel STYLE (150bhp, 105g/km, €190 road tax, 4.1 litres/100km/69mpg).

Range from €26,795 (1.4-litre petrol); €27,795 (1.6-litre diesel). Test car: €38,895. Including options €41,664.

STYLE spec included: bi-xenon headlamps/washers, full leather, 3-zone air con, Columbus 8ins touchscreen nav system, reversing camera, front/rear parking sensors, two umbrellas, Smartlink (mirrors phone apps on screen). Options: tinted rear windows; electric folding tailgate; 18ins Modus alloys; panoramic glass sunroof.

My side of the road

I really don't like doing this but there is no option. I don't care what anyone says - and I mean anyone - there are as many people texting at the wheel now as ever.

Blatantly. At lights, on motorways, on the Stillorgan dual carriageway, in provincial towns. People are texting like there's no tomorrow, and no one to catch them.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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