It's been a busy period for our long-term Skoda Superb. Not only has it survived the winter without so much as a rusted wheelnut or chipped windscreen, it has also become an integral part of Auto Express's efforts to become the next world rally champions. According to our road test chiefs Oliver Marriage and Mike Askew - who will be driving a Skoda Fabia in a variety of rallies this season - the Superb is the perfect on-event companion, thanks to its comfortable seats, vast boot and rear space. While the Fabia is the preferred option on rally stages, the Superb is an excellent makeshift changing room and team bus.
Helping out the rally mudlarks isn't all that our Superb has been up to, either. It has also come to the rescue of a damsel in distress. How? Let me explain... Thursday, 30 January was memorable for two reasons. Firstly, snow and ice caused gridlock in many parts of Britain. People were forced to sleep in their cars on the M11 in Essex, and even my six-mile drive home across London took an incredible four hours. But it's the other event that sticks in my mind, because as the Skoda and I crawled along, a young woman knocked on the passenger window and asked me to give her a lift.
The transport chaos was such that there were no buses or trains running, and she was desperate to get home. She wasn't alone - thousands of people were stranded - and as I was going in her direction, I offered to help. I asked why she had picked me when there were dozens of vehicles to choose from, and she said she thought the Superb looked smart and would be driven by some- one she could trust. Ironically, she had mistaken my car for an Audi, which shows the 'It's a Skoda, honest' marketing campaign is still spot-on.
Another thing about driving a modern Skoda is that it becomes a topic of conversation. In the block of flats where I live, I'm known as 'the car guy' and occasionally people who have long forgotten my name will collar me and ask for advice on what motor to buy. They have brought up the subject of the Superb several times, and I like the look on their faces when they sniffily peer through the windows and realise it's got a full colour sat-nav screen mounted in the dashboard.
The Skoda has proved itself to be a capable cruiser, although the ride is a touch harsh in town. There's a colossal amount of room in the rear seats, and trips which normally require two cars have been completed in the Superb with ease. A recent discovery in the boot has been the fold-down hooks which secure carrier bags - excellent for visits to the supermarket.
In the first long-term report on the Skoda in Issue 729, I questioned the practicality of the ivory-coloured interior trim. It's still looking OK, although not as clean as it did, but I wonder what it will be like when the car has had three or four owners. Another early problem was with the sat-nav, but ever since I got the correct CD-ROM for it, the system has been working efficiently.
Recent niggles include the rear screen demister, which got stuck on and stayed that way for several weeks. Then overnight it was fine again, and still is. However, I'm expecting to get a recall notice from Skoda soon, because the Volkswagen Group's 1.8T engine has been suffering ignition coil problems. And one current annoyance is a clicking noise when the windscreen wipers are on, as if they are rubbing on something when they sweep across the screen. All in all, though, the Superb is a thoroughly enjoyable car.