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Skoda Superb 1.8 T

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      23.01.2003 06:45
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      ~ ~ Not content with carving a niche for themselves in the small car market with their excellent Fabia, and challenging the likes of Ford and Vauxhall with their middle-of-the-range Octavia, (the taxi driver’s new dream car!) Skoda have now taken off the gloves and are preparing to slug it out with the big boys like BMW and Mercedes with the recent release of their new car in the “luxury/executive” market, the (very modestly named) Superb. ~ ~ If there is anyone out there who still thinks that Skoda are still a second rate Czech car manufacturer and the butt of bar room jokes, then the ‘Superb’ will very quickly dispel that erroneous conclusion. Put simply, this is one hell of a good executive saloon car for far fewer bucks than many of its direct competitors. When people are in the market for a quality executive wagon within the Superb’s price bracket, they tend to go one of two ways. They either go for a marque such as BMW or Mercedes, who both have excellent reputations for performance and reliability, in which case they end up with one of the lower level entry models, without many of the ‘bells and whistles’ that make motoring more enjoyable. Or they go to the other extreme, and end up buying a less renowned brand name (e.g. the Daewoo Leganza) with extras coming out of its exhaust pipe, but which tend to wear very poorly after a few years use, and which end up with practically no resale value whatsoever. But the entry of the Skoda Superb into this market sector now gives a prospective buyer a third option. The Superb is without question a quality motorcar, which has all the ‘bells and whistles’ that you could possibly wish for, and at a price that, while by no means cheap, will make much of the competition sit up and take notice. And if the resale values of Skoda’s other models like the Fabia and the Octavia, are anything to go by, this is also a car that will hold its value well
      , and still be worth a fair few bob when it comes around to trade in time again. ~ ~ OK. You’ve got the picture. The Superb is a good motorcar. (the temptation to say a “superb” motor car is almost overwhelming, but too twee!! Heh, heh) So what exactly is it that makes it a good motorcar? The car that I drove was the 1.8-litre Comfort model, which is priced at €31,500. (more on the price range later) This makes it just marginally cheaper than a VW Passat 1.8T Highline, over €8,000 cheaper than an Audi A4 1.8T, and a whopping €11,000 cheaper than an Audi A6 1.8T. Considering that all four cars are built by the VW Group of companies, and that all share the exact same ultra-reliable VW engine and the renowned VW build quality, you’d have to ask yourself the question why anyone would ever bother buying the more expensive models! And the Superb is longer and higher than any of the others, which means extra headroom and legroom for both driver and passengers. The extra long wheelbase (2,803mm to be exact) not only gives you extra room inside the car (and lots of it!) and an extremely commodious boot, it also makes it an extremely safe and stable car to drive when combined with an excellent suspension system that includes coil springs and telescopic dampers, which reduce the vibrations from bad road surfaces to such an extent that you’ll hardly even notice them. Skoda throw in climate control, (lovely!) a trip computer, (for the technical buffs) rain sensing wipers, (these can be annoying at times) a lovely set of alloy wheels, and a set of front fog lights for good measure. The reason I mention this is that all of the above are optional extras on most of the Skoda’s competitors, whereas they come as standard spec on the Superb! (no extra dosh to pay out) ~ ~ The car is a good looker as well. Think of the rounded shape of the VW Passat from which the Superb takes many of its charac
      teristics, (as well as its engine!) think a little bigger, and you have the Superb. There are no sharp edges on this car, (unlike the new Renaults) and it flows from front to back in stylish form. You’ll probably get quite a few surprised looks from VW drivers as you glide past them on the motorway though, as they suddenly realise that it’s NOT another big VW that has just passed them out, but a “lowly” Skoda! ~ ~ The Superb’s safety features make it one of the safest cars on the road in the event of an accident. It has a very solid, rigid body design, with progressive crumple zones both front and rear. The robust door pillars add even more strength, and Skoda have added triple reinforcement to all the door panels and then filled the gaps with energy absorbing foam, in the event of somebody deciding to sideswipe you. And you have the added security of both driver and passenger airbags, (four of them, front and side) and an engine that has special mountings to prevent it being forced into the cabin during a bad accident. Even the pedals have been designed so as not to cause major injury to the driver’s feet in a shunt, and all the material on the lower end of the dashboard is energy absorbing, so that passengers’ knees and legs wont be mashed to a pulp. Head restraints all round, even for the middle passenger in the rear, and seat belts that can be adjusted every which way so that you don’t run the risk of strangulation, are another safety feature. And the kiddies aren’t forgotten either, with two fixtures for child seats fitted as standard. The Superb will even act intelligently for you if you hit another vehicle hard. The on-board safety system automatically switches off both the fuel pump and the fuel supply line, and shuts down the major power circuits, so that a stray spark from the electrics can’t ignite the fuel and fry you to a crisp. And it will even unlock all the doors for yo
      u (if you have the central locking engaged) so that you can get out of the car without any problem. To help you to avoid an accident altogether, the Superb has a great set of anchors, (brakes) with both ABS (anti-lock braking system) and EDL (electronic differential lock) as standard on all models across the range. Put simply, this means you can have complete confidence that it will be VERY hard to either lock up the wheels or get into an uncontrollable skid if you have to stand hard on the brake pedal, as the car does all the work for you. ~ ~ Now to the performance and handling. Well, the Superb is certainly no Maserrati or Golf GTi, and wont appeal much to the boy racers and hot hatch cowboys, but the 1.8-litre Turbo assisted 20-valve engine (150bhp) on the model I drove was both willing and able, with a 0 to 60mph time of only 9.5 seconds, and a claimed top speed of 134mph. (Not that I’d ever consider driving it THAT fast, naturally!!) Because of the foam in the doors, the noise level at normal cruising speeds is practically non-existent, which means you can listen to your CD’s or the radio without permanently damaging the old eardrums. The 5-speed manual gearbox was precise and crisp, with no “hunting” for gears, and the rack and pinion steering (with hydraulic assistance) was light and easy to handle, while at the same time giving you a positive feedback from the road surface. You didn’t feel as though you were driving permanently on a sheet of ice, as you can with some power steering systems. The Superb is primarily a “cruiser” of a car though, and doesn’t take too kindly to an aggressive driving style. I had the car over a three-day period, and used it to go ‘down the country’ here in Ireland. Anyone who knows the ‘B’ road system here will be aware that a lot of the time they are just a step up from old cart tracks, with twists, turns, and corners to beat the ban
      d! Try any Michael Schumaker type stunts in the Superb, and the car will wallow around like a drunken bear, although in fairness I must say that I never once felt that I was actually in any imminent danger of losing control. But it wasn’t NEARLY as much fun to drive on minor roads as my own Nissan Maxima, which corners and handles like it is on rails! Overall, the fuel consumption (petrol) was around the 30mpg mark, although I got better returns when using it on a long run. And I believe that the consumption figures for the 1.9-litre diesel model are around the 50mpg mark! ~ ~ So all things considered the new Skoda Superb gets a thumbs up from the ‘mad cabbie’. I was assessing its suitability as a taxi, and it is ideally suited for this purpose, although the far higher price tag when compared to its little cousin the Skoda Octavia, will probably mean that the Superb wont appear in numbers on the Dublin taxi ranks until the drivers can buy it on the second hand market in a couple of years time. The Superb is a car that will appeal to the value-conscious motorist, who isn’t too concerned about the badge on the bonnet or the boot, but who simply wants to get the maximum value for their hard-earned shillings. Certainly, if I were in the market for this particular type of car, then I would FAR rather invest my cash in a Superb than in an entry level Mercedes or BMW. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Price Skoda Superb 1.8T Comfort €31,500 UK Price £17,500 Sterling The entry level 1.8-litre Classic is €29,500, (£14,200 Sterling in the UK) and the range goes right up to a V6, 2.5-litre Elegance at €41,000 (£20,400 Sterling in the UK) ~~~~~~~~~~~~ FOOTNOTE ~ ~ Since writing this review, one new Superb has appeared on the Dublin taxi ranks. (heh, heh) ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Copyright Ken J ~~~~~~~~~~~~

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