The working man's merc
I am constantly reminded by family, friends and colleagues that I often betray meanness by recalling how little I spent on the cars of my youth. Well, I've got a message for them. You can prepare as many more slings as you like today because I am going to fulfil all your preconceptions and prejudices.
They, and possibly you, know that I think paying €25,000 or so for a new car is a massive ask these days. Look, I'm spoiled in the sense I get to drive new cars. But every so often it hits me like ice-cold water. To have €25,000 to spend on a new motor means most of us have had to earn €50,000 or more before tax. Or to be able to prove to your bank manager (God bless you good sirs) that your income can take a whittling down every month to pay your instalments.
And would you go to all that trouble and outlay for a big Skoda with a 1.6-litre diesel engine? No, no let's cut to the chase here. Would I, hypothetically, go to all that trouble?
Tough, tough question. Unrealistic with my current overdraft but let's see -- hypothetically.
Well, firstly it has to meet what I call the 'Greed Need'. In other words it has to make me feel like I'm getting a lot of stuff for half nothing.
It also has to drive really well, cost little to run and I have to be satisfied I will get a decent trade-in for it after three, four or five years.
All for upwards of €25,000.
The Skoda Superb Greenline is a car designed and targeted at people with that sort of perspective.
This is an enormous piece of work. Don't let the overuse of hyperbole obscure that fact. This has enough room to take three really tall people in the back -- and allow them to stretch their legs with ease. You know those big Mercs and Beemers, some of them chauffeur driven?
Well this has as much, if not more, rear room. Now there's a real concept for the recession -- a chauffeur-driven Skoda. Why not?
The 'Greenline' bit provides the basis for me taking this on test. They have done the usual 'green' number such as reducing drag and cutting the rolling resistance of the tyres as well as having Stop/Start technology (the engine cuts out when you stop at lights etc and automatically re-starts).
Such activity slices a sliver of fuel consumption here and there but, to be frank, it normally amounts to getting a particular car into a lower emissions bracket with the consequent reduction in VRT and road tax.
Skoda went for the concept big time, though, when they gambled on putting a 1.6-litre diesel engine with a relatively soft 105bhp punch in its locker.
And that, when all is said and done, is where the package stands or falls.
Just think about it -- a tiny engine in a Merc of a body.
Well there was no sign of it being overpowered up through the gears.
This is a sound engine with a lot of low down pulling power. There's just the five forward gears (so many have six these days) but really a sixth in this would have been useless. Fifth was there, or thereabouts, cruising on the highway at a decent 100kmh-plus speed. But, yes, I did have to shift down a gear or two when I went looking for quick pick up to overtake or just get a bit more momentum going.
Would I snub it for that? No way. We are all too caught up with this performance thing. This is a car that's trying to save you money. It is inevitable there are one or two areas where reality rather than razz rules.
So go on and call me old fashioned; but I felt at ease in this. I mean I was sitting in leather upholstery. I had a range of equipment at my disposal that also bedecks the so-called prestige saloons -- but I guarantee you they cost a hell of a lot more than this.
I have absolutely no problem putting value-for-money before emblems. Indeed I would feel much, much happier (hypothetically) in something like this knowing my hard-earned money had been stretched to encompass as much room, car and equipment as possible.
Sure, I like my 5-series and my Merc CLS and my Audi A7 (!) and my Jaguar XF and my Lexus 450h and so on. But I know there are far more people like me who more realistically aspire to owning a really big car that has the hallmarks of luxury without the associated cost.
So I have no difficulty calling this the Working Man's (Woman's) Merc. One thing I would beg Skoda to do, though, is to address their emblem. I don't know what it is about it but it doesn't work for me any more. It is just too disproportionate. A little tasteful tampering would work wonders.
Meantime the rest of us can hope, maybe even pray, the day is not too far off when we can afford a car like this.
And we'll be able to boast again about buying a bargain.
Skoda Superb Greenline 1.6-litre saloon/hatch (105bhp, 0-100kmh in 12.5 secs), 5spd gearbox, front-wheel-drive, CO2 of 114g/km; VRT is 14pc. €104 annual road tax.
From €24,915. Tested version: €28,795. Delivery, related charges extra.
Families, company reps, taxi owners.
Value-for-money, size, frugal engine, equipment, room, clever boot ‘hinge’ means you can have a hatch or saloon.
Lacks ‘snob’ value, engine a bit underpowered for such a large body, emblem a bit garish.
Dual-zone air con with odour filter, cruise control, radio/ CD, MP3 player/ eight-speaker sound system, tinted windows, several airbags, electric windows, air con in glove compartment. Elegance spec on test car adds full leather upholstery, bi-xenon headlights, parking assistant, electric front seats, electric/heated wing mirrors.
Others to consider
Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo, Mercedes E/C-Class, Honda Accord, BMW 5-series; indeed anything in €25,000 to €40,000 range.
Rating 84 / 100