Skoda Superb 1.8 offers unbeatable value, segment-leading legroom and enough amenities to satisfy most families
Skoda Superb 1.8: Czech all the boxes The Skoda Superb 1.8, with a wheelbase of 2,841mm and a front-wheel-drive configuration, is roomy and comfortable. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

If you want a car with 7-series legroom but a 1-series price tag, the Skoda Superb 1.8 is the closest match you will find.

With a wheelbase of 2,841mm and a front-wheel-drive configuration, the car's second row has nearly as much stretching room as BMW's flagship.

With four on board, passengers in the rear will get as much elbow room, too. Towkays in the 7-series, however, enjoy a fanciful rear centre console and overflowing finery which the Skoda does not pretend to offer.

But at less than one-third the cost, the Superb offers unrivalled value. Not even the Japanese or Koreans can match the Czech car on a dollar a square footage basis.

The 1.8-litre Ambition variant here takes the value proposition even higher. It costs $29,000 less than its 2-litre Laurin & Klement twin.

At under $125,000, it offers everything a big sedan offers except snob value.

It is, of course, not entirely appropriate to compare the Superb with the 7-series. The disparity between the two is glaring in so many areas. But if you were to confine the comparison to legroom and price, the Superb 1.8 makes quite a compelling case against the loftier German limousine.

Heck, the Superb makes even the Toyota Camry seem overpriced. And the roomy Camry is no pushover in the space race, either.

The Skoda's only drawback is its relatively small engine. It makes 180hp and 250Nm - 40hp and 100Nm less than the 2-litre variant.

This output is spread across seven gears instead of six in the 2-litre. At the wheel, the car feels languid, but is not exactly lethargic. Having access to peak torque from 1,250rpm to 5,000rpm helps to some extent (versus 1,500 to 4,400rpm in the 2-litre), as does the light and linear throttle which all Volkswagen-based vehicles possess.

The 1.8 offers as comfy a ride as its 2-litre twin, but feels a tad more floaty when driven enthusiastically.

The 1.8 is more efficient. It consumes 6.1 litres/100km of fuel, versus the 2-litre's 6.6. It emits 140g/km of carbon dioxide, versus 150g. Besides having a smaller engine and an extra gear, having smaller 17-inch wheels helps too. The 2-litre wears 19-inchers.

Hence, the 1.8 falls within the neutral band in the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES), while the 2-litre attracts a VES tax surcharge. This contributes to the wide price gap between the two cars.

While the 2-litre has more premium features such as a panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, memory front passenger seat, Canton hi-fi and semi-automatic parking, the 1.8-litre is not too shoddy. In fact, it has all the creature comforts found in a mid-tier Japanese car, which is really more than enough.

And whatever deficit it has in performance and amenities, it more than makes up for in sheer legroom and unbeatable bang for buck.