Drive of the week: ŠKODA Superb Estate - 12th April 2010

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It is possible that this new ŠKODA Superb estate is the least fashionable car something close to £25,000 can buy. It is, if you like, the antidote to all those crossovers and quasi-SUVs that people buy because of the imperative to look cool. So, if you like your car to make a statement about you, look elsewhere — unless you happen to want that statement to read, “I’m as adventurous as a pair of slippers.”

For those who care not at all what their car says about them and rather more about its ability to do a hard job, this Superb is nothing less than the best estate for the money. First and most important, it offers outstanding amounts of room for five occupants and their luggage. Its load-carrying capacity exceeds that of all other cars in its class, including the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia. In fact it’s better in that respect than almost every estate in the next class up, including the Audi A6, the BMW 5-series and the Volvo V70. Only Mercedes’ vast E-class estate will carry more, but you can barely buy one of those for less than 30 grand.

Where the Superb really lifts itself clear not only of its classmates but also of all other comparable family cars is in the driving experience. Its ride quality is of a calibre more usually found in luxury cars costing more than twice as much. The fit and finish of its cabin are as good as in any Audi. The car I drove came with a 170bhp 2-litre diesel engine and a DSG automatic gearbox. For a large estate, the standstill to 62mph time of less than nine seconds is very respectable, particularly when it will return more than 45mpg.

The fact is, on any measure this is a damnably difficult car to fault, not least because, like a Porsche 911 GT3, Lotus Elise, Land Rover Discovery 4 or Toyota iQ, it is utterly fit for purpose. If you can drive a car several hundred miles, spending every moment thinking of things to criticise, and emerge at the end disliking only its name, you know the car is about as good as it gets. And in the worthy, practical and deeply unfashionable world of sub-£25,000 estates, that is high praise indeed.

ŠKODA Superb estate 2.0 TDI CR SE £23,595 ENGINE 1968cc, four cylinders POWER 170bhp @ 4200rpm TRANSMISSION Six-speed DSG ACCELERATION 0-62mph: 8.9sec

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