Car Choice: Czech out the options

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Gareth Gault, 34, from Southend on Sea is interested in the current range of Skoda cars but undecided as to whether the Superb Tdi or new Octavia Tdi is best for him.

Gareth Gault, 34, from Southend on Sea is interested in the current range of Skoda cars but undecided as to whether the Superb Tdi or new Octavia Tdi is best for him.

At least Gareth got straight to the point, either a Superb or an Octavia, so clearly he isn't worried about image. Skoda can call a car Superb without a hint of irony - Volkswagen-group built quality, componentry and design have all raised the profile of the Czech car company. Indeed, all their products stack up well against the opposition: from the Fabia through to the Superb, they all make sense in terms of value and performance.

In some ways, the Superb and Octavia are in a similar marketplace, especially because the new, improved Octavia is significantly bigger than the old model. The Octavia competes directly against the Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf, but equally it is an alternative to Ford Mondeos and Vauxhall Vectras. Meanwhile, the Superb is pitched as a genuine alternative to those family cars as well as some established executive models with its high equipment levels, and well built and spacious interior. So when comparing the old Octavia with the new Superb - if Gareth wants space and style - the Superb has to be it. Comparing the new Octavia and the Superb is much harder. At the time of writing, prices for the new Octavia have not been set, there will be six different engine options and models will be launched from July through to next February. But there are alternatives.

A car for the head

All you would have to do is change a few badges on the Skoda Superb and it would start to resemble a Volkswagen Passat. In the price lists, a Superb 1.9 Tdi 130 Classic is £16,055, whereas a Passat 1.9 Tdi PD S, which has the same engine, is £16,430. The specifications are similar and the feelgood factor is too, with the Passat arguably having the better image. Both drive in a similarly unexciting, though competent, fashion - so there isn't much to choose between them.

Personally, I would go for the more numerous Passat. I would also go for a nearly new model that will have depreciated a bit, the Superb dropping only marginally more. At Fords of Winsford (0845 456 3705) a Superb in high Elegance specification and on a 52 registration plate was £14,199. For the same money they had a 2003 Passat 1.9 Sport. Over at Motorhouse 2000 (01543 462300) a 2003 Superb with 9,000 miles was £11,999. DC Cook Direct (0870 606 4343) had a Passat 1.9 TD S going for £13,995. There are lots of cars to choose from if Gareth is prepared to shop around.

A car for the heart

Then again Gareth might prefer a diesel with a little sparkle, like a Mazda 6. Like Skoda, Mazda have undergone a remarkable revival in the past few years. The centrepiece of their model range is a family car that may not have the class of a Passat, but it is more sharply styled and is a more enjoyable drive. On a practical level, there is plenty of room inside for those in the front and in the rear. One-touch folding of the rear seat and base, which makes a flat loading bay, is also very useful.

The boot is also pretty big too. By opting for the Mazda 6 Gareth has the option of going for a saloon or a hatchback, and won't be restricted to the saloon-only Passat and Superb.

The 2.0-litre diesel engines, producing either 119bhp or 134bhp, are excellent units, delivering 43mpg overall and a strong performance. Because the Mazda is now as much of a mainstream car as a Passat, they are widely available through UK brokers and car supermarkets. The £16,200 2.0 DTS hatchback costs £13,799 at Motorhouse 2000 (01543 462300) and £13,999 at Motorpoint (0870 1209626). Gareth should drive one back to back with a Passat and a Superb.

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