There’s a particular sentence in the press pack of the Skoda Octavia that’s worth repeating: 'Skoda’s success and development has been driven by one key model: the Octavia.'
This is the brand’s biggest-selling model – Skoda has sold 3.7 million globally since 1996 – but more than that, its evolution is a three-generation account of Skoda’s triumphant rise from former Eastern Bloc hulk to Volkswagen Group darling.
Now, this model has changed significantly; not only to maximise its own potential but also to make space for another car in the firm’s line-up.
The Rapid is now the compact family hatchback of the range, leaving the new Octavia with a bigger body and, inevitably, a higher price to prevent it from clashing with its sibling.
Both increases push the model into unfamiliar territory; it is now noticeably larger than a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus, but still slightly smaller than a Passat. In order to ensure it appeals to both private and business users alike, Skoda offers the Octavia with 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre TSI petrols and 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels.
Some variants are available with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox as well, which may well prove a desirable option to those who commute in traffic on a regular basis, while new options - including intelligent park assistance - are available for the first time in the Octavia range.
Meanwhile, a four-figure sum has been added to the car’s price point. Skoda is betting that its standard-bearer can prosper within this slightly richer market niche.
Our review of the Skoda Octavia will reveal if the gamble has paid off.