Skoda's brand-building Octavia best-seller just gets better
It's hard not to like, or be impressed by, the talents of Skoda's Octavia and this new facelifted model also gets a technology upgrade, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
In this fast-moving world of new technology, gadgets and gizmos it’s often what you don’t immediately see that brings something new to the party. That’s the case with the latest Skoda Octavia.
The brand’s best-seller – globally it take more than 40% of sales – has been instrumental in putting Skoda on the map since the current range was first launched in 1996.
The easiest way to spot the latest model is the new front end with wider grille and chrome surround, split headlights – with full LED technology on the top model – and new bumper. The new face has more presence so makes the back end look even slabbier, despite now having LED tail lights.
Inside, there’s new connectivity and infotainment systems, increasingly important to more customers and appealing to business and private users alike.
The latest infotainment systems are easy to use, responsive and look good as the centrepiece of the fascia but only higher-spec models get the really smart 8.0 and 9.2in screens. That said, there’s so much kit on lower models you could buy an SE and upgrade to the 8.0in screen with sat-nav and WiFi for £800.
Under the bonnet
At the heart of the Octavia’s popularity is its wide range of engines with a turbo petrol line-up of 115PS 1.0-litre, 150PS 1.4-litre and vRS’s 230 and new 245PS 2.0-litre. On the turbo diesel front there are 115PS 1.6-litre and 150 and 184PS 2.0-litre units.
I’m a fan of the 1.6 TDI’s strong low-down pull and perky mid-range punch to get past slower traffic, even in the seven-speed automatic guise, and frugal fuel consumption with 60mpg overall and 70mpg on a steady, fast run in eco mode – there are also normal, sport and individual.
How it drives
The Octavia exhibits a fine balance between comfort and driving capability.
Well-damped, supple suspension and deep tyres on the SE’s 16in alloy wheels sooth and smooth bumpy roads and rippled motorways.
It doesn’t disappoint through twists and turns – it’s not exciting but has exemplary behaviour and, despite softish suspension creating some body roll, the Octavia never feels anything but confident in corners, boosted by its wider rear track and fine steering feel.
Space and comfort
What hasn’t changed is the Octavia’s capacious cabin and boot’s vast volume.
Long-legged passengers won’t be short of legroom in the back, even with six-footers in front, but the middle rear seat is the short straw – narrow with less under-thigh support and a big transmission tunnel to contend with.
The hatchback’s huge, deep 590-litre boot puts some estate cars to shame but, while laying the 60/40 split rear seat backs flat increases load space to 1,580 litres, there’s a step up from the boot floor. The estate is even bigger at 610 and 1,740 litres with seats up and down.
At the wheel
Skoda fascias are about form and function rather than being flash and flawed. This is a car that puts the driver at ease and is easy to drive with logical, well-placed switchgear, large dials and a solid, reassuring look and feel.
Build quality is top notch, even lower down the dashboard where quality, soft-touch trim makes way for harder plastics which will prove hard-wearing and stand the test of time – why do you think hire car operators love Skodas.
Storage space is abundant with a large glovebox and lidded locker between the front seats, four big doorbins and cubbyholes for stowing odds and ends.
The current Octavia has been successfully building the Skoda brand for 21 years – and this vastly versatile, spacious hatchback and estate range really have come of age and grown up very nicely.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI SE DSG hatch £21,840 (range from £17,195)
Engine: 1,598cc, 115PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel with seven-speed automatic gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 10.2 seconds; top speed 126mph
MPG: Urban 67.3; extra urban 74.3; combined 72.4
CO2 emissions: 103g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 22%
Insurance group: 15E (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,670mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,017mm; H 1,461mm