New Superb: saloon meets hatch

* Versatile new boot from Skoda * Bigger than similarly priced Mondeo * Three petrol and three diesel engines...

New Superb: saloon meets hatch

Skoda has silenced the debate about whether family cars should be hatchbacks or saloons by building a model that is both.

The next Superb, the Czech companys flagship, offers the security of a separate boot and the versatility of a hatchback in one car.

It means Skoda will be able to offer a rival to premium saloons such asthe Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, and mainstream hatchbacks such as the Ford Mondeo, without having to produce two different bodystyles.

Hit a plipper on the keyfob and the boot opens as in a saloon. Close it, wait a couple of seconds and hit the plipper again and the whole tailgate springs up.

Tech specs revealed
We drove disguised prototypes of the new Superb in Californias Death Valley last autumn. Skoda has now started to release more technical details of the car ahead of its public debut at the Geneva motor show in March.

It is a little longer, wider and lower than the current model, which means it is even bigger than the vast Ford Mondeo.

The distance between the front and rear wheels is shorter than before, but because the engines are now mounted across the car rather than along its length, passengers get an even better deal. Legroom in the back is enormous, yet theres still space for a 565-litre boot.

Engine line-up
There will be six engines, ranging from a 1.4-litre 120bhp turbo to a 260bhp 3.6-litre V6 petrol.

Mainstays of the range, though, will be the 1.8-litre 160bhp turbo petrol and the three diesels a 105bhp 1.9, and 140bhp and 170bhp 2.0-litre units.

All are said to deliver strong pull for brisk acceleration, while most should give good economy while pumping out below-average emissions figures. Four-wheel drive is standard with the V6 and optional with the 1.8 and most-powerful diesel.

The new Superb is all Skodas own work, whereas the current car is little more than a stretched previous-generation VW Passat. It makes use of VW mechanical parts, though the suspension is the same as the latest Passats, guaranteeing a good drive and a smooth ride.

When and how much?
The new Superb will arrive in the UK in September and is expected to be priced to rival the Ford Mondeo as Skoda seeks to go more mainstreram to increase sales.

Options include adaptive front lights that change their beam pattern according to the type of road you are on, and the self-parking system now being rolled out on several VWs.