‘MY’ Skoda Superb SE Business estate really does keep ticking all the right boxes, from driver aids both electronic and manual to acres of carrying space.
We’ve all been there: Really, really pressed for time; a long way back to base; the fuel gauge reading such that, with a bit of luck, you think you might just get back to the office without having to refuel.
And of course , you can’t: still a few dozen miles out, the fuel gauge light comes on, accompanied by that ominous warning ‘ping’.
Not in ‘my’ Skoda Superb SE Business estate it doesn’t.
“Hey, bit of an optimist aren’t we?”, the dashboard pipes up; “would you like me to find you a petrol station?”
Oh, all right; I made the first sentence up; but not the second, The offer is real. So you answer ‘yes’, the satnav sucks its thumb for a second and the closest-to-route fuel pumps will soon be in sight….
Some 2,500 miles from starting our acquaintance, it is such thoughtful, quirky, helpful touches that increasingly warm you to this barn of an exceedingly competitively priced estate car-cum-mobile office.
Several years ago, some bright spark in Skoda‘s marketing division thought up the brand slogan “Simply clever”. And the Superb really does live up to it.
In the real world, life is full of imperfections: “Rats! It’s raining – wish we’d brought umbrellas”; or on a winter’s morning: “damn, she’s nicked the windscreen scraper again”; or the groan of anguish as some small but valued gizmo rolls away into the darkness while unloading on an unfamiliar and unlit driveway.
That’s when you thank heavens for the two umbrellas which Skoda has thoughtfully integrated into the Superb’s front doors; ditto the ice scraper designed into the fuel filler recess and so, too, for the pull-out, rechargeable LED torch engineered into the rear.
These may be small things in themselves, but they betoken an attitude towards user convenience which can only win Skoda more friends. So, too, with other touches – some options – such as purpose-designed iPad holders, a tailgate which can be opened by vaguely waving a foot under the bumper when hands are full; and the infotainment system’s ability to turn itself into its own wifi hotspot.
Not least, there is “light assist with high beam control…” simply set the light switch to “auto” and forget it. The lights dip themselves, other lights come on briefly to illuminate tight corners and lights come on automatically at dusk or dawn and in poor visibility. It’s a great system with no apparent flaws.
But it is the vast interior which still impresses most. The rear seats fold fully flat to create floor space that no rival, certainly not in the Superb’s price range, can match.
We happen to have the world’s most bone idle dog, a tank of a Chow-Chow who much prefers to be driven than walk.
By the time it has ambled from side windows to rear, back to sides again across the Superb’s black-carpeted ‘field’ a few times on the drive to the park, it considers its walking work to have been done. It often declines to get out – “Have a nice stroll, I’ll wait for you here.”
For both business and leisure, the Superb is like having a low-roofed but sizeable van. On the leisure front, a two-week boat trip requires the transporting of an inordinate amount of clobber: kit bags, bad weather gear, food, extra fenders, tool kits etc ad infinitum.
The Skoda swallowed it all and could have coped as well with a couple of folding bikes.
As a business tool, it seems increasingly hard to fault. The demands it makes on employers’ and employees’ purses in terms of acquisition and taxation costs are still outstandingly modest for such a behemoth.
The P11D value of £23,700 for BCM’s current test estate still seems remarkably low ; the 110g/km CO2 and the associated 20% 2016 car tax are business-efficient; and the economy of the 150PS 2 litre turbo diesel, after 2,500 miles of mixed motoring is clearly established at an average 50mpg, plus or minus a mpg or so.
The ‘budget’ brand image projected for Skoda in the immediate aftermath of its takeover by VW group nearly two decades ago has long been receding into memory. The Superb banishes it completely.
A couple of weeks ago I glanced back after parking it for a family lunch at Cliveden. On one side hunched a Porker Panamera; on the other an Audi 6 RS estate. The sharp-suited Skoda did not look out of place at all….