ŠKODA SUPERB Wagon Drive's Best Family Car of the year 2017

ŠKODA SUPERB Wagon Drive's Best Family Car of the year 2017

2017 Best Family Car: Skoda Superb Wagon 162TSI

Australia’s family car segment has undergone its biggest shakeup in decades this year as local manufacturing of perennial favorite, the Holden Commodore, drew to a close.

That doesn’t spell an end to the family car as we know it though. In fact there’s plenty of viable family-freighters standing by to fill the shoes of cars like the Commodore and Falcon, albeit all imported and arguably no worse for it.

Even as SUV sales continue to climb, manufacturers are continuing to invest in more traditional form factors - although looking at this year’s field, comprised of the Hyundai Sonata (sedan), Kia Stinger (hatch) and Skoda Superb (wagon) there seems to be no consensus as to the ideal body style.

Though it may seem like a cliché, there’s really no doubting the suitability of station wagons to family life - but that’s not the sole reason the Skoda Superb 162TSI took the title of best family car for 2017.

Returning to defend its 2016 segment win, the Superb may not be the freshest in the segment, but that doesn’t change that fact that Skoda’s carefully curated range of family-friendly touches aren't a perfect match to the needs of growing Aussie families.

Space is just part of the story with 660 litres of cargo room in the boot, as efficiency also leads the pack at 6.4 l/100km, not to mention five-star ANCAP safety with nine airbags and five years warranty.

Delve a little deeper though and you’ll find umbrellas tucked away in the front doors, a rechargeable torch in the boot, and dividers and tie-downs to keep shopping, school projects, or sporting gear safely and securely in place.

The judging panel was impressed with the interior’s sense of luxury, and although the design isn’t cutting-edge, it’s certainly logical and user friendly.

The blend of robust turbocharged engine, well-sorted six-speed automatic, and surprisingly adept handling (helped by adaptive dampers as part of the optional Tech Pack) also won praise.

There were times when the judges caught the automatic transmission struggling to manage sudden starts well, and the steering could do with a little more feel, but in the context of the family car segment neither was detrimental to the Superb’s overall score.

Ultimately though it was the sheer space inside, both boot and back seat, plus the high level of standard equipment including three-zone climate control, autonomous emergency braking, and a level of ‘premiumness’ at an impressively value-oriented price which the Sonata and Stinger just can’t match that pushed the Superb to the win.

The numbers that matter:

660 litre boot

Nine airbags

Tri-zone climate control

Verbatim: “It presents really, really well inside. It’s quite a premium looking car that doesn't look that far off the [Volkswagen] Arteon in terms of presentation and quality.” -Stephen Ottley

What we liked: Premium ambience, fuel efficiency, clever practical touches

What we didn’t: Less driver engagement, options push price up, could be a little too conservative for some.

2017 Skoda Superb Wagon 162STI

Price and Specifications

Price: $42,390 plus on-road costs

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol

Power: 162kW at 6000rpm

Torque: 330Nm at 1350-4000rpm

Transmission: six-speed dual clutch automatic

Fuel Use: 6.4 l/100km

Finalist: Kia Stinger GT-Line

A swell of anticipation surrounded the arrival of Kia’s first rear-wheel drive passenger car, but while the lion’s share of attention may have been directed at the twin-turbo V6 version, it’s the more modest four-cylinder model that fits the family bill best.

Though the Stinger’s European design team had 1970s GT cars in mind when they penned its fastback form, the liftback rear also works from a practical point of view, opening high and wide for easy access to the Stinger’s 406 litre boot. It’s a shame then that a high floor eats into outright practicality and robs space.

Occupant protection is also high on the Stinger GT’s list of priorities with seven airbags, driver fatigue detection, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, and a 360-degree camera though at this stage ANCAP is yet to hand down a definitive safety rating for the Stinger range.

Kia also leads the way in terms of warranty protection, with an industry-leading seven year warranty, plus seven years roadside assist, and seven years capped price servicing for ultimate peace of mind.

Unfortunately for the Stinger, there’s still some work to be done to get it up to best in class status on Australia’s roads. Even with adaptive dampers tuned to Australian conditions the Stinger could be caught struggling over patchy rural tarmac.

Similarly the Stinger’s eight-speed automatic doesn’t always know how to best use its multitude of ratios, but the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine itself is well suited as a family car engine, strong enough to cope when fully laden but for the most part unobtrusive in day-to-day use.

Judges enjoyed the premium look and feel of the interior. Some elements are easily identifiable as borrowed from premium marques, but the overall styling tends to sit comfortably.

Ultimately though it was the Stinger GT-Line’s pricing that ruled it out with a $55,990 (plus on-road costs) sticker clouding the overall value when compared to the rest of the family car field.

The numbers that matter:

Seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty

Five-star ANCAP

360-degree camera

Verbatim: “It looks nicer than your typical Kia, and you can see there’s more effort - everything seems more plush. It seems more like a top-spec Audi.” -Daniela Intili

What we liked: Plenty of safety features, strong but refined engine, GT-style looks

What we didn’t: Indecisive transmission, restricted rear visibility, high price

2017 Kia Stinger GT-Line Price and Specifications

Price: $55,990 plus on-road costs

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol

Power: 182kW at 6200rpm

Torque: 353Nm at 1400-4000rpm

Transmission: Eight speed automatic

Fuel Use: 8.8 l/100km

Finalist: Hyundai Sonata Premium

Hyundai has just dropped its revised Sonata mid-sizer into the Australian market, and it's clear that family buyers are set to benefit from the impressively updated new model.

The most obvious change occurs up front where the Sonata wears a large interpretation of Hyundai’s new Cascading Grille, but beneath the surface the turbocharged Sonata Premium picks up a new eight-speed automatic to improve driveability and efficiency.

Certainly on the rural roads surrounding Goulburn in New South Wales where our testing took place, the Sonata and its Australian-tuned suspension blotted out imperfections gracefully while the cabin remained hushed, making for an ideal long-drive setup.

With families in mind, the Sonata’s 510 litre boot also won praise although the narrow boot opening poses a problem for ease of loading large and bulky items, like prams. Hyundai’s five year warranty, which although not as long as Kia’s, still shows the South Korean brand has great confidence in its product.

Safety also carries the maximum five-star rating from ANCAP with six airbags, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and rear cross traffic alert although the latest must-have, autonomous emergency braking, is missing from the spec sheet.

The Sonata Premium also lives up to its name with features like heated and cooled front seats, rear window sunblinds, leather seat trim, a panoramic sunroof, and more.

For all the focus on family though, the judging panel were impressed not just by the bulging standard equipment list, but also the Sonata’s impressive dynamic form which helped it stand out from the pack.

The numbers that matter:

Five year/unlimited kilometre warranty

510 litre boot

12 month service intervals (up from six month previously)

Verbatim: “It rides really well, it steers really well, it is just as engaging as the Stinger despite being a front wheel drive car!” -Andrew MacLean

What we liked: Quiet cabin, bulging equipment list, excellent handling

What we didn’t: Lacks AEB, narrow boot opening, lack of interior storage

2017 Hyundai Sonata Premium Price and Specifications

Price: $45,490 plus on-road costs

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol

Power: 180kW at 6000rpm

Torque: 353Nm at 1350-4000rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Fuel Use: 8.5 l/100km

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