OK, OK, even though I've actually parted with some hard-earned for one of these, I DO still find the name funny, especially as it's preceded by the word Skoda, but stick with me.
So first of, 2011 marks the 20th year of Skoda being part of the Volkswagon-Audi Group (so should that now be the Volkswagon-Audi-Skoda Group?) and from my experience, VW and Audi should be keeping a close eye on the 'poor relation' if they don't want to get shown up/
My TOTALLY reliable but uninspiring Citreon C4 1.6TDI has had a busy 3 years and just over 60k miles of commuting milage, so it's time for a change. I do lots of motorway miles, spending about 2hrs a day in the car. Combine that with the fact I'm 6'3" and have in-laws in their 70s, and I needed something with a bit of space, so started off looking at the obvious mid-range contenders:
Having driven the first two several times as work hire cars, I already had plenty of experience of them following various round-trips to Sheffield:
Mondeo - Great drivers car, fantastic on motorways, loads of space but spolit by the fact there are SOOOO many of them EVERYWHERE! Oh and some naff materials used in the interior.... Sorry, but I just couldn't bring myself to be another Mondeo Man.
Insignia - Pretty good attempt from Vauxhall, certainly feels nice inside, though not as roomy as you might expect. Negatives were the (IMO) ugly front grill, over complicated console design and the fact Vauxhall use a 'traditional' auto-box rather than a DSG-type system, meaning fuel economy and responsiveness are a bit below par.
This prompted me to investigate and test drive the Passat, a a car I really WANTED to like but just didn't. I thought the VW dealers were snooty and the Passat (despite the excellent 2.0 CR TDI engine and DSG transmission) was uninspiring to drive and really didn't feel very special to be in. A particular gripe being that parking sensors are a £420 option even on the top-spec Sport model.
This left me unsure about what to do. Frankly I wasn't motivated to part with cash for any of these three and found myself constantly flicking through the brochures of all three as if expecting to find inspiration.....
As luck would have it, inspiration did come when by chance I happened across a Fifth Gear Web TV report of the Superb estate on Youtube. Feel free to go and have a look yourself, but the short version is that they had pretty much nothing but good things to say about it. They even compared it with an E-Class Merc which cost £50k and STILL hardly had anything to complain about!
I sorted a test drive and the Superb was a revelation. In the metal it's a hansom car, the saloon/hatch (more on that shortly) is a touch awkward from the rear- three-quarter view, but still individual and stylish in a kind of Russian Mafia kind of way. Sit inside and immediately it blows anything else at this price point away for comfort, quality of fit and finish and level of equipment. I couldn't get over just how much better it is than the Passat. In fact the inside feels more on a par with the likes of Merc and BMW.
While it does compromise the rear visibility, the twin-door boot/hatch system is fantastically useful and something I'm never going to get bored with. To drive it's as quite and comfortable as I could ever want, and the TDI engine and DSG gearbox are really responsive. I'll admit it's not as agile as the Mondeo when things get twisty, but for the driving I do it's perfect. Oh and I forgot to mention that I can sit behind the drivers seat with it in my driving position (i.e. all the way back) and still have knee-room.....
Literally the ONLY down-side to this car is the name. It is slightly funny, and I do still feel like I'm apologising when I tell people I have a Skoda, but that only lasts until the first time I give them a lift. Honestly the Superb is a genuinely fantastic car and at least the name's not ironic and does show that someone at Skoda has a sense of humour.