The best Skoda just got even better

Familar profile: This Superb wagon has Hayden Paddon in the passenger seat, incase you wondered.
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Familar profile: This Superb wagon has Hayden Paddon in the passenger seat, incase you wondered.
Two-way lid: The clever hatch door can be made to open like a bootlid (top) or as a liftback (bottom).
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Two-way lid: The clever hatch door can be made to open like a bootlid (top) or as a liftback (bottom).
Rear room: Nothing offers more in the Skoda's price bracket, not to mention one or two brackets above.
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Rear room: Nothing offers more in the Skoda's price bracket, not to mention one or two brackets above.
Up front: The driving environoment is further refined in the facelifted Superb whose quality of materials and build is unimpeachable.
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Up front: The driving environoment is further refined in the facelifted Superb whose quality of materials and build is unimpeachable.
Superb wagon: More space than you can shake a stick at. Dogs are going to love this car.
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Superb wagon: More space than you can shake a stick at. Dogs are going to love this car.

The latest Skoda Superb has been with us for five years and though it hasn't seemed tired in any way, a freshening in terms of its engineering and a styling facelift is nevertheless a welcome move.

AT A GLANCE
Drivetrain: Transverse front- mounted four cylinder 16v DOHC turbocharged petrol and diesel fours and 4x4 V6 petrol unut with six and seven-speed DSG transmissions according to model.
Outputs:

TSi 118 1.8L -
118kW at 4500rpm, 250Nm at 1500rpm, 0-100kmh 8.4sec, 7L/100km, 162g/km CO2.

TDi 103 2.0L - 103kW at 4200rpm, 320Nm at 1750rpm, 0-100kmh 10.1sec, 5.2L/100km, 136g/km CO2.

TDi 125 2.0L - 125kW at 4200rpm, 350Nm at 1750rpm, 0-100kmh 8.6sec, 5.3L.100km, 139g/km CO2.

V6 4x4 3.6L - 191kW at 6000rpm, 350Nm at 2500rpm, 0-100kmh 6.4secs, 9.3L/100km, 215g/km C02.
Chassis: Front MacPherson struts, rear multilinks, electic power assisted rack and pinion steering.
Safety: Seven to nine airbags, ESP, EBD, ABS and traction control, various assist packages, 5-star NCAP.
Dimensions: L 4833mm, H 1462-1511mm, W 1817mm, W/base 2761mm, Weight 1421-1651kg, Fuel 60L.
Pricing: Superb liftbacks from $43,900 to $59,990. Station wagons from $46,900 to $62,900.
Hot: Brisk; supremely roomy; top safety spec; refined, amazing fuel economy; fantastic value big car.
Not: Awkwardly designed liftback profile remains; room for a 1.4L TSi; no manual models.
Verdict: After a big Aussie six? Look at the Superb and you'll save on outlay and fuel costs and gain on space.
We've been so impressed with the space, safety and economics of the car, that it is case of wonder that we don't see cab ranks nationwide nose to tail with them.

Among big cars - and this is a flaming big car - the Skoda offers more powertrain choice than any other that starts in the sub $50,000 bracket - so the fact that it starts at a compelling $43,900 is something of a bonus.

With a choice of a 118kW petrol turbo four, 103 and 125kW diesel turbo fours and a range-topping 191kW petrol V6, not to mention 4x4 and liftback and sedan alternatives, the 10-car lineup tops out at $62,900 for a loadedall- wheel-drive 3.6-litre quad cam V6 station wagon.

The visual changes are not dramatic, they're more of the incremental kind, bringing the Superb's looks a little closer to the new styling language introduced for the Rapid and Octavia.

In hatchback form - actually, like the Rapid and Octavia it looks like a sedan, but it isn't - it's not exactly a head-turner and its rear roofline does look a little awkward. However, the wagon looks much more sexy and well- shaped and for us, it's well worth the extra $3000 for the additional real estate, especially when you look at the amazing load space in which you could lose pets and small childen if you forget about them. One wonders why Skoda hasn't created a third-row seating option.

The liftback's load area goes from 565 litres to 1670 litres seats up and seats down, so its already huge, while the wagon's is 603 litres, expandable to 1835 litres.

Both versions have been given a smarter nose, cleaner lines, a crisper grille and neater headlights, while at the rear there are redesigned light clusters with the hatchback's two-way opening system simplified with two control buttons. Press one and the car's a sedan and press the other and it's a liftback as the bootlid or hatch opens to choice.

Interior changes are less obvious. They haven't got rid of the umbrella slot in the left rear door and the car still offers cubby options in the doors and under the front passenger seat. There's a new steering wheel, and seat covers, as well as new decorative elements and colour combinations.

In the rear, needless to say, there's no car close to it for legspace and accessibility - it's a cab driver's dream.

Other differences to the cabin can be found in the extra levels of standard equipment. At one time Skoda used to charge extra for things like cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and multi- function steering wheels on early Superbs. Now, despite lower overall pricing they come as part of the overall package. Also standard in all Superbs is Hill- hold assistant, an electronic tyre pressure monitor in the instrument panel and up to nine airbags along with five three-point seat belts and height-adjustable headrests. All diesel Superbs also have stop/start technology.

Lower-range Superbs now have what Skoda calls "Amibition" specification, up from the less comprehensive "Active" spec, which means new 17-inch alloy rims, better interior trim and of course the goodies described above. Top-grade Superbs are labelled "Elegance" and go a step further with 18-inch rims as well as standard Sat-Nav, rear side airbags to go with the usual front, knee, side and curtain items, Driver Fatigue alert (a $150 option in "lesser" Superbs) power memory seats, leather upholstery and front and rear parking aids.

Skoda's options list means you can get all the posh stuff from the upper Superbs on the lesser versions if you wish, including a choice of four alloy wheels, plain Sat Nav or Sat Nav with TV, Park Assist, an electric tailgate panoramic glass roof, and bi Xenon lights.

Four-wheel-drive V6 versions of the Superb get a sports chassis set-up and paddle shifters, with the special suspension also available on other models for $600.

The Superb lineup includes the TSi 1.8-litre 118kW liftback at $43,900 in Ambition trim, the TDi 2.0-litre 103kW Ambition at $45,900, and the TDi 2.0-litre 125kW Elegance for $53,900. In each case the wagon version has a $3000 premium.

There are four 4x4 versions of the Superb. The top range V6 3.6-litre 191kW 4x4 liftback asks $59,900, with the station wagon again adding $3000. An Ambition specification TSi 2.0-litre 125kW 4x4 wagon is available for $52,900, while the same car in Elegance trim costs $59,900.

The Superb is available right away and just as we've found with the Rapid and Octavia models, you don't have to secure the upper echelon models to realise how effective and disarmingly roomy this car is. Even at the low end of the Superb spectrum you get high- quality ride performance; low open-road noise levels and a biddability almost out of character for one so big - sorry, huge.

The bottom-end Ambition spec Superb with 118kW on tap still manages an 8.4-second zero to 100kmh time and returns 7L/100km. The seven-speed DSG ensures a quiet, loping gait on the open road and while traditionalists might balk at a car with more comfort and room than a Fairlane with an angine of just 1.8-litres - albeit turbocharged - they really shouldn't. With 105 and 125kW diesels also available, that economy figure drops to just 5.2L/100km while the legal speed sprint is still 8.6. The V6 is two seconds quicker, but the 118kW wagon at $46,900 has to be the pick of the range.

With its new wheels and high specification level it out-points big Australian sixes by a country mile and with the model's top dependability score in JD Power ratings in Europe, peace of mind probably doesn't come less expensive in this bracket.

So what is not to like? We think the liftback's profile is still a little awkward and we also think that the smaller 1.4-litre TSi could have been opted in base "Active" spec for a sub $40k starting price.

But apart from the fact that you'll still get some neighbours tsk - tsking you about having a Skoda (We could tell you stories), the Superb range is nigh on perfect - the very meaning of the word, in fact.

Forget what your distant memory tells you about Skoda. That was then. This is now.

The Press