Close the door. Foot on the brake. Press the button where the ignition key usually goes. Welcome to Skoda. In this case a Superb wagon with 206TSI engine and AWD. And a huge sunroof. And self steering, stopping, and parking. And 10-colour interior lighting (its a MY17 build). And space, acres of space. And umbrellas, two. And I’ll stop quoting features now.
How and why did I become a Skoda driver when all I’ve ever driven was Holden or HSV?
January 2016, I started looking for a new car. It had to be big enough to fit the parentals in the back, yet still carry a fair sized load (Mum wouldn’t enjoy sitting in the tray of a ute!), and it had to have enough urge to go when the going was needed.
The Holden Sportwagon was placed at the top of the list. V6 only as I already had a V8 car. Limited slip diff as well, as I feel they are safer. Please Mr Holden, could I have a manual SV6 wagon with LSD and options, in that lovely green colour you have?
No. LSD is only available in the manual SV6 and we don’t make/sell manual wagons. Just because.
Okay, thinks me, I'll go all the way to the top of the tree to the Calais V6. The Calais has everything. Can I have a Calais wagon with V6 and LSD in green please?
No. The LSD is fitted only to V6 manual and any V8.
Okay, thinks me, for a laugh I’ll go to the top V8 (sigh). Can I please have a Redline wagon with LSD in green?
No. We don't do Redline in green.
By this time I was a bit frustrated and didn't really want a V8 so it was back to the research.
I would be disowned if I ever purchased a Ford so the list included anything around the cost of the Calais wagon that wasn't clutching a Blue Oval.
The Mazda was ugly, the Hyundai a bit garish inside, the Subaru a bit nanna and on and on.
Then I found the Volkswagen Passat and quite enjoyed the styling of the front. The diesel had the most torque so that went on the shopping list. A mention was made of a sister car named Skoda Superb so that went on the list too.
What followed was an orgy of YouTube and web sites. Wheels magazine was useless as it's just a big brochure trying to cover too many things, repeating stuff available from the manufacturer.
By Easter of 2016, I had narrowed the choice down to the Passat 140 diesel (most torque), the Superb (just about to hit our shores), and had left the Sportwagon on the list just in case the Black Edition or changes to VF Series II brought back some sense to the range.
The Passat R-Line looked very nice in the showroom from front-on, but a little drab around the rear. It is very black inside and felt, not quite cramped, but tight. The steering wheel felt a little oddly placed as well.
Next was the Skoda. One had just arrived at my local dealership and it looked better than in the pictures whilst it sat there in the forecourt. Sitting in the Superb showed just how much bigger than the Passat it was. Even the side of the door seemed to be a stretch away to rest my elbow on.
The quality of the parts used was the same as the Passat (hell, they are the same parts mostly) and the panel fit and finish was outstanding.
Next it was off to the Holden dealer – hope springs eternal after all. I really enjoy the shape of the Sportwagon and now had two other wagons to compare it with so looked a little closer at the stand-out build quality. Mud flaps stood out as not attached properly, panel gaps stood out, and the outstanding lack of choice stood out the most.
I still find it fantastic that a local company can’t parts bin a car together (and all the pieces do fit as they used to sell what I wanted) when they have a buyer that wants a specific build. Bye Holden, it was nice knowing you.
Looks like it’s a Passat or a Superb. Gee the Superb looks soooo much nicer (subjective of course).
Time to do more research. Both choices come with DSG gearboxes, no manuals.
I already knew about the "DSG horrors" and there is no shortage of stories on the web to back that up. Most are around the dry clutch examples, but the Passat and Superb carry a wet clutch gearbox. Many of the stories seemed to be more along the lines of lazy claimants or lazy dealers not following a process through.
We all know that companies in general lie through their teeth so I wasn't about to jump on the Dieselgate bandwagon and ruffle my feathers indignantly. They lied, they got caught, others are being found out with them, they get punished. Hopefully fairly. Besides, the Passat uses blue wee so was outside that scandal.
Warranty coverage was also considered. My first new car had 12 months or 20,000 kilometres warranty, whichever came first. The coverage was simple but low, much like the cars it covered.
Nowadays there are so many more things that can go wrong; computers that talk to sensors that talk to computers that talk to gizmos that talk to motors to determine if they want to open a tailgate. If something in that overteched plumbing is on a lunch break then poor Bethany gets trapped in the car and OH MY GOD WONT SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?
I don't have a Bethany, nor am I buying one soon, but I am still interested in gaining access to my car if Fritz goes on the fritz. So I looked at the Owner Manuals for the cars. Both were available on the web from their respective companies (unlike the Holden). The infotainment system had its own manual too.
The manuals told me all about the safety features including the electronic equivalent of the LSD I was after.
It was then I saw that the Passat would soon get the same 206TSI engine in the Superb. Decisions decisions.
As if! The Superb was better looking, bigger, had more features, and was cheaper than the Passat. Even the brakes were bigger than the V8 Holden (bar the Brembos or optional police upgrade – 340x30mm on the Superb versus 321x30m on the Commodore), whilst power and torque were comparable to the SV6 Holden.
More airbags, autonomous emergency braking, swivelly headlights, things a local car only dreams about. A dealer was located that had an available example and a test drive obtained.
So that’s how I got here.
Six-thousand kilometres later I still grin when I get in the car. I giggle when the car steers or brakes by itself. The heated AND cooled front seats are wonderful in Sydney weather. Passengers love the available space and the three-zone climate control that keeps things cool even in 40-degree sunshine (yes, the sunroof blind was retracted).
The vision out of the car is great. No overly thick pillars to see past or around and the mirrors are sized well. All the mirrors also darken at night to stop glare, and the passenger mirror can do the usual dipping trick when reversing.
It’s now a habit to press the auto stop/start button at the same time I press the handbrake release button. Having an engine cut out on me at the lights or a roundabout is unnerving even if it does start quickly.
The gearbox has its moments. It can be caught out napping when approaching a roundabout, slowing, and then accelerating through before the car has come to a complete stop. In the normal mode, the gearbox also likes to hold on to a higher gear but a quick tap on the flappy paddle solves that.
The different modes for the engine, gearbox, and suspension are actually noticeable. Where the Eco mode will freewheel to save fuel, the Sports mode holds onto lower gears and happily downshifts to provide engine braking when slowing. It even sounds different, probably due to the bi-modal exhaust that is fitted.
The seats initially felt too hard and unsupportive but I’ve grown into them as they have softened with use. For smaller people they will seem too big (wide) and because of this the bolstering feels lacking. Perhaps the Sportline seats are better bolstered?
For a while I thought the steering wheel was off-centre, then I realised that I was sitting too far to the right on the seat, trying to get closer to a door that felt too far away.
Part of the glow of ownership is formed by the dealership that you buy the car from or have it serviced by. There have been a few problems, initially with the tow bar disabling the automatic cruise control, and later with a failed front wheel bearing.
At all times the dealership was friendly and accommodating and the problems were fixed. I knew there could be a multi-month delay between ordering and receiving the car, it had literally just landed in Australia, so I factored that into the purchase. Ordered in April, received in September; much of the time was spent waiting on the dock or on the transport ship.
If you have read this far, and were considering a Superb, you would be worried about the resale value. All cars depreciate, get over it, especially if they aren’t looked after.
The Superb now has a five-year factory warranty (I had to buy the extra two for my car that originally only had three years). That’s a vote of confidence in the way it’s built, and a shot to the resale value, which is around the same as the equivalent Holden, according to Redbook.
People will tell you not to buy one as the parts are hard to get and the depreciation is a killer. Other than panels and trim, the parts are the same as found in VW and Audi cars, so there are plenty of parts around. If you're really that worried about depreciation, then save those worries and catch busses or taxis everywhere instead of buying new, then hire a rental car for your holiday – or buy a second-hand Superb instead.
Every now and then the safety systems will freak out and alert me of an impending collision, thank you lane-splitting motorcycle, but at all other times they are wonderful additions to the car. The first time you try changing lanes whilst another vehicle is “too close” and the car angrily shakes the steering wheel in response can be a little disturbing. It’s like driving over ripple strip on a racetrack. Once you know it happens it becomes another one of those simply clever things that Skoda advertises.
I’m biased. I own one and I love it to bits. In some ways I hope it stays a hidden gem but I also want others to consider it as it’s so good. I even love the way the systems can be tinkered with (software and cable not included).
I really don’t like the incredibly thin paint on the front bumper bar. It chips easily and will look terrible after few years. I do like the moulded cargo tub that I purchased as an accessory – it should be standard. I could go on and on so I’ll end by telling you to take a look at one, take it for a drive. You might find yourself making a decision you never expected.