IT'S easy to think Skoda naming its largest offering "Superb" as borderline arrogant, laying itself open for criticism if it is anything but.
Yet much like Muhammad Ali proclaiming himself "The Greatest", as long as you have the tools to back up your brazen statement there can be few complaints.
The large liftback or wagon-bodied Superb, just launched in third generation guise, is, well, superb. As complete a family car as you could wish for, boasting cavernous occupant and cargo space, luxury finish, generous standard inclusions and a satisfying drive on both highways and back roads.
There are three turbo engines on offer, typical Skoda clever touches (including umbrellas housed in the front doors a la Rolls Royce), and pricing that may seem lofty for a Skoda but is unquestionably great value. Why? These Superbs, starting below $40k, can hold their own in many facets against an Audi A6, BMW 5 Series or Mercedes E Class. Really.
Skoda is on a roll, with 2015 sales up 23% over the previous year thanks to quality product such as the Octavia and Fabia, an expanding dealer network, and improving brand reputation. It lacks an SUV range that would see sales boom (hold tight, they're coming), but why on earth would you need a high-riding Skoda soft roader when the new Superb is a family car par excellence?
If space means comfort the Superb wins big. The previous gen model was vast inside, but the new car built on VW Group's MQB platform is longer of body and wheelbase, higher and a mighty 48mm wider, bringing more elbow room front and rear to go with limo-esque leg room. If you have older kids of decent size there'll be no rear seat grumbles.
It's not an Audi or Jaguar in terms of outright cabin plushness, but is no less comfortable. Heated Alcantara leather appointed seats are standard, but full perforated leather can be had for a mere $1500 in a Comfort Pack option, which also brings power seats - ventilated up front and heated in the rear. Ticking this box is a bit of a must for a more complete luxury experience.
Touch points feel high quality, an 8-inch touchscreen is the frontline of a very intuitive infotainment system and the layout, trim and strip lighting give an air of unfussy class. If there's any grumble it's that the steering wheel could feel a bit chunkier and more executive.
On the road
There are three Superb models - a 140TDI diesel that Europeans buy but we won't, a 162TSI with the engine from Skoda's Octavia RS (a good thing), and a 206TSI with the Golf R's 206kW four-cylinder and all-wheel drive (a very good thing). The latter, despite the Superb's size, is the quickest Skoda you can buy, cracking 100kmh in just 5.8 seconds.
The 140TDI is your economy king, but the entry-level 162TSI is hardly thirsty and offers more than adequate performance. That said, the 206TSI is a bit of an executive rocket that after some gentle persuading truly flies, and during our wet road test, its all-wheel-drive proved incredibly sure-footed, safe and even decent fun, but the car's sheer size means it can't deliver the thrills of an Octavia RS, nor of course a Golf R.
If you prefer more spirited back road driving, Skoda offers Adapative Chassis Control as part of a Tech Pack, while the 206TSI comes with a drive mode selector offering Standard, Sport and Comfort chassis setup, stiffening dampers and tightening steering. With the Tech Pack's stunning Canton sound system and full suite of driver safety aids, it again looks a fine investment at $4700 (or $3400 in the 206TSI 4x4).
The Superb does highway and town driving terrifically well, favouring an ability to absorb bumps and keep occupants cosseted as opposed to thrilled on those back roads. Good, that's what a Superb should do.
What do you get?
Standard inclusions for a sub-$40k car are impressive. It lacks for little bar a head-up display and standard steering wheel paddles (the 206TSI gets them), with highlights including 18-inch wheels, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise, three-zone climate, front heated seats, city emergency brake and rear view camera.
Treat yourself to some of the optional packages (most Skoda buyers do) and comfort, safety and convenience features truly rival your Benzes and Audis, but the bottom line will be a hell of a lot less with the Superb.
The Superb has never struggled for boot space, but the new model takes cargo room to the next level. You score 625 litres for the liftback sedan and 660 litres in the wagon (a $1700 premium) - a full 60 litres more than the outgoing Superb. As well as Skoda's typical abundance of smart storage compartments through cabin and boot, we particularly like the ashtray sized waste bins in the doors (ideal for used gum), rear tablet holders and umbrellas housed in the front doors.
Considering the Superb's size and gutsy engines fuel economy is good. The diesel version is top of the tree with 4.8-litres/100km, while we had most time in the petrols and returned indicated figures not a ridiculous way off the claimed 6.4L/100km (162TSI) and 7.3L/100km (206TSI). A three year 45,000km pre-paid servicing plan for $1299 looks good value too.
Take your pick from a cast of thousands, but let's ignore SUV rivals. Skoda secretly wants Superb to be a bargain alternative to the Audi A6 ($79,990), Merc E Class ($80,400) and BMW 5 Series ($82,300), and shoppers of these really should try the Skoda.
You'd need a Holden Commodore ($35,490) to match the size; VW's Passat Highline sedan or wagon ($45,990) are smaller but obvious challengers, while if you don't need something as vast as the Superb, check out the Mazda6 Atenza ($46,420) Ford Mondeo Titanium ($44,290) and even Skoda's own Octavia, with the RS ($37,590) a brilliant performance tool.
A real winner here. The new Superb's style is a marked leap over old, the two petrol engines particularly are a fine blend of performance, flexibility and economy, while the ride and cabin comfort would raise eyebrows among BMW and Benz buyers.
The Superb doesn't have the badge cachet of these Germans, nor quite the luxury levels, but this imposingly big Skoda is so smartly spacious and such incredible value it simply must be considered by savvy shoppers. The range-topping 206TSI 4x4 is a rapid delight, but the 162TSI looks the pick. Pay $1700 extra for the attractive back, tick a few option packs and I'd challenge you to name a better family car for under $50,000.
What matters most
What we liked: Sheer size and excellent space, comfortable and compliant ride, quality of finish, high spec inclusions, engine range, price.
What we'd like to see: Head up display and paddle shifters as standard, a greater sense of occasion inside to really contend with the luxury Euros, halo 206TSI 4x4 can't match an Octavia RS for thrills.
Warranty and servicing: 3-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Factory warranty can be extended to 5 year/unlimited kilometres for $1699. Three year, 45,000km pre-paid servicing available for $1299.
Model: Skoda Superb.
Details: Five-door front- or all-wheel-drive large liftback sedan or wagon.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with 162kW @ 6200rpm and 350Nm @ 1500rpm (162TSI); 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with 140kW @ 4000rpm and 400Nm @ 1750rpm (140TDI); 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with 206kW @ 6500rpm and 350Nm @ 1700rpm (206TSI).
Transmission: 6-speed DSG automatic.
Consumption: 6.4-litres/100km (162TSI); 4.8L/100km (140TDI); 7.3L/100km (206TSI).
Performance 0-100kmh: 7.0-seconds (162TSI); 7.7s (140TDI); 5.8s (206TSI).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $39,990 (162TSI); $43,990 (140TDI); $50,990 (206TSI). Wagon body style adds $1700.
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 19/20
Value for money 19/20
Style and design 17/20