Good points: more spacious than before, good quality fit and finish, luxury on a budget.
Not so good: no standard satellite navigation.
Not too long ago, if you were to ask any member of the CompleteCar.ie team to name their favourite family cars, the Skoda Superb would have figured high on the list. The Superb is a saloon (or 'liftback' if you are being pedantic) that offers white-collar luxury for a blue-collar price; has more space than cars three times as expensive; and is the one car that truly signifies that the Czech brand has rid itself of the shackles of old and is ready to assume the 'People's Car' role that Volkswagen used to hold.
However, time and tide wait for no car and the Superb is beginning to show its age. A recent facelift has freshened up the looks and added some new technology, but these changes cannot mask the fact that the Superb is based on an old platform, one that must make do with a generation old technology rather than the all-singing-all-dancing tech that comes with Volkswagen's MQB structure.
So where do we look for our blue-collar hero now? The simple fact is that, to find the Superb's successor, you just have to look one step down the Skoda range. The Octavia used to play second fiddle to its more prestigious big brother, but with it running the advanced MQB platform (and all the technology that comes with it), having grown in size to almost offer Superb-size space and, in the right spec, featuring the kind of luxury that would make a premium German car-maker blush, it is, we reckon, the heir to the Superb's throne.
That 'right' spec is range-topping L&K trim, named after Skoda's founding fathers Vaclav Laurin and Vaclav Klement. Based on the already generous-in-equipment Elegance model the L&K features bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights for a start. LEDs also make their way around to the rear clusters while the front fog lights are of the 'cornering' type - lighting up the inside edge of a corner while driving. The 18-inch 'Turbine' alloys are unique to the model, as too are monogrammed heated seats in Alcantara and leather. The front chairs are also fully electrically adjusted, with a memory function, while the touchscreen infotainment (with built in Bluetooth) is connected to a 10-speaker sound system. It all makes for an enticing car - certainly one that makes the €31,995 asking price seem something of a bargain.
Or €34,510 if you plumb for the six-speed DSG transmission - and in a car of this class you probably should: who shifts their own gears in a luxury car nowadays? Mated to the 150hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel the Octavia L&K is effortless. The engine truly shows up the inadequacies in the aging Superb; anything less than this engine in the big car feels positively lethargic, yet in the lighter Octavia you could almost describe it as spritely. The 0-100km/h dash is dispatched in a shade over 8.5 seconds, while the in-gear acceleration means you are unlikely to find yourself stuck behind slower moving traffic for too long. Stay away from the loud pedal and the L&K should return 4.5 litres/100km (63mpg) while emissions are pegged at 119g/km, making for an annual tax bill of just €200.
The L&K car is not without its problems, however; for a range topping model it has a worrying number of blank switches, which Skoda will undoubtedly charge you handsomely to fill. And where are the satellite navigation or switchable drive modes that our UK cousins are offered? On the options list is where, along with the likes of adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and parallel parking assistant, which just goes to show how well specified the L&K is to begin with. Those are the kind of features you could rightly expect as standard on a €80,000 executive saloon, not a €30,000 family model.
As it stands, and until the all-new Superb arrives, the Octavia L&K is the best car Skoda produces and the rightful heir to the Superb's 'Blue Collar Champion' throne.
Ford Focus Titanium saloon: cheaper than the L&K but nowhere near as well specified. A little more engaging to drive though.
Peugeot 508 Allure: oft overlooked but almost on par (spec wise) with the L&K. Automatic option comes with 163hp engine.
Skoda Superb: the former king usurped by its younger brother. It's all a bit Game of Thrones really.