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 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. For 2017, the third generation Octavia was given a facelift, albeit a slightly controversial one. Changes weren't merely cosmetic, although the most poignant ones were, which included a more streamlined bonnet, redesigned rear and tail lights, and the decision to split the headlight cluster into two sections.

Inside the Octavia got more clever touches including a new bottle holder, an integrated torch in the boot, similar to the latest Superb, and updated infotainment systems. As for engines they broadly stayed the same as before with the vRS models getting a touch more power, while the emergence of the vRS 245 sees the Octavia go toe-to-toe with its sibling and rival the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

In order to ensure it appeals to both private and business users alike, Skoda has decided to offer the Octavia with 1.0-litre and 1.4-litre TSI petrols and 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels, while those wanting a hot Octavia can choose a vRS which is available with a 2.0-litre TSI unit or a 2.0-litre TDI.

The bigger capcity engines are available with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, while the smaller ones can be had with a seven-speed dual-clutch, 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.

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