When the Skoda Superb estate turned up, I was surprised at just how long it was. Sitting next to my neighbour’s Audi A4 estate, it was longer by quite a margin.
As estates go, this must be one of the roomiest on the market. Think Volvo and then some, but with Mercedes styling. In fact the passengers in the back could be forgiven for thinking they’re being ferried around in a limo, given the distance between them and the chauffer.
The petrol version we tried had a 1.8-litre engine and 160hp to play with. It also had the all-singing and all-dancing seven-speed DSG gearbox, which was comfortable on motorway journeys and fun on A roads. Farmers will prefer the 2.0-litre diesel variant, but fuel economy on the petrol wasn’t too disappointing at around 37mpg around country roads.
Handling is punchy for such a large car, and ride quality is smooth yet lets you feel the road. Its 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds shouldn’t be sniffed at either.
The model we tested came in at just shy of £26,000, but this is a lot of car for your money. In Elegance trim, it comes with climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, satellite navigation and leather upholstery. The interior has nine airbags and there’s a standard electronic stability system and anti-spin software, which makes the handling on even winding country roads responsive and fun.
Despite acres of room for the passengers in the front, load bay space hasn’t been compromised. And there were some clever gadgets (which, to be honest, I took out) to help keep errant shopping/tractor filters/pushchairs from sliding about.
• FW Verdict
This is not going to double up as a car for fields and farm tracks, unless your land resembles a bowling green. But as a spoil-yourself luxury family wagon, this is definitely worth a test drive.
Want something with a little more ground clearance?
The somewhat more compact Skoda Octavia is available in a 4wd “Scout” model and is ideal for those unplanned excursions across the field at this time of year to deliver parts to the combine and food to the troops.
Standing 65mm taller than the standard two-wheel drive version, the Scout gains extra body protection, which increases length by 12mm and width by 15mm.
Aluminium scuff plates to the front and rear will protect from rough tracks and, in the area where we tested it, acute departure angles when crossing steep canal bridges on the farm. The jacked-up suspension gives it a commanding presence on the road, compared with its more demure sibling – and a better ride overall.
The clever Haldex four-wheel drive system splits drive between the front and rear wheels, with a split of 98:2 available on the road and 2:98 when the going gets tough. And if you’re worried about getting stuck, up to 86% of the drive can go to one wheel if needed.
The 140hp 2.0 TDI engine delivers plenty of torque and enough power for towing, as long as you don’t stick a herd of bulls in the trailer. Starting price for a 4×4 version is £20,000 for a 160hp 1.8 petrol and diesels kick off at £20,295.
• FW verdict
An exceptional value estate with most of the benefits of an SUV for roughly £10k less. Ideal for those who live in remote areas and need a vehicle that can cope with bad weather and bad roads.