It is not often you can endorse official fuel consumption figures. On a brim-to-brim test over nearly 400 miles, I came within a single mile per gallon of the Skoda Superb Estate’s combined 38.7mpg. Mostly motorways and dual carriageways, with a fair amount of Kent B-roads, it was an impressive return for a 1550kg (4317lb) spacious estate car keeping mostly although not obsessively to speed limits. The 1.8 TSI Elegance is smooth, quiet, roomy and at £23,550 restores the dignity Skoda enjoyed as a great industrial and armaments firm. It made cars in Edwardian times; fine sporting and luxury machines by Laurin & Klement. Restoration by the VW group restores it to world rank.
A Superb Estate could replace my faithful 4x4. It has space for the motoring dogs. A heavy duty tray for the 595l (21cuft) loading space costs £150. It is 1700l (60cuft) with the seats folded (they could go walkies; there is more room than any competitor). I could even have it with sophisticated Haldex four wheel drive, so clever it only drives all of the wheels some of the time and hardly ever all the wheels all of the time.
It makes up its mind which ones to turn, depending on circumstances. A cunning control unit counts up wheel speed, accelerator position, engine rpm and what the stability sensors say. If there is ten per cent slip it reacts within a single revolution, transmitting the requisite torque. On slippery going it consults the ABS, braking one front wheel while applying pull to the other.
This is relaxed economical six-speed tranquillity. Cruise control is included in the price along with Columbus touch screen satellite navigation, leather upholstery, which I could never do without, heated seats, different side air conditioning, buzzing parking sensors and clever detailing that includes an umbrella in the rear door.
Adaptive Front light System (AFS) also makes up its own mind, producing the right sort of beams for town, main roads or motorways. A rain mode reduces reflective glare, cornering lights point sideways and, amazingly, the driver can instruct the Maxidot computer to adjust the lights for left or right hand drive. No more black patches when you go to the ferry. The spread of brightness is superb. You don’t realise how effective and subtle it is, especially the swivelling beams, until you drive something else.
The Skoda Superb richly deserves the awards it has had. It is supremely confident, confers complete peace of mind. There is a bit of road noise and they say the diesels are not quiet even though they win prizes too. Yet it is so well made; the trim is carefully stitched and moulded, nothing has been skimped. The fit and finish would grace a BMW. It is an organised car that it is hard to fault. Elegance specification includes rear parking sensors, Bi-xenon headlights, chrome roof rails and a tyre pressure monitor making it a bargain in equipment. It may not have the emotional appeal of a BMW, a Jaguar, or a Mercedes-Benz yet Skoda is on the threshold of joining them among the classic European makes of car.