Car Test   R0235
May 2002
First Drive Skoda Superb
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CONTRARY TO WHAT OTHERS MAY HAVE TOLD YOU, THE Octavia was never really an upper-medium Mondeo/Vectra-sized rival, but a Golf with an extended boot.
   Now that the Superb has arrived, with its 481cm overall length (10cm more than the Passat's), the Skoda knack of straddling established market sectors is repeated; this time it's as bulky as a large/executive model, like the Audi A6, but has a price that competes with the Mondeo and Passat.
   But can lowly Skoda really produce the quality and sophistication that these upper-crust executive models exude? After a day out and a close look at its credentials, we can report that, in most respects, we're convinced that the Superb makes the grade.
   When you look at the Classic version, you may feel that it's not quite plush enough; yet its inventory of standard equipment is extremely impressive and the lovely 1.8 turbo-petrol version is as rapid as it is smooth and refined; just a brittle-sounding exhaust note past 60mph spoilt the delights of this remarkably frugal engine.
   Move up to Comfort trim and you've landed in the lap of luxury, however. It costs a not insignificant 1700 extra, but with the Superb in this guise, we defy anyone to tell it apart from an Audi, in terms of fit and finish. Furthermore, all those wickedly expensive executive-brand options (including metallic paintwork) come as standard on the Superb at this level. Yet the price undercuts even some more ordinary non-executive rivals, when you consider the power units and performance on offer.
   The 2.5 V6 diesel comes from Audi, and when you drive it, you'll be hard pressed to tell it's not a petrol engine; apart from fuel thirst it has better manners than any four-cylinder diesel, particularly at low speed.
   Interior accommodation is truly comfortable and spacious for four, with ample legroom at the rear, although there's a prominent centre tunnel. Fixed back seats, but a ski-flap (and bag) in the folding armrest, ensure good luggage security, with a novel folding "Cargo-flex" system, soon to be included in the boot, to stop smaller items fallng about.
   Another feature you won't get on any posh rival is a standard umbrella, with a storage cubby in the rear armrest box, complete with drainage to the outside!
   Superb engines, equipment that's generous to a fault, impeccable furnishings, it's all there - the only real reservations we harbour concern the Superb's ride, steering and general poise. Although the car is grippy and responsive once into the turn, the steering feels rather dead from straight-ahead, while sharp-edged road faults on secondary roads aren't sufficiently absorbed, despite the model's soft damping.
  considering size, price and rivals
  • metallic paint at no extra cost
  • cassette and CD player for most versions
  • full face/foot vents at rear
  • hooks for bags in boot
  • back seats don't tilt forward
  • boot aperture restricted by sill
  • big step in cost between trim levels
Will executive car buyers prefer to save 4000 or so and forsake brand image by buying the Skoda? If it's their company's cash, maybe not. But if it's your own money, there really doesn't seem much point in buying the Audi alternative any more.

engine 1587cc, 4-cylinder, petrol; 110bhp at 5750rpm, 108lbft at 4000rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16valves
transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 21.3mph/1000rpm in 5th; 17.3 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper struts, integral coil springs rear: torsion beam (dead) axle, coil springs
wheels/tyres 6in alloy with 185/60R15H (Michelin XHI on test car) full-size on alloy spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with anti-lock control and emergency brake - assist (not on LX)
steering electric power assistance; 2.8 turns lock-to-lock; 11.35m diameter turning circle between kerbs (15.8m for one turn of the wheel (3.2 turns, with tighter turning circle on 1.4 versions)

size and type large/executive four-door saloon   trim levels Classic, Comfort, Elegance
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/2.0 litre/115bhp,4/1.8 Turbo/150, V6/2.8/193; diesel:4/1.9/100, 4/1.9T/130, V6/2.5/155 (all turbo Di)   drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (6-speed for 2.5 TDi); 5-speed stepped auto for both V6's optional)
notable features based on lengthened Passat floor platform, climate control on all versions, front and side airbags, catvision night-time illumination plus coming home courtesy headlights. For others - see text

length x width(folded mirrors) 480x177
- legroom 84-109
- headroom (with sunroof) 96-107
- typical legroom 107
- typical kneeroom 85
- headroom 94
- hiproom 130
load space (all seats in use)
(litres/cu ft)
load length 100
load width 100-137
load sill height (inside/outside) 18/73
boot height 51
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