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Monday, 22 April 2019
TODAY let’s hear it — as in a round of applause, please — for the so-called “professional driver”.
How is that defined? Is the nemesis of most so-called “private drivers” — that is, the notorious white van man — a professional driver?
I think he most certainly is, though there are so many rogues in that clan who are not by their attitude very “professional” when it comes to plain road sense.
Or is a professional driver the chauffeur or ubiquitous taxi driver, who has been around since the dawn of time?
I think the latter is our man or woman. Especially in London and other big cities where private hire has long mixed it with those famous black cabs and spawned Uber — the city’s trendiest way to take a taxi.
Anyway, what got me thinking about professionalism in driving was this week’s drive, the accomplished — and rather smooth — Škoda Superb SE Executive Hatch.
That last bit is fairly crucial. You see, this car is specifically aimed at just the sort of thrusting young entrepreneurs Theresa May, our blessed Prime Minister, wishes to cultivate.
But in lieu of said execs driving themselves around in the Škoda Superb SE Executive Hatch, our professional driver would be more than happy to do the honours.
Indeed, Škoda has been honoured once again at the 2016 Professional Driver Car of the Year Awards with a fifth victory in the Private Hire Car of the Year category.
Although the 2016 awards were a first for the new Superb, the previous generation model won the Private Hire Car of the Year title four times.
For 2016, the Professional Driver judging panel consisted of heads of leading chauffeur and private hire firms, experienced chauffeurs, and motoring journalists.
All cars were judged from the point of view of both the operators and customers and ranked accordingly. The Superb 2.0 TDI SE Business was a clear victor in the private hire category.
Mark Bursa, the editor of Professional Driver magazine, was full of praise for the Superb.
He said that the car “remains the benchmark in this sector — especially as far as functionality and comfort goes”, adding: “The new model is bigger than the old one in just about every dimension, especially rear seat space and luggage volume, making it the ideal all-purpose private hire car.”
Since its launch, Superb hatch and estate models have won more than 15 industry awards.
A few cars resonate in this category but I am not sure if the private motorist appreciates how good these “business-type” models can be for everyday use. Maybe its down to that particular F-word — “functionality”.
Who wants a car that functions well? Not many private motorists, I would think. Most of them want a little pizzazz in their otherwise humdrum lives at the wheel. But all this could have something to do with that old chestnut — brand loyalty.
Some private buyers remain unmoved by new models dangled in front of them by a car maker they have not yet experienced.
Of course, many motorists these days are “tied” financially to one brand, which seems to be the name of the global car sales game.
But I think that perhaps private motorists feel a car that is specifically aimed at the business or fleet community is just not exciting enough for them.
They want an SUV (sport utility vehicle) with panache and family appeal — and, if possible, a car that oozes “wow” factor.
However, some of my most memorable drives have been in so-called “driver’s cars” — ones professionals presumably drool over and ones without any evident “wow” factor. In these cars, the attraction for the driver is in a combination of great engine power, interior comfort and cabin ergonomics, plus reasonable and sensible economy. These can prove more than enough compensation for stylish, add-on features.
Two outstanding aspects of the Škoda Superb SE Executive Hatch were its excellent seven-speed direct-shift gearbox (DSG) transmission and capacious size — especially its boot space.
The DSG box was smoothness personified. Gone are the “lurches” between automatic gear changes that would dog automatic transmissions of the past. In their place, the DSG smoothly links gear changes with engine revs for maximum driver comfort.
And seven speeds offers great flexibility whether you are driving in town or on the motorway.
I know that motorists are notoriously immoveable when it comes to changing their car-buying habits. Yet the Škoda range — especially this Superb Executive Hatch — offers a viable alternative to motorists reluctant to look elsewhere for their glam ride of choice.
Škoda Superb SE Executive Hatch.
Recommended price: £26,765 on the road
Total (with options fitted): £30,245
Engine: 1.4 TSi
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG
Combined mpg: 55.4mpg
Max speed: 137mph
0 to 62mph: 8.8 secs
Options fitted include:
l 18in Pegasus alloy wheels
l Leather upholstery
l LED package plus
l Three-spoke leather
multi-function steering wheel with DSG paddles
l WiFi + phone box