What is it?
You'll remember we drove this new entry point to the Octavia range back in June, heading out on German roads to see if swapping the Volkswagen Group's impressive turbocharged four-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol engine for a turbocharged three-pot was a good idea. At the time, we very much thought it was.
Now we've driven the Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI on UK roads, where it needs to stack up against rivals such as the three-cylinder Ecoboost-powered Ford Focus, the Peugeot 308 1.2 Puretech and the Vauxhall Astra 1.0 ecoFlex. Those with a bigger budget and a penchant for a softer plastic might also be interested in the Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion or Audi's recently three-pot-equipped A3.
To remind you, the Skoda's new engine produces a peak output of 113bhp at 5500rpm, which is 9bhp more than the 1.2 it replaces. Torque gains are more significant, with the 1.0 offering some 19lb ft extra twist from lower down in its rev range, but there's no change in the quoted 9.9sec 0-62mph sprint time. However, official average fuel consumption is up to 62.8mpg, from the 57.6mpg of before.
What's it like?
Importantly, it doesn't feel short of breath. The Octavia has some of the biggest dimensions in the family car class, but the new engine's decent flexibility and appetite for revs ensures that moving a family and its luggage, let alone its own weight, is easily done.
Sure, it requires a little more patience and planning when overtaking on faster roads, and there's some typical three-cylinder delayed throttle response to drive around, but these are minor issues, and certainly ones it shares with its rivals. Push the engine hard and it'll growl purposefully but never cause unwanted vibration, while at a cruise it fades away nicely into the background.
But surely this petrol engine, one cylinder down, affords the Octavia a lighter nose and keener handling? Unfortunately not. The 1.0 TSI is just 5kg lighter than the old 1.2 and feels very much the same to drive, although that's no bad thing. Its steering is fairly heavy but nicely linear and therefore predictable. Still, there's no doubt that a Focus and even an Astra are more agile cars.
There's no change on the comfort, either, which is to say a Focus remains a more supple companion along our butchered roads. The 1.0 TSI continues to control large obstructions well, but higher-frequency abrasions aren't dealt with quite so competently, with a noticeable suspension thud from the rear axle. It's not terrible, then, but not class-leading.
Of course there are no changes to the Octavia's dimensions, so while it remains second-best in the driving department, it continues to provide the most generous space of any family car. Four adults sit in complete comfort, and the the Skoda's huge 590-litre boot embarrasses some efforts even from the classes above. It's a shame that the space isn't a little more practical - an adjustable boot floor would be nice, for example - but nothing touches it for outright space.
The Octavia's cabin quality stands out, too. It's not quite Golf or Audi A3 good, but clearly those cars cost more money. It is far more appealing to look at and interact with than any Focus, though, and is as good or better than an Astra or 308 when it comes to materials and construction.