New line in the sand
BUY a car from emerging Czech brand Skoda and you’re ordering the automotive equivalent of the works burger.
The car maker, part of the Volkswagen Group, says the vast majority of its buyers tick at least one option box when ordering their new car.
Skoda managing director Michael Irmer says 90 per cent of customers pay extra for its “Tech” or “Comfort” packages.
That’s the thinking behind the new Sportline edition of the Superb large car.
For an extra $1000, buyers can order a visual makeover that includes big 19-inch “anthracite” alloy rims, sports seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel and other styling cues to lift the appearance of the car.
On the outside, the Sportline is differentiated by a black grille, black side mirrors and a rear end treatment that includes chrome twin exhausts.
Inside, there are suede-look finishes on the seats and doors, white stitching on the perforated leather steering wheel, black roof lining, distinctive instrument cluster and a faux carbon-fibre strip across the dash. These small touches add up to a cabin that has loads more character than your average family sedan or wagon.
The Superb Sportline isn’t cheap. A sedan costs $51,990 and a wagon $53,690, while the Tech Pack adds $3400 and the Comfort Pack costs $700. If sunroofs are your thing, that’ll cost $1700 for the sedan or $1900 for the wagon.
Fully loaded, the Skoda costs as much as a BMW 3 Series or an A4 from VW stablemate Audi.
Irmer has some advice for the brand snobs: “If you set aside perception and deal in reality, the Superb in all its forms is substantially the best big car buy on the market.
“We’re seeing that here and in Europe our still young, challenger model is being compared with prestige brands such as Mercedes-Benz.”
Skoda doesn’t have the brand cachet of a MercedesBenz but Irmer is right when he claims you get a lot of car for your money with a Skoda.
The similarly priced A4s and BMWs are smaller inside and have less powerful engines — the A4 has a 1.4-litre turbo four and the 3 Series a 1.5-litre triple.
The Superb’s 2.0-litre turbo puts out 206kW, more than double the power of BMW’s 318.
It’s a similar value proposition to that of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon for so many years. Buyers lamenting the loss of the Calais and G6E would do well to have a look at the Superb. ON THE ROAD We drove the wagon version of the Sportline, which roughly costs the same as a mid-range seven-seater SUV such as the Hyundai Santa Fe. Apart from the obvious lack of a third row, the Superb stacks up pretty well as a family wagon, with a heap of space in the luggage area.
The exact figures are 660L and 1950L with the rear seats folded (more than a Santa Fe).
The Superb’s biggest strength is the way it drives. With a lower centre of gravity than your average SUV, the Superb feels supremely planted through the corners.
Steering feel is a little light but there’s plenty of grip from the all-wheel-drive set up and it deals well with mid-corner bumps and corrugations. Its ripper driveline delivers plenty of shove off the mark and the gear shifts are swift and smooth.
There’s even a sporty pop when it changes gear. It’s the kind of car that’s equally happy cruising the suburbs or carving through corners.
The numbers are impressive, too — Skoda claims the Superb will do 0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds but still return just 7.3L/100km. Around town, though you are more likely to see mid-teens in heavy traffic.
The seats give good support and the cabin materials and finishes are top-notch quality. VERDICT Family sedans and wagons may not be fashionable — Skoda sold only 733 Superbs last year — but they provide a mix of practicality and comfort that’s hard to beat. The Superb is one of the best of the breed and the Sportline versions are great value additions to the line-up.