Skoda Superb Ambleside
Why it won...
Skoda's trick of positioning cars between conventional class boundaries can mean it gets overlooked for awards. The Octavia, for example, sits just below family cars in size, but is priced to compete with compact rivals.
However, we simply could not ignore the excellent Superb, which provides the space of a luxury car at the price of a family hatchback. And that’s not all, because its novel dual-opening tailgate means it can be used as a five-door hatchback or four-door saloon. Plus, it can easily accommodate five adults, with huge amounts of rear legroom, and there is an absolutely massive boot, too.
Because it has so few direct rivals, we put it up against a raft of competitors on its UK debut using our triple-twin test format (Issue 1,033). And it confidently saw off the combined might of the Ford Mondeo, Audi A4 and a used BMW 5-Series!
The Skoda isn’t just about size and value, though. Our road testers were also amazed by the Superb’s agility and handling. They were expecting impressive refinement and comfort – but the sharp dynamics of the Skoda are genuinely impressive.
Better still, the Skoda uses the best engines from the VW empire, so there are no weaknesses in its mechanical armoury. From the entry-level 1.4 TSI petrol to the flagship 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel, it has one of the most talented line-ups around.
The Vauxhall narrowly lost out to the Mondeo in its debut test, but has impressed our judges at every turn. Its classy cabin, polished dynamics and smart looks make it the best offering from the company in years. Generous equipment levels also make it good value, although headroom in the back trails the class leaders.
After a two-year reign at the top of the family car class, it has taken something special to topple the Mondeo. The Ford is big even by executive car standards so it’s very spacious inside, and it provides a fantastic blend of long-distance comfort and sharp handling.