The Skoda Octavia looks upmarket, it represents good value for the amount of space it offers, and with the 1.6-litre TDI engine there’s also the promise of 74.3mpg.
Skoda is now well known for offering Volkswagen engineering for a lower price, but historically elements such as the styling have been distanced from other brands in the Group, perhaps to the detriment of Skoda. The latest Octavia comes closer than ever to Volkswagen’s other brands, especially with its much sharper, almost Audi-like styling. Of course the Skoda badge remains, but that’s hardly a problem as it’s now associated with value, reliability and owner satisfaction.
Most people will be familiar with the concept that most bits under the bodywork of Skodas are shared with other brands in the Volkswagen Group. That gives the company the efficiencies of scale that it needs to be profitable and the ability to invest in expensive new platforms, and gives the driver the reassurance that the mechanicals are tried and tested.
Just as the latest powertrains for the Octavia have undergone development, attention has also been paid to the external styling, which, especially with the optional 18-inch alloys fitted to our test car, wouldn’t look out of place in an Audi showroom.
The interior has moved on from the last-generation model, but it’s not as Audi-like as the exterior, and remains somewhat uninspiring.
Perhaps one of the car’s trump cards is the space it offers, helped by the new car having a longer wheelbase, and the boot in particular is huge.
All areas of the Octavia feel as though they have received attention, and the driving experience is more refined than the previous generation car – although it feels like it has been engineered, under the orders of the Volkswagen Group accountants, to be slightly less refined than a Golf.
The new platform – shared with the Golf and Audi A3 – feels lighter, more agile and alive than the previous Octavia, but you really need to opt for the lighter petrol engines to feel the benefit of the improved chassis.
Overall there’s not much outstanding news to report in the areas of steering, ride, handling or braking – everything is as you would expect, ie. competent; this Octavia isn’t designed to be an exciting driver’s car.
This engine aims to offer economy, and so it’s probably no surprise that as a result the performance is best described as adequate. This is particularly evident when trying to overtake on a motorway, when there’s not a great amount of response.
You only get a five-speed manual gearbox rather than a six-speed unit, but you do get the option to change the driving mode, being able to select Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual – although in practice there’s not a huge amount of difference between the modes.
One of our least favourite features of the car was the sat nav. The touchscreen wasn’t the easiest of systems to use, it was often half-covered by a compass, which was never required, the graphics were poor, and it seemed impossible to enter a postcode for a destination.
The Octavia 1.6-litre TDI has an official combined economy figure of 74.3mpg. As usual, you won’t enjoy this in real-life driving unless you drive as per the NEDC cycle, but we did average 54.4mpg over a week of mixed driving, which is good for a car of this size. It also has an impressive range between refuelling – likely to be over 600 miles in real use. It should be noted that an even more efficient Greenline version of the Octavia is due in 2014.
The base price of the Octavia 1.6-litre TDI is £21,090. Our test car had the options of a Bi-Xenon lighting package (£1,050), 18-inch alloy wheels (£350), LED rear lights (£150) and space saver spare (£75), taking the total price to £22,715.
The range comprises of S, SE, and Elegance trim levels. There’s also a vRS model. Petrol engine choices include the 1.2 TSI, 1.4 TSI and 2.0 TSI – each with a manual or DSG transmission option. Diesel options are made up of the 1.6 TDI or 2.0 TDI – the latter with 150PS or 184PS. Again, all diesel engines can be specified with manual or DSG transmissions.
Due to its Benefit in Kind rate of just 14% the Octavia makes an ideal company car, especially if it’s due to spend much of its time on motorways.
The Skoda Octavia offers space, value, economy, and now sharper styling and more agile handling. The interior isn’t quite up to the standard of the exterior design, and you’re not going to get excited about the driving experience, but this is certainly a refined, competent, sensible car, and one that would provide an extremely cost-effective form of transport for businesses. The Octavia is awarded a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10.