Happy 120th Birthday, ŠKODA!
By Tim Barnes-Clay, Motoring Journalist
ŠKODA is notching up another incredible milestone in 2015 as it celebrates 120 years of production!
The ŠKODA story began in 1895, when cycling fanatics Václav Laurin (a mechanic) and Václav Klement (a bookseller) started designing and manufacturing bicycles under the name Slavia.
The bikes sold well, so Laurin and Klement decided to take the next step – and add motors. The pair started making motorbikes in 1899, and changed the name of their company to the Laurin & Klement Co.
While making nearly 4,000 motorbikes of various types, the pair started experimenting with a new phenomenon – the car – which began to gradually replace motorbikes from 1905 on.
Expansion led to a merger with Czech engineering firm Pizen Skodova and the formation of the ŠKODA brand as we know it today. Despite the devastating impact of two world wars that twice wiped out the brand’s passenger car production and fundamentally changed the political and economic landscape of Czechoslovakia, ŠKODA never lost its passion for innovation and design.
Cars such as the 1934 Popular brought tubular frame technology to mass production between conflicts, while post-war models such as the 1101 and Octavia helped get the country back on to the road to prosperity.
Even during the 1970s and 1980s when difficult trading conditions forced the brand to develop cars on limited budgets, ŠKODA never lost its fighting spirit and desire for original design.
The Velvet Revolution of 1989 marked the start of a new era for both the Czech Republic and ŠKODA. To help the brand realise its ambitious plans for the future, ŠKODA sought a partner and in 1991 announced a merger with the Volkswagen Group.
With financial security came a design and engineering renaissance that continues to this day. Thanks to landmark models such as the 1996 Octavia and the 2000 Fabia, ŠKODA re-established itself as a major force in the car market.
Mould-breaking new models including the Yeti and Superb followed, further reinforcing ŠKODA’s reputation for innovation and bold design.
Today, 110 years after the first Voiturette Type A was driven out of the Mláda Boleslav factory gates – ŠKODA is active in more than 100 international markets and has a broad seven-model range.
In 2014, ŠKODA achieved worldwide sales of 1,037,200 vehicles – breaking the 1 million mark for the first time ever.
As mentioned, one of the best models produced these days is the ŠKODA Superb.
Driving the newest incarnation in Estate form this week, I discovered the fresh model has the largest boot in the automotive mid-class. Although the Superb Estate is only 23mm longer than its predecessor, the load area holds 27 litres more than before with the rear seats up.
By putting the chairs down in the back, the capacity will increase to almost two cubic metres – 85 litres larger than that of the second-generation model. Even carrying long objects is possible; the front passenger seat can easily be folded down when required. This allows objects of up to 3.10 metres in length to be transported.
The new ŠKODA Superb Estate not only triumphs in terms of space, but also in its practical solutions. Up to 31 Simply Clever features are on offer for the model – 11 of which are in the boot alone.
Just as with the saloon version, the latest ŠKODA Superb Estate is optionally available with a virtual pedal, which enables you to open the electric tailgate hands-free with a simple foot movement around the bottom of the rear bumper.
Another new addition making its debut on the new ŠKODA Superb Estate is the practical tip-to-close function that initiates the electric boot closing mechanism with a simple pull. Additionally, folding down the rear backrests can be done at the touch of a button, situated in the load area.
The variably adjustable false boot floor offers the highest practical benefits in the ŠKODA Superb Estate. This intermediate moveable surface can divide the boot in various ways, making it more flexible. The system also creates practical storage space: the boot’s coat shelf and the retractable cover can be stored under the double floor.
The roller cover has been designed as a manual retractable load covering. By applying gentle pressure, it automatically moves back and the boot is free for loading. The cover also has an automatic unlocking roller blind. This means it will automatically move one notch back when the boot door opens.
Another practical feature is the aforementioned new coat shelf, which can be found under the roller cover. This can hold flat items, such as a jacket.
Four folding hooks in the boot can help to securely transport items that might otherwise move around, for example shopping bags. The ŠKODA net programme is also useful here; one horizontal and two vertical nets can secure items when required.
Finally, in the boot you will also find a removable LED torch, which can be used outside the vehicle. The flashlight is charged automatically in its holder as you drive, and is also magnetic.
The ŠKODA Superb Estate I drove – and highly recommend – is the SE L Executive 2.0 TDI 190PS 4×4 DSG. It offers bags of pull, up to 55.4mpg – and 0-62mph in a quick 7.7 seconds.
It’s obviously a larger, heavier version of its latest hatchback sibling, but this doesn’t affect its dynamic ability. What’s more, grip is fantastic in poor weather, thanks to this particular model’s all-wheel drive system.
All the key controls feel smooth and well-weighted – hearteningly classy, even. And the Superb goes about its business in a hushed, unruffled manner, irrespective of the engine you choose.
FAST FACTS (SE L Executive 2.0 TDI 190PS 4×4 DSG)
- Max speed: 142 mph
- 0-62 mph: 7.7 secs
- Combined mpg: 54.4
- Engine layout: 1968 cc, 4 cylinder, 16 valve turbo diesel
- Max. power (bhp): 187
- Max. torque (lb.ft): 295
- CO2: 135 g/km
- Price: £31,420