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- On Sale Year: 2004
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But Skoda has come up trumps for the UK fleet market with its Superb, which could tempt a more than a few senior managers who want a classy, large, comfortable diesel for the price of a low-end premium upper-medium saloon.
The range-topping diesel – a recently revised version of the 2.5-litre V6 – now boasts Euro IV compliance, whether paired with a six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
The 160bhp powerplant also offers 258lb-ft of torque. While this figure might sound reasonably healthy for a diesel engine of this size, it arrives at an astonishingly low 1,250rpm. It means the Superb's engine is on song when it's barely ticking over.
To my knowledge, no other engine reaches its torque peak so low down. It means effortless cruising and strong low-to-mid-range acceleration and comfortable motorway cruising.
It can be a double-edged sword around town, though, as our Tiptronic test car was keen to change up through the gears at the earliest opportunity, and you find the car wanting to run away as it changes into fifth at just under 30mph.
There is a manual shift facility that can ensure the transmission behaves itself and its eagerness to upshift is good news for fuel consumption, but it is quite satisfying to allow it to flex its muscles occasionally.
Our test car was the high-spec Elegance model and while some people might flinch at the prospect of paying £24,850 for a vehicle from a manufacturer that became famous for building budget cars, you can certainly see where the money has been spent.
It is absolutely laden with equipment. All Superbs come with free metallic paint, four electric windows, automatic climate control, alloy wheels and most of the other things you would expect on a well-specced upper-medium saloon.
The Elegance also has items fitted to Comfort models such as an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control, parking sensors, automatic windscreen wipers and an umbrella holder and drainer.
Our car also had part-leather seats, bi-xenon headlamps, larger alloys, more chrome, heated front and rear seats, an electric sunroof and electric front seats.
While it's comfortable for front seat occupants, those in the rear can stretch out with more legroom than a Mercedes-Benz S-class.
While there is little to excite about the way the Superb drives (apart from its industrial strength torque), it offers neat, safe handling and a compliant ride, with its long wheelbase helping smooth out some of the nastier bumps on the road.
It is also an attractive car with real road presence, thanks to its bold front end and elegant proportions.
Used car buyers now recognise the Skoda product is almost unrecognisable compared to cars of a decade ago.
But large cars from volume manufacturers still struggle if they are at the top of the range. It means the big Skoda is expected to retain 27% of its value over three years/60,000 miles, according to CAP Monitor.
This is better than a high-spec Vectra diesel, it is also Euro IV compliant to keep drivers happy and they get a classier-looking car to boot.
Engine (cc): 2,496
Max power (bhp/rpm): 160/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 258/1,250
Max speed (mph): 132
0-62mph (sec): 10.4
Fuel consumption (mpg): 35.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 213
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,625/27%
HSBC contract hire rate: £423
On sale: Now
Price (OTR): £24,850