Price: £17,540

Engine: 1.9 litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, 105 horsepower, 250 Newton metres of torque

Transmission: five-speed manual

Top speed: 120 mph

Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 12.5 seconds

Fuel consumption: 55.4 mpg (combined cycle)

CO2 emissions: 136 g/km

Rivals: Ford Mondeo EcoNetic, Seat Exeo 2.0TDI (forthcoming 120 horsepower version), Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion 2

The impressive Skoda Superb has won a lot of friends since it was introduced last year but it's slightly difficult to classify. It's tempting to bracket it with the Korean manufacturers' big budget saloons, the Kia Magentis, the Hyundai Sonata and Chevrloet Epica but it's a lot classier than those cars because the Koreans' big push to improve their products hasn't really focused on this sector yet.

Mid-range cars such as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia have grown quite a bit over the years but the Skoda Superb is bigger still, at least in terms of interior space; in fact it's difficult to think of anything on the market that matches the Superb in terms of rear-seat leg-room except for the long-wheelbase versions of the very largest cars from the premium brands. The picture is further complicated by the fact that the Superb looks like a sober big saloon, but can in fact be used as a hatch, thanks to a clever tailgate that is hinged in the middle below the rear window so that it can be opened fully or in part – an arrangement that stole much of the thunder BMW was hoping would crash forth from its stand at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show when it showed the new 5-Series Gran Turismo, which has a similar rear opening.

I reckon the best way of thinking of the Superb is as a car that, but for its badge, offers almost as much as the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series or Mercedes E-Class, albeit with an engine range that extends further down the scale, at a saving of up to £10,000. The Greenline version of the Superb represents a particularly interesting proposition – access to the sort of quality and comfort offered by those medium-large German premium saloons, combined not only with keen Skoda initial pricing but low running costs as well.

The Greenline, as its name suggests, is a special eco variant of the Superb. Low rolling resistance tyres, higher gearing, aerodynamic tweaks and reduced weight help this special model to an impressive combined cycle fuel consumption of 55 mpg and CO2 emissions of only 136 g/km – that makes it the only Superb to squeeze into Vehicle Excise Duty band E.

One perhaps surprising element of the Greenline package is the use of the Volkswagen group's long-established 1.9 litre Pumpe-Düse diesel engine and a five-speed manual gearbox at a time when newer 1.6 and 2.0 litre common rail diesels and six-speed gearboxes are being rolled out across the VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda ranges. The main thing, though, is that in the Greenline, this combination broadly works. The 1.9 has a reputation for being pretty punchy, albeit over a narrowish power band, and a bit thrashy too, but it seems to have been tamed considerably in this installation. It can be a bit clattery at start-up but smooths out impressively once the Greenline is under way, to the extent that this Superb must be one of the quietest cruisers on the market. On-paper performance is fairly modest by today's standards but in practice, the Greenline's torque means it rarely feels short of go.

Another interesting aspect of the Greenline is that it has a unique trim package that provides a few well-chosen extra features over the basic S model Superb, such as a leather steering wheel, darker rear “privacy glass” and some additional interior bright-work, which gives the cabin a bit of a lift. Even if you put the fuel-saving advantages to one side, these extras alone provide a good reason for buying the Greenline, which is only £780 more expensive than the S, but £11,780 cheaper than the SE that represents the next step up in the mainstream Superb range.

If you're looking for a big, comfortable, well-made and economical all-rounder, there's only one reason not to rush out and buy a Superb straight away – and that's the likely arrival over the next few months of the even roomier and slightly better looking estate version.

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