Skoda Superb: A Superb performance
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The Skoda Superb 2.0 TSi 4x4 is a traditional estate car that makes you think again about the perceived versatility benefits of popular high-riding SUVs and crossovers.
If you think the distinctive vertical finned face of the Skoda marque is becoming a more common sight on New Zealand roads, you'd be correct.
The Czech brand surpassed 1000 sales in New Zealand for the first time in 2015 and this year has motored past the four-figure milestone before the end of October. A record is already assured for its line-up of Fabia, Yeti, Rapid, Octavia and Superb models.
A notable aspect to Skoda's growth is that it's being achieved with only light representation in the fast-growing SUV segments, namely the niche Yeti and Octavia Scout models.
Next year the all-new Kodiaq seven-seater SUV should give a significant boost to sales but in the meantime, the nearest things to a large SUV the brand can offer are the 140kW TDI and 206kW TSI all-wheel-drive versions of the Superb Wagon.
The handsome-looking Superb Wagon is Skoda's biggest vehicle, delivering a wide-body cabin and huge cargo space. At the top of the range is the 206kW TSI model which also delivers all-wheel-drive and 2.0-litre turbocharged performance.
If you scan the market for direct competitor alternatives it's hard to find another combination of large wagon dimensions, appealing specification and all-wheel-drive capability at an equivalent price point.
Cars such as the Holden Commodore SV6 Sportwagon meet two out of three criteria and the Subaru LeVorg delivers turbocharging and all-wheel-drive but without the full-size, wide-body accommodation of the Superb. Euro premium brand wagons such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series Touring, Audi A4 Avant and Volvo V60 are smaller and are more expensive.
Pricing for the Superb 206kW 4x4 is $61,990 for the sedan and there's a $3000 premium for the wagon.
The 1984cc turbocharged engine is a slightly less powerful version of the Golf R and Audi S3 powerplant and develops its 206kW output from 5600-6500rpm with 350Nm of torque available from 1700-5600rpm.
It delivers a broad spread of performance with plenty of accessible torque for times when the Superb is well-loaded or to provide mid-range overtaking muscle.
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The six-speed DSG transmission allows 2200rpm cruising at 100 km/h in top gear with paddle-prompted downshifts to 2700rpm in fifth and 3600rpm in fourth. Official combined cycle fuel is 7.2L/100km and my road test averaged 8.5L/100km.
The Superb is the largest in the family of Volkswagen Group MQB transverse platform cars and it has a familiar feel of solidity on the road that is a common theme with the Octavia, Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Golf and Passat.
A long wheelbase achieves a compliant ride over the uneven surfaces of Kiwi back roads and the Dynamic Chassis Control Sport mode mainly provides more direct steering feel. Pirelli P7 Cinturato tyres in a generous 235/40 R19 size give a wide-track stance on the road and combine with all-wheel-drive poise for confident cornering grip and wet road traction.
The standard specification for the 206kW 4x4 wagon includes a powered tailgate along with full leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, adaptive cruise control, three-zone climate control, keyless entry and push button start, a 10-speaker audio system and satellite navigation.
A reversing camera, bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, alarm and immobiliser security system and a power adjustable driver's seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment and three-position memory are all standard fare at the top end of the Superb range.
The exterior highlights are the 19-inch alloy wheels, anodised roof rails and tinted rear windows. Standard safety features include radar-based Adaptive Cruise Control with low-speed Front Assistant autonomous braking along with Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Driver Alert fatigue warning.
The Superb has seven airbags as standard, a 5-star EuroNCAP rating and the rear seats are equipped with two ISOFIX attachments and two tether points.
And there aren't many options once you reach the top-end 206kW model. They are limited to an alternative polished face 19-inch alloy wheel style, a panorama sunroof and rear window roller sun visors.
The Superb Wagon is one of those traditional estate cars that makes you think again about the perceived versatility benefits of popular high-riding SUVs and crossovers.
The big wagon has excellent rear headroom and legroom with a generous 619 litres of cargo space and a 60/40 split fold backrest that creates a stepped load floor. The full-load volume -- measured to the ceiling -- with the rear seats folded, extends out to 1909 litres.
The reality is the Superb Wagon is roomier and more practical than most large category SUV and crossover designs.
Some of the clever practical details of the Superb include a rechargeable torch and a 12-volt power socket in the rear load area, the phone box wireless charger for compatible cellphones and a deep slot in the centre console box will accommodate an iPad.
Making use of all that space is made safer with a load separation net and sturdy tie-down hooks.
The big Skoda offers the versatility of huge interior space with the driving appeal of all-wheel-drive road holding and turbocharged performance.
A large chunk of Skoda's modern-era reputation is built on offering buyers a larger size car for considerably less money than is the usual equation for Euro brands.
The flagship Superb Wagon is the full-size solution to accompany the Fabia and Octavia models that do the same at lower price points.