The ghost of Skodas Past...
I'd Like 4 yards of car please: Certainly sir, is that with a Skoda or VW Badge?
I recently wrote a lengthy article extolling the virtue of 'Super Estates', you can read it here if your interested:-
Now I'll be straight with you, I was targeting the rant at BMWs, Audis and Jaguars. Executive cars if you like. At the end of the article some people commented! Jim and Christian both pointed out the super value of a Skoda Superb 4x4 Estate. Now, ever the open minded man, I had to have a look on Autotrader to see what was on offer. I have to say I was impressed.
The Superb Skoda Superb...
For £25k, you can pick up a 4x4, 280 BHP with more electrickery than Inspector Gadget, after he'd spent three hours on the Shopping Channel buying gadgets. It ticks a LOT of boxes. It looks like a fantastic car. The interior looks perfectly sensible and serviceable too! It's fast, economical, cheap to tax...
The plush interior of a Superb Superb.
However for some reason, I couldn't get excited about it. I don't know why, but I find the idea of buying one about as exciting as wallpapering. Lately I've been thinking of going small and getting an Abarth 595 Competizione... Thinking about it has kept me awake at night. I'm going to experiment with thinking about getting a Superb before I go to sleep. I suspect it will help me nod off faster.
My wife always complains that I don't give Skoda a chance. That they are better now. She's right! When I was a teenager Skoda wasn't a car manufacturer - it was a joke. What do you call a Skoda convertible? [A Skip!]. There were many more, but they were too bad to remember. The jokes were almost as bad as the cars. The main offender was THIS - the Skoda Estelle:-
The Skoda Estelle
For some reason they seemed to be almost exclusively brown or a horrible, murky maroon colour. A more vile version of that awful maroon Austin seemed to paint all it's Metros in. These had a reputation for being crap. They were Czechoslovakian and built with Eastern block design and manufacturing technique if memory serves. They were really a competitor to the equally hated Lada Riva. Except the Lada was probably more practical. Yes, it was based on a Fiat, designed at the same time your granddad was storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but at least it had a reasonable boot.
The Skoda Estelle boot - where you'd normally find a car's engine.
Skoda for some reason elected to copy Porsche and put their engine in the back. This left a skittish, light front end. To aid grip and to keep yourself moving a big, heavy toolbox was often stowed under the bonnet.
The Skoda Estelle Engine Bay
This meant the wheezy, clattery joke of an engine was in the boot. Now this wasn't done for sportiness or handling. I honestly have no idea WHY it was done this way. If it WAS done for sportiness and handling they were wasting their time because these things were generally accepted to be about as maneuverable as a shopping trolley with one wheel missing!
The interior of the Skoda Estelle
The interior was pretty ropy as well. Like so many late eighties, early nineties, rot boxes, part of the skill of driving involved getting from A - B without interior trim coming off in your hand.
The only real consolation, the thing about the Estelle which gave you hope was the fact that despite it being miserable and driving it being about as enjoyable as having an experimental orchiectomy without anesthetic, at least you knew you wouldn't have to put up with it for long. They rotted away faster than you could say, 'contaminated Russian scrap'.
Okay, they were awful. However I don't think it's my hazy memory of seeing them piled four high in rows at the scrap yard or the jokes made as they rattled by in clouds of black smoke. Yes, they WERE crap. But they had CHARACTER. Take the Skoda Rapide Coupe:-
Skoda Rapide Coupe
Yes, it was a dog to drive and about as reliable as a pre-brexit bus slogan, however it was interesting. If you were seventeen and you wanted a rear-engine, rear wheel drive car, but couldn't afford a 911, or erm, a Beetle... And you were quite good at fixing things... Well it would do the trick. It ticked certain boxes. It was DIFFERENT!
To try and get to the bottom of why I can't see myself swapping the Jag for a Skoda I read a review by a Mr. Jeremy Clarkson on the Superb:- www.driving.co.uk/car-reviews/the-clarkson-review-2016-skoda-superb-estate/
I think he nails it. Yes it's basically a cheap Passat. But would I want a Passat anyway?
The answer is basically no. The Passat, like the Superb are cars you buy because they'll do. They're useful, reliable, cost-effective and about as interesting as the really 'scraping the barrel' article they stick at the back of in-flight magazines, just to fill the space. If you're the sort of person who likes reading about weaving or mushroom farming, and reading it in as convoluted and drawn out detail as possible you might like the Passat. It's a Graham car, a Howard car. It's for people who work 9-5 and go to the municipal rubbish tip EVERY weekend. Even if there's nothing to throw away. It's a car for caravan owners. As Clarkson says, it'd probably be a decent carriage for a minicab driver who was aspiring to get on the airport runs.
Don't get me wrong, they sound fantastically capable cars. On paper they ARE hard to fault, but weirdly I honestly think I'd be more excited about buying a late eighties Skoda Rapide Coupe. Yes it'd be awful, yes it probably wouldn't work, but it'd be interesting! It wouldn't be a Graham car!
My other options for swapping the X-Type:-
Why 17 year olds have it made:-
My awful first car:-
The coming extinction of petrolheads:-
My BMW Poem:-
Martyn Stanley ( ICT: drivetribe.com/t/T7MA7Qb-Rdi6gJL1fUzFpw/UtiqHYEvR92_afj735bBLA )