Why there is plenty of room for ticked boxes in new Superb
AS I drove the new Skoda Superb around Tuscany I repeatedly asked myself one simple question. It was this: What would I expect the new car to give me that the old one didn't?
I'd expect it to look better. It does, especially at the front, though I'm not as enthusiastic about the back.
I'd expect it to have at least as much room as before. It has more. I'd expect cleaner, more frugal, engines with a nip more power. They have.
I'd expect it to have a good deal more equipment, infotainment and safety systems. It has. I'd expect it to drive better. It does.
And I'd expect it to cost a bit more. It does. I'd also expect a few little extras such as the umbrella for the rear door. They now give you two. And I'd expect to have a few reservations. I do.
So it ticks a lot of the boxes. The only element in question is the degree to which it fills, as well as ticks, those boxes.
Which I why I was behind the wheel of the cars that really matter to Irish buyers: a good stint in the 1.6-litre (120bhp) diesel and two in its 2-litre 150bhp big brother. All had manual 6spd boxes and, worth noting, had excellent gear change. That's important as most purchases will be manual (83pc).
As is the case with so many engines this year in advance of new emission regulations, they are all cleaner and more efficient.
The 1.6TDI goes to 120bhp from 105bhp (100g/km, €180 road tax, 3.9l/100km). The 2.0TDI (up to 150bhp from 140bhp, 105g/km, €190 road tax, 4l/100km). And there's a 2.0TDI, 190bhp, 106g/km, €190 road tax, 4l/100km). There's also a new 2.0 TSI petrol with 280bhp.
You can now get a 7spd DSG auto with the 1.6 TDI and there's a 4x4 option on saloons and estates.
Trim levels ranged across the three models I drove from what will be mid-table (Ambition) here to top Style to the plushly decked L&K.
Ambition spec will account for half of purchases but lots more people are now buying top-level spec Style.
Prices start with the entry-level Active spec from €27,795
The average price for the in-demand 1.6-litre diesel Ambition model will be €30,295. That is about €1,250 more than the old one but there is 15bhp more, it has Front Assist, bi-zenon lights with headlamp washers, Smartlink, CarPlay, Mirrorlink and android connectivity.
Standard at that level too are the colour touchscreen, 16ins alloys, cruise control, automatic wipers and heated front seats as well as seven airbags, electric handbrake, speed limiter, Hill hold, dual zone climate control etc. There is a full-size spare wheel.
Built on Volkswagen's MQB platform, my drives were in big, comfortable cars (technically Liftbacks not saloons) with extraordinary room and massive boots (625litres, +30 litres). Talk about ticking boxes.
Widest in class, it is 28mm longer than before, the wheelbase is up 80mm (though front overhang is 61mm shorter) and it's 75kg lighter. Wheelbase and overall length, however, are slightly shorter than the Ford Mondeo. Other rivals include the Volkswagen Passat, Opel Insignia, Audi A4, Toyota Avensis, Peugeot 508, Mazda 6 etc.
The Superb has come to be seen as a big car for the money. It still is but I thought it felt much classier all round; good materials, clean cabin lines and plenty of useful slots.
It gets here mid-July. There will be a Combi (estate) in September and the car is designed to accommodate a plug-in hybrid, if needs be, in the future.
In a market dominated by the Passat and Mondeo, they expect 821 people to buy a Superb this year (old and new - and yes they say 821). Next year the new model is expected to attract buyers for 1,150 Liftbacks as well as 620 Combis.
They claim the car still has the best interior space in its class. I wouldn't argue.
Driver/front seat passengers get 39mm more elbow and more headroom. There is 157mm legroom at the rear - miles ahead of everything in that class.
I sat in the back for 40 minutes of a scoot around the hills of Tuscany and could stretch. There was a bit more road noise back there, however. We often forget too that rear seats have little or no adjustment compared with the front ones, making it less suitable for some passengers. But there's a second USB + 230 socket there now. And rear headroom is 980mm with elbow room up by 69mm.
Reservations? Small ones. I'm not a fan of the electric handbrake and while I like the look of the front and side-on profile, I think the rear could become bland quite soon. I could be wrong.
Mostly, however, I was surprised at the way the car behaved. For such a large motor it was agile, took corners and bends with a real precision and assurance. I think it has advanced significantly in that department; the steering is particularly well judged.
There is always something unexpected with a new car and the Superb's degree of driving ability was one. It is no longer the 'big car for the money'. It is now a car to drive as well.
Which means it now fills as well as ticks a lot of boxes.