SO, wagons. Reliable, spacious, practical – some may even say boring. More like that pair of black pants in your wardrobe that weathers the seasons than that racy red number that causes a stir on special occasions.
My husband says that wagons mean you have almost given up any hope ofSkoda retaining even a small part of that pre-kids party animal. You know, the one that raved on till 5am, slept till noon and was ready to go again? He is of the opinion that, and these are his words, it is better to squash the kids and pram in a Mini and drive around town with some spunk about you.
Cramped legs, yes, but fire in your soul. I know what he means.
But I also know what it's like to ferry around kids and the tonnes of stuff they simply have to bring along every time you leave the house. I know what it's like to pack for a family holiday, trying against hope to push in that last bag of nappies as if your destination, just a couple of hours down the road mind you, doesn't have the biggest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere. And as cute as I think Mini Coopers are, I would prefer not to drive home with the shopping on my head.
The fact is that you would not be looking at a wagon if space was not a key consideration. So let's work with what we have. If it's space you want, then the Skoda Superb Wagon has it by the bucket load.
The boot is big – beaten only by the Mercedes Benz E-Class in its segment. It is 1865 litres with the rear seats folded, 633 litres with everything in its place. The passenger seat also folds back which means the wagon carry an item 285cm long. Yep, the kitchen sink.
It has a larger tailgate opening than most of its competitors and a lower lip height to make it easier to load heavier objects. The luggage restraints travel on a pair of alloy rails which make them easily adjustable and you also have the option of an extendable false floor to hide belongings and an auto sliding cargo cover that retracts when you open the boot.
Oh, and did I mention the fold out shopping bag hooks. Lots of them.
The wagon features a spacious comfortable interior with room to truly stretch out. Headroom is good, too, but three adults in the back may find their shoulders a bit squashed. The padded leather seats offer support in all the right places and are heated should you require a touch of warming up. The front seats are electric with a memory function to boot. The steering wheel is rake and reach adjustable and feels weighty to the touch. Instruments and controls are well thought out and easy to use and the 10-speaker sound system is impressive.
On the road
The Skoda feels solid and reliable with the six-speed DSG adding the power to keep things interesting. It makes short work of bumpy services and changes tack between highway and city driving with ease. Handling is crisp and body control, normally a challenge on a vehicle this heavy, is excellent. The wagon holds its line around corners and is equal to the trickery of winding, hilly roads.
What do you get?
Skoda, keen to impress with standard features, has packed the wagon with a range of goodies. Satellite navigation, Bi-Xenon headlights with active cornering function, rain sensing wipers and a Park Assist parallel-parking system are just some of the above norm inclusions. Safety equipment includes nine airbags, yep nine, ESP as well as anti-lock and anti-slip braking, hill assist and a dual rate brake booster that comes into its own when that car in front stops without warning.
Skoda has placed the Superb Wagon in a range that includes the Holden Commodore Sports Wagon (from $47,490), Volvo V50 (from $44,490) as well as the Citroen C5 Wagon (from $49,990) and even the Mercedes E-Class Estate ($132,000).
The space offered by the big boot coupled with the standard features is the biggest drawcard of the wagon. There are also gadgetry pleasures, like the umbrella under the arm of the left seat and the detachable magnetic rechargeable LED flashlight that can be used at night to change a flat or just for illumination. Parents will be happy to note that all four electrically powered windows have an auto-reversing function to avoid catching wondering little fingers. It could do with a few more cup holders but that is a small price to pay.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine is practical and powerful, not to mention very economical. Skoda claims 6.6l/100km and we found it could be a smidgen less on long drives. As always though, until Skoda ups its presence in Australia, the expense could come in servicing and repairs.
So funk is not the No.1 factor when choosing a wagon but you still want it to look more yuppie than yucky. We think the Superb Wagon is stylish enough to draw interest especially with the design of the tail lights. They look innocuous during the day but each comprises a C-shaped light broken in three sections which comes into its own at night and gives the wagon a bit of a designer edge.
This is a family car and a good one at that. A powerful engine, plenty of space and luxurious comfort means you can ferry the kids around with ease while stretching out in style. It has those nifty little extras that make it a bit quirky and let's be honest, who wants to really run with the pack?
Model: Skoda Superb Wagon 125TDI.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive compact wagon.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic DSG.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 125kW at 4200rpm and peak torque of 350Nm.
Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km combined average.
Performance: 0-100km in 8.9 seconds.
Bottom line: From $43,990.
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