Skoda Octavia Review
Spacious, comfortable and surprisingly classy Skoda’s flagship Octavia model is deservedly their best seller
- Seriously spacious
- Well built and well equipped
- Excellent value for money
- There are more stylish cars around
- And more exciting ones to drive
- Bigger engined versions no longer the bargains they were
If we only bought our cars with our heads, and ignored our hearts, we would probably all drive Skoda Octavias, the Czech company’s bestselling car in the UK.
Skoda’s third generation of the car, launched at the end of 2013, is a top all-rounder for family motorists and company car drivers.
Despite its saloon shape the Octavia is actually a five-door hatchback.
The CD player is now in the glove box which makes it unwise/impossible to change discs while on the move.
On the Road
The Octavia is available with a choice of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines with eight different power outputs.
Most are also available with DSG automatic transmission as an option.
The 1.2TSI petrol has 103bhp, the 1.4 litre 138bhp, the 1.8 litre 177bhp and the 2-litre 217bhp.
Choice from the turbocharged diesels is a 1.6 litre with 103 or 108bhp, or a 2-litre TDI with 148 or 181bhp.
You wouldn’t think 1.2 litres would be enough for a car the size of the Octavia but the 103bhp turbocharged engine is a gutsy unit.
The vRS petrol with 217bhp is a true performance model rather like a bigger VW Golf GTI.
Drivers doing higher mileages, or less in town work, will find the 1.6 diesel delivers adequate performance but it’s no fireball.
And such are the ways of ultimate fuel economy that the GreenLine version has slightly more power and benefits from a six-speed manual gearbox rather than just a five-speeder making it the better choice.
The four-cylinder diesel could be quieter when accelerating. The Octavia is quick off the mark and feels faster than its 0-60mph in 10.6 seconds. Top speed is 128mph.
They can get some pretty extreme weather in the Czech Republic so Skodas have always been engineered to cope with treacherous road surfaces and the Octavia is no exception with a well set-up chassis.
Okay, it’s not quite as good as the Ford Mondeo on the twisty stuff but the Octavia responds well to steering inputs and handles tidily and predictably.
The long wheelbase and light but stiff body means excellent stability and enough feedback for the keener driver to enjoy themselves.
You can brake hard into corners without fear of losing control but mid corner bumps can catch out the rear suspension at times. Extreme ones at speed can cause the back end to hop slightly sideways.
The Octavia is near the Volkswagen Passat in size but you feel the bumps more than in the German car.
There was plenty of grip from the tyres on the car’s standard 16in diameter alloy wheels
Different driving modes of normal, sport, individual and eco can be chosen which alter the responsiveness of the engine and accelerator and the weight of the steering.
The settings are quite similar but that’s better than making them extreme so even insensitive drivers can feel the difference.
Ride comfort is good for long journeys and both front seats have adjustable back lumbar support.
Motorway cruising is mainly a calm, quiet and relaxing experience.
Low drag of 0.29 is good for fuel consumption but also means low wind noise. We noticed that the low rolling resistance tyres on the GreenLine were quite noisy on some rougher motorway surfaces.
In the car
A simple dashboard houses clear instruments and the test car had an eight inch Columbus information and entertainment screen for £1,350 extra.
But the system, with its separate traffic reports button did not warn me of a huge traffic jam near Denham, Buckinghamshire on a trip to London.
There’s a classy analogue clock when not using the centre console screen for navigating, Cabin ambience is good at night with neat, little spotlights beaming on to the centre console but without bothering the driver.
The gear change is smooth and light and controls for the heating, audio and satellite navigation are all well-placed.
All models have a touch-screen information and entertainment system as standard. This lets you control various car settings amd choose music via the standard USB, auxiliary connection or DAB radio.
Top Elegance models have a larger, higher resolution screen.
No other car in this category offers more interior length, more knee room or more headroom in the rear seats.
Knee room to the back of the front seats went up by 47mm to 73mm compared to the previous model. Headroom also improved but if you are tall you head is near enough the rear hatch hinges for you to flinch when it is being closed.
Higher powered versions of the Octavia have a multi-link rear suspension which delivers a better ride than the simple beam axle of lesser models.
At 590 litres the volume of the boot is class leading.
Practical touches include an ice scraper inside the fuel filler flap, a sunglasses holder above the interior mirror and a high visibility vest holder under the driver’s seat.
There’s also a rubbish bin on the door panel.
The multimedia set-up has space for an MP3 player, a mobile phone and other gubbins.
Other simple but clever touches include luggage nets, a boot carpet that has an easy clean surface on the other side and a device to stop you putting petrol in a diesel or vice versa.
Prices rose when Skoda launched the new Octavia, but equipment levels increased too with some versions getting up to £5,300 worth of additional equipment.
The 108bhp 1.6 litre turbo diesel GreenLine model tested costs £20,515. The SE Business GreenLine estate is £20,365.
The fuel consumption of the Octavia is surprisingly good considering the car’s size. The official comparison fuel figures, which are done in a laboratory, show 88.3mpg for the GreenLine on the combined cycle.
We achieved a best of 65.7mpg, including some late night motorway cruising. Even rushing the Octavia still returned 52mpg.
Despite its increased size and greater on-board technology, the car is up to 102kg lighter than the previous model. Skoda engineers say the weight of a car is responsible for 23% of the car’s fuel consumption so this saves money every time you have to accelerate or brake.
CO2 emissions of only 89g/km put the Octavia in band A so there is no annual road tax to pay.
Economy driving tips, such as change up a gear, appear on a small screen between the speedometer and rev counter.
You can switch off the stop-start system to reduce fuel thirst in traffic if you wish.
Build quality in general is excellent as shows by the Octavia being rated the most reliable new large car in the 2014 Which? Car Survey with a reliability rating of 98.7%.
Main reported problems seem to be electrical, but, as with other VW Group products the DSG automatic transmission can have software issues and sometimes hesitate when trying to nip on to a roundabout.
Some drivers have reported starting problems. They appear to be software related.
The Skoda Octavia scored a five star Euro NCAP crash safety rating with a 93% score for adult protection; 86% child protection and 82% pedestrian protection.
Safety in a crash is good with up to nine airbags which are designed to react to how the three-point safety belts are being worn.
Knee airbags are also standard and rear side airbags are available for the first time in an Octavia.
Anti-lock brakes prevent the wheels from locking during heavy or emergency braking, so the driver still has steering control.
Keyless entry which allows the driver to lock and unlock the car and start and stop the engine without having to insert or even handle the key is available.
The system operates as long as the key is within 1.5m of the sensor. A number features let you can check the lock; prevent locking the key inside and stop unwanted access.