| First Drive | Milan, Italy | Skoda Superb Estate |
We all want expansive wardrobes, but not expensive ones; celebrities show us what to wear, then the high street offers us the opportunity to play copycat at bargain basement prices. Welcome to the Primarni age. The Skoda Superb should be the ultimate Primarni car, for it is cheap yet looks like something far more premium. One little thing though: it happens to be cut from the very same cloth as the expensive stuff. This is not a cheap car in the pejorative sense of the word. Basically, the Estate adds colossal luggage space to the hatchback/saloon's astonishing blend of quality and thrift.
You're waiting for a 'but', aren't you? There isn't one.
In the Metal
The amount of 'lifestyle' you can fit in this thing is laudable, but the Estate has been styled with a bit of flair so it avoids looking like a hearse. It's certainly easier on the eye in real life than it appears to be in pictures. The boot is gargantuan (expect to see many adjectives smattered around this review that mean 'very large', by the way) at 633 litres, which makes it about 100 litres up on the class average - and a 227-litre swell over the Honda Accord Tourer
for instance. The boot is well thought out too, with a false floor for a flat loading area (and extra space underneath). Seats down it essentially has a trailer's worth of space over the Japanese estate: 1,865-litres plays 1,252.
And it's not as though the sacrifice is cabin space: four six-footers in Bigfoot costumes could swing their pet yetis in there. Up front it's Superb-as-usual, so you're getting genuine VW quality, as opposed to the budget pastiche found in some smaller Skodas. It's unmistakably a VW-Group product, with controls intuitively and neatly laid out amid plastics whose matte finish and soft squishiness is a league above the stuff found in Ford and Vauxhall products. Any notion that this is a downgraded Passat is absolute nonsense.
What you get for your Money
Space. We've mentioned that once or thrice already though, so we'll move on.
Any fear that Skoda has given the Superb the verisimilitude of value by stripping it of kit is eradicated with a quick look at the spec sheet too: even basic S models get 16-inch alloys, air conditioning and a cooled glovebox. Spec up to mid-range SE and the dash dials are replaced by a touch screen (mounted on lovely gloss black), 17-inch alloys, Alcantara seats, cruise control, dual-zone air con, parking sensors and a leather multi-function wheel. Top whack Elegance spec boasts the kind of equipment roaster that would cost twice as much in an Audi.
And the premium for an Estate? Around £1,300. That means a 1.4-litre TSI S will cost just over £17k, and a 170bhp 2.0-litre TDI in SE spec will command under £21,000. That's almost outrageous value.
We spent most of the launch behind the wheel of the 168bhp 2.0-litre common rail diesel, as well as a bit of time in the 1.8-litre TSI petrol. As impressively free-revving as the latter unit is, the former is a load-lugging peach. Smooth, torquey and quiet, the tried and tested VW Group unit is probably the perfect companion for this car: 258lb.ft from 1,750rpm will make even the lardiest of loads seem as lightweight as a critique from an X-Factor judge.
The chassis and suspension have been tweaked for the Estate version, apparently to make it more adept at handling the rigours of a heavy lifting schedule. It's virtually unnoticeable from the driving seat though, because the heavier-arsed Superb retains the regular car's ability to mow over any surface largely undisturbed. It's capable of some dynamic involvement too, should you have a predilection towards testing the limits of your estate of a weekend, because it doesn't seem as bulky on the go as its capacious cabin suggests it should. No Estate will be offered with anything other than standard springs and dampers - for cost reasons, adaptive air suspension was ruled out - but that's no bad thing because the setup is both supple and resistant to body roll.
On the engine front buyers are gifted with a familiar range of VW Group petrol units and diesels, the former in 125bhp 1.4 TSI, 160bhp 1.8 TSI or 260bhp 3.6 V6 forms. Diesels come in three power outputs: 105bhp, 140bhp and 170bhp, the first two of which are older (and rougher) PD engines. You can have a DSG auto 'box with all but the weakest petrol and diesels, and a Haldex clutch-based 4x4 drivetrain too. Just don't say you're lacking choice.
Despite the Superb being the opulent flagship of the Czech's range (hard to believe this is the same company that offered the Favorit), Skoda's UK people are pressing for vRS versions - petrol and diesel - to give the brand a proper halo product. We can only speculate as to what VW Group units will provide power, but we wouldn't bet against 2.0-litre TFSI petrol and 2.0-litre common rail diesels, both fettled for the additional heat required to vRS-ify such a bulky car.
Skoda will add two additional models to its line-up too, and has confirmed one of them as the '00' city car. The other is thought to be a bigger MPV-type car to slot in above the Yeti.
Skoda's Superb Estate is a proper bubble and squeak of a car: it might be underpinned by a combination of VW Passat and Skoda Octavia parts, but this mix of leftovers is the best of the bunch. It's not the most thrilling car on the planet, but it stakes a genuine claim as one of the most satisfying and complete ownership prospects on sale today: it doesn't have any major flaws, and nothing anywhere near its price offers the same blend of quality and space. We're big, big fans.