The Superb costs $108,000 with COE
A Superb Skoda?

SKODA distributor Czech Auto hopes to revive the languishing brand in Singapore with today's launch of a new mid-size sedan, the Skoda Superb.

Group Exklusiv, which markets the marque, as well as Volkswagen and Renault, reckons the 1.8-litre turbocharged Superb will be a worthy competitor to Singapore's two most popular mid-size cars - the Toyota Camry and Nissan Cefiro - by virtue of its size, power and price.

'I don't think it's possible to overthrow the two Japanese heavyweights,' said the managing director of Group Exklusiv's vehicle operations, Ang Ghim Cheong. 'We just want to offer a Continental alternative.'

The 4.8-metre long car with its powerful engine is attractively priced at $108,000 with COE, Mr Ang said. 'The rest of the Continental cars are not in this price range - they are more expensive.'

In contrast to the Superb with Classic trim, the Camry 2.0 costs $105,888 and the Cefiro 2.0 is $105,000. The Toyota is also available with a 2.4-litre engine and the Nissan comes with a choice of two V6 units - 2.3 or 3.5 litre. At a little over 2,800mm, the Superb has a slightly longer wheelbase than either the Camry's 2,720mm or the Cefiro's 2,775mm. This, said Mr Ang, explains the car's spacious interior. The Superb's rear doors are also said to be the largest in its competitive segment.

The Skoda also has five-speed Tiptronic transmission. The turbocharged engine produces a maximum of 150hp. And maximum torque of 210Nm is available from a low 1,750 rpm. Skoda is a unit of German car-maker Volkswagen, which also owns Audi.

The Superb also comes in Elegance trim. This costs substantially more because of its higher level of specifications, such as HID high-intensity discharge or xenon headlamps, an electric fridge (not cooler box) in the centre console and a solar sunroof.

In Singapore, the Superb will be the flagship model of a range that includes the mini Fabia 1.3 sedan and hatchback, Octavia 1.6 compact sedan and Octavia RS sports sedan.

Skoda is seen by some as not having achieved much success here partly because of its previous distributor's financial shenanigans. Businessman Peter Kwee took over the brand in July 2002 and set up Czech Auto. But Mr Ang disagrees that Skoda has an image problem.

'Some people here don't know Skoda, they confuse it with Lada (the Russian car),' he said. 'Skoda is part of the Volkswagen Group, and the Superb is derived from the VW Passat, with the wheelbase lengthened by 100mm. This means it's a renowned brand with solid parentage and the same build quality. It's basically a VW product built in the Czech Republic.'