Silver fox that's fully loaded
Cool as the Scandinavian ice, Skoda's new car, the Superb, really does live up to its name, in a way that would make Dr Livingsone proud, says Neil Lyndon
Before we set off in the new Skoda Superb estate car, which is actually called the Combi, for a family week away, I had to fetch some shelving materials from B&Q. After I had lowered the rear seats, the 10ft battens and heavy 4ftx2ft6in sheets I had bought disappeared into the maw of the Superb's load space as if they were krill in the mouth of a Blue Whale.
When I then loaded the car for our trip, I had to find space for all the cases, toys, coats, boots, books, computers, DVDs, boxes of food, bags of fruit and bottles of wine that are indispensable for two adults and two little children when they are going away for a few days. In other estate cars, this mountain of supplies, which might profitably employ a train of Himalayan Sherpas, has to be crammed into every cubic inch of the load space and, to make clearance for the rear hatch to close, I have to put my weight on the luggage with my feet or my back.
Nothing then can be seen in the rear-view mirror except packets of cereal and sleeping bags. In the Superb estate, the entire pile sat on the floor of the load space looking as if it needed a bit of company and the peaks of the heap barely peeped above the tops of the rear seats.
Parkinson's laws on work and time also apply between family tackle and estate cars and, no doubt, if we kept the Superb estate for six months we should soon expand the load until it filled the Superb to the gunwales; but for the time being this is, by some stretch, the largest load-lugger in its class of family estate cars. Its carrying capacity is, for instance, about 15 per cent bigger than the Volvo V70, which is beloved of child-centred fusspot families.
The loadspace in the gigantic Chrysler 300C Touring estate is made to look like nothing more than a slim valise compared with the Superb's mausoleum of a boot.
The Superb is based on a stretched version of the Passat's skeleton and is the largest car made by the Czech subsidiary of the VW group. It could also be argued that this is one of the Skodas with the least silly name in its family. To call a car Superb would, in normal discourse, be asking for a healthy dose of derision but when you set that name against others in the Skoda portfolio such as the Roomster and Yeti, it begins to sound as down-to-earth as calling a child Jane or John. Perhaps these names sound all right in Czech, a language in which the customary greeting to a friend is "Ahoy!" and the word for "yes" is "ano" which is routinely abbreviated to "no" (I am telling you the truth).
In any language, however, the Superb estate is a marvellous family estate -- ie. as good as anything that money can buy at far more than double the cost of the model I borrowed. No mid-range Audi, Mercedes or BMW estate car is more comfortable, quieter, better made or finished and none comes within a country mile of the Superb in terms of value for money.
Hose German snootyboots may be markedly more lovely in their lines than the Superb, which closely follows the styling aesthetics of a suitcase on wheels, and they may be more stylish in their interiors than the Superb's work-a-day uniform of black plastics and brushed metal, but they are certainly not twice as good to drive. Its cornering may be leisurely and its handling may be undemanding but its ride is as serene as a new Jaguar's and its acceleration and top speed figures more than equal those of early GTI hot hatchbacks. It is extremely rare in my experience for a manufacturer's claims on fuel consumption to be exceeded in reality but the on-board computer was constantly registering consumption at more than 39mpg throughout our nearly 2,000 kilometre foray in the Superb estate -- despite the fact that it was carrying around a greater mass of impedimenta than Dr Livingstone's team of bearers were lugging behind him when he sallied forth on his expedition to find the Zambezi B&Q.
Prices for the Skoda Super Combi start at €25,255 with the highly equipped Elegance model with the 1.4 TSi petrol engine at €29,865.