Remarkable to think that it is now 25 years since Volkswagen took over the former Czechoslovakian Communist state enterprise that was Skoda. (It's actually the third oldest car manufacturer in the world predating the heirs of Lenin, harking back to 1895.) Now a proud part of the European capitalist West facing off against Putin, Skoda's rebranding exercise is complete: nobody under the age of 40 associates the carmaker with old-school gags that indicate shoddy quality. Skoda now plays a well-defined and profitable part in the VW brand line-up as the value choice.
If you are going to call a car a Superb it had better not just be quite good. The Skoda Valu or the Skoda Really-Not-Bad-At-All-For-The-Price would not fit in emblazoned across the boot in fake chrome lettering.
The Superb looks very good indeed especially in the estate version tested here. Its lines are elegant and purposeful. Also in its favour is its huge size - probably the most space you can get for the money from any showroom.
It is quite some way short of the levels of technological sophistication, interior styling and execution of both the Audi A6 and the VW Passat. The engine's a wee bit gruff. It wears the hand-me-downs of the posher German rellys. But that has to be so, otherwise why bother with those costly mid-market and premium brands in the first place?
We drove the absolute top-of-the-line model with four-wheel drive and a two-litre diesel engine. With all the bells and whistles added, the on-the-road price came to a not inconsiderable £32,310. You'd be better off de-specced with a smaller engine.
The dual-clutch automatic gearbox was jerky in stop-start traffic, but on the open road it changes up and down through its ratios well enough.
It's hard to see anyone yearning after a Superb. You'd be a bit odd - or a diehard Czech patriot - if it quickened your pulse. As a purchase it has good sense written all over it rather than keen desire. Clarkson gave it a rather mean two stars, whereas our rather more sensible and considered colleagues on What Car? (who have never biffed anyone in the face) gave it five and not only awarded it their best estate car of the year for 2016, but also best compact executive car for less than £25,000. I'll go with three and a half.
Skoda Superb SE L Executive Estate
Engine: 2.0 TDI SCR
Transmission: Six-speed DSG 4x4
Fuel consumption: 55.4 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 135g/km
0-62 MPH: 7.7 seconds
Top speed: 142 mph