No question, the new Skoda Superb sedan and station wagon are among the best value cars on the New Zealand market.
But that doesn’t mean they will rush out the sales door, because big, comfortable cars with classy cabins, good ride and handling characteristics, clever gadgets and oodles of room for occupants and luggage are not what people are being conditioned to buy.
They believe they need higher-riding SUVs, utes even. Big family cars are so yesterday, say the sales statistics. But there is nothing on the road in NZ that offers more of everything than the Skoda Superb, certainly not for a starting price of $44,900 for the sedan and $47,990 for the wagon.
Not unless it’s a long-wheelbase luxury nameplate full of rooms with a view and upwards of two to three times the Superb’s price range, which tops out at $62,900 for the all-wheel-drive carry-all.
“Comparing Superb to luxury cars is cream on the cake for us,” says Skoda NZ general manager Greg Leet. “It’s a natural assumption to compare it to cars way above it.” Why? Mostly because it has a limousine-like interior in terms of space, and comes with a whole bunch of clever knicknacks. Its list of standard passive and active safety equipment is impressive, too.
Leet and his team have launched the third-generation Superb with the strapline, ‘The car you can’t afford not to buy.’ He expects the sedan and wagon to contribute around 100 units to what is shaping up as a record year in 2015: one thousand sales, a Skoda NZ first.
Next year, he says, Superb sales alone will double in numbers to around 200. “We want to be really clear on our brand positioning as we head to 2017 and a ‘dealership offensive’ where we grow our dealer network.” Skoda now has seven dealers in NZ.
The company’s sales growth over the past few years has been a series of stepping stones – a percentage point here and there. Last year it cracked 1% of the NZ market and expects to end 2015 with 1.2%. A forecast of 1300 sales in 2016 would add another few percentage points. The arrival in 2017 of a seven-seat SUV will add even more.
The mid-sized Octavia liftback and station wagon might be the stars of the Skoda show – accounting for around 60 per cent of sales – but the new Superb is the main event.
The sedan and wagon are available in either front- or all-wheel drive and with four-cylinder Euro6 petrol and diesel engines mated to either six- or seven-speed gearboxes. The 2.0-litre diesels are here now; the 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrol units are on their way. Skoda claims town-and-around fuel figures of between 4.4 and 4.9 litres/100km for the diesels, and 5.7 and 7.1 for the petrols.
Both variants are not as awkward as the outgoing units which, despite generous interiors and boot space, looked too narrow for their length. The latest model is better-proportioned – lighter on its feet, slightly longer but 50mm wider. The wheelbase is 80mm longer too.
Both sit on parent company Volkswagen’s flexible MQB platform. That and the use of more high-tensile steels thoughout aids rigidity and therefore benefits ride and handling. So too Superb’s suspension set-up, MacPherson struts up front and a new multi-link arrangement at the rear.
The Superb might look better from the outside, but the inside is what it’s all about. It’s a practical layout, uncluttered, and beautifully screwed together. The extra width is certainly noticeable across the second row of seats. So too the increased boot space in both sedan and wagon.
The previous sedan’s bootlid/liftback set-up has gone. The tailgate could be opened as either as sedan boot or liftback, a clever design that, over time, was seen as unnecessary. Its absence in the latest sedan has led to more room in the boot.
A word on the Superb’s choice of engines. No, said Leet, they are not affected by parent company Volkswagen’s emissions cheating problems. All four meet the very latest Euro6 standard, which came into force in Europe last month.