4 February 2004

Skoda has played it safe with the new Octavia, shunning a radical new design in favour of a look that borrows heavily from its big brother, the Superb.

‘I’m not worried about this car being too conservative,’ Skoda styling boss Thomas Ingenlath told Autocar. ‘Yes it has a lot of cues that make reference to our design language, but it is very much our strategy to develop that and make it recognisable. I would be nervous if we had gone too avant garde, I didn’t feel we had to break new ground.’

The main priorities for the new Octavia were superior quality, comfort, space, functionality and technology, and much effort has been put into lifting the perceived cabin quality with the use of more expensive materials than in the outgoing model.

‘It is important to get the interior you expect when you look at the outside,’ said Ingenlath. ‘That’s not necessarily something that happened with the old Octavia.’

Although based on the same platform as the VW Golf/Audi A3/Seat Altea, Skoda claims to have stamped its own mark on the driving experience. The multi-link independent rear suspension has been tuned for ride comfort over sporty handling.

Interior space has increased, thanks to a wheelbase stretched by 66mm to 2578mm. The car is 65mm longer overall that its predecessor at 4572mm, and luggage space jumps by 32 litres to 560, or 1350 with the seats folded.

A full range of four petrol and two diesel engines will be available: 74bhp 1.4, 101bhp 1.6, 113bhp 1.6 and 148bhp 2.0 petrols, while black-pump lovers can pick 103bhp 1.9 or 138bhp 2.0 TDi PD diesels.

The revolutionary dual-clutch DSG gearbox will be available on the diesels, while a traditional auto is an option across the petrol engines, bar the manual-only entry 1.4.

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Skoda is pitching its new car at the forthcoming Vauxhall Astra, both in terms of target market and pricing, which should mean a starting point of around £11,000. The new Octavia’s first public appearance will be at next month’s Geneva Motor Show and the car goes on sale in June.

An estate will follow early next year, with replacements for both the 4x4 and vRS models also in the pipeline. The current Octavia was launched in 1996, and more than 1m will have been built by April.

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