No one can accuse Skoda of coming up with uninteresting names for its products.
But to christen its flagship Superb sets the bar really high.
It’s a name that’s bound to raise consumers’ interest – or at least a chuckle.
Save for the few Octavia passenger cars and Superb taxis, Skoda is barely visible locally.
With the new Superb, things look set to change for the better.
The first thing going for the new car is its design.
Though based on a stretched floorpan of the Octavia, the new car appears considerably more imposing and upmarket.
The snout has an aggressive face and stance, with BMW-like headlights and the signature Skoda winged arrow logo given pride of place in the centre.
Lines are long and sleek, with a gentle wedge-shape profile and a well-balanced rump.
On its rear is where you’ll find the clever bit. Press the centre button and the lid opens like a normal notchback saloon’s.
Press another and the whole tailgate opens up, giving it the luggage capacity and practicality of a liftback.
This clever set-up is a Skoda patent that’s said to give the Superb the elegance of a sedan and the practicality of a hatchback.
When the patent expires, my guess is many others are likely to following this trendsetting feature.
The Skoda marque has, in the past, been associated with utility rather than prestige.
But the Superb seems ready to completely alter this mindset.
The cabin is anything but spartan.
Plastics are soft and gentle to the touch, with premium quality fittings giving it a luxurious ambience. Luxury? Yes, luxury.
Though no one would have believed this of Skoda until the new Superb was launched.
Premium stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, dual zone air-conditioning, rear air-con vents in the centre and B-pillars, Alcantara leather upholstery and navigation are all standard.
The Simply Superb version, which is the more premium model, has extra goodies like driver’s knee airbag, side window blinds, memory seats, cruise control, a darker window tint, electric folding mirrors and xenon headlights.
Unique to the Superb are two features not usually found in cars, even in those that cost considerably more.
The kerbside rear door of both variants is fitted with an umbrella storage compartment that allows water to be drained to the outside.
Rolls-Royce is the only other brand to offer this convenience.
And the boot of the Simply has a false floor that can be lifted to reveal a lined hidden compartment for valuable items.
But perhaps the party trick of the Simply is the Parking Assist.
It self-parks the car when you want to parallel park. All the driver has to do is either press the brake or the accelerator.
This is the ideal system for those many drivers who have forgotten how to parallel park after passing their driving test!
This system, plus all the other extra bits, means paying just $10,ooo more for the Simply Superb over the Superb is a no-brainer.
Space packaging is truly, uh, superb in the Superb. Rear passengers have the legroom of a stretched limo.
Unless they are very tall, passengers can literally stretch their legs fully.
Being based on the Octavia floorpan puts constraints on the width of the car.
Relative to the length, the cabin feels a little narrow. But unlike most cars, both front and rear seats offer equal levels of comfort.
This is one car in which sitting in the rear does not give one the feeling of being downgraded to Economy Class!
It’s so spacious and lounge-like that it might make you feel like a chauffeured towkay!
The Superb is powered by the turbocharged direct-injection 1.8-litre, which makes 161bhp and 250Nm of torque.
It may not sound like much but the Superb is no sloth.
Throttle response is impressive, giving the car spirited performance even at low revs. It never feels flat or unwilling.
Clocking a century sprint timing of 8.5 seconds is definitely quick for a 1.8-litre family car, and a good part of the credit for this performance goes to the latest version of the dual-clutch transmission pioneered by Volkswagen.
Low-speed stumble, the bugbear of most twin-clutch transmissions, is noticeable only during parking manoeuvres that require going forward and back.
Once on the move, the 7-speed box is perfect. It gives lightning-quick gear changes without the need to match clutch and accelerator pedals in cars fitted with conventional manual gearboxes.
Both handling balance and steering feel cannot be faulted, too, in a car which was never touted as a sports saloon.
Though long, the Superb is reasonably agile and responds in a linear manner to steering inputs.
The ride is smooth, with road noise suppression worthy of a luxury saloon.
Coupled with the extremely low engine and wind noise, the car offers a level of refinement befitting a car costing twice as much.
Yes, it is the overall refinement, high standard of equipment, and roomy and well-appointed cabin that surprise everyone.
Who would have expected Skoda to come up with a car that is simply superb at below $100,000?
Maybe Simply Superb isn’t such a silly name after all.
Now all the distributors have to do is convince consumers to look beyond the badge and judge the car on its merits.
2009 Skoda Superb 1.8 (A)
Type Inline-4, 16-valves, turbocharged
Bore x stroke 82.5mm x 84.2mm
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Max power 161hp at 4500-6200rpm
Max torque 250Nm at 1500-4500rpm
Power to weight 109.5hp per tonne
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
Driven wheels Front
0-100km/h 8.5 seconds
Top speed 220km/h
Consumption 13.2km/L (combined)
Front MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear Multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Front / Rear Ventilated discs / discs
Type Continental ContiSportContact 2
Size 225/40 R18
Traction aids ABS, ESP
Kerb weight 1471kg
Turning circle 10.8m
Price incl. COE $99,800
Warranty 3 years/100,000km
+ Superb build quality, limousine-like rear room, overall refinement
– Jerky transmission when parking, cabin could be wider, no more grounds for crude Skoda jokes