New tech and mild tweaks make the Skoda Octavia as recommendable as ever. Just don’t expect to fall in love

What is it?

Facelifts, of any sort, are rarely successful. Whether it's sagging skin or ageing car design that's being given a refresh, while rolling back the years is clearly the aim, look closer, and you’ll usually find that attempts to smooth things over have only made matters worse.

There may be a few exceptions out there (answers on a postcard please), but to these eyes at least, the new Skoda Octavia isn’t one of them. Its manufacturer says the new look gives the Octavia a greater impression of width, but we’re not convinced. From a distance, it just looks like the LED running lights are broken.

We really shouldn’t moan, though. The new schnoz might be the most noticeable change but it’s far from the most important. More pressing is that the Octavia's track width has been increased at the back to improve stability and more safety kit is available including blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and predictive pedestrian protection. Try saying that last one three times in a hurry.

Inside there’s a new centre console that houses one of two infotainment systems. Even Billy-basic S models get an 8.0in touchscreen that can be optioned with sat-nav (standard on SE Tech and SE L). Opt for posh Laurin & Klement trim and you get a 9.2in screen as standard. 


What's it like?

The Skoda Octavia was always a perfectly pleasant car to drive, and wisely, Skoda hasn’t monkeyed with the formula. Let’s start with the steering, which might not telegraph minute detail to your fingertips, but has spot on weighting and makes placing the nose easy. Likewise, the gearbox may not be a mechanical-feeling delight, but its action is both light and precise.

Adaptive dampers are optional but our test car came with the standard passive units. These seem valved for comfort rather than outright body control, allowing some float over crests. Chuck the Octavia into a corner and you’ll find there’s a fair bit of body roll but also a tonne of grip. It might be safe and secure, but you can still carry plenty of speed cross-country.

The larger-than-standard 18in wheels of our steed certainly help stick it to the road, but there is a penalty. Drive over crumbling roads and the Octavia fidgets and patters. While our experiences of the pre-facelift model suggest smaller rims don’t sort things fully, they do help by a noticeable amount. We’d also like to try the adaptive dampers, as they do help on the Kodiaq.


Back to top

Aside from the vRS versions that we’ll be reviewing later in the week, there are no changes under the bonnet. The 2.0 TDI in our test car gives brisk if unexciting performance but majors on refinement. Its hushed idle and cruising manners are better than many small executive cars we can think of and it even stays fairly quiet under hard acceleration.

That’s not all you’ll appreciate inside; you still get a fantastically well-judged interior with quality materials in the areas you interact with most and plenty of storage. The new infotainment systems are a definite step forwards, though. It’s unlikely you’ll find any lag when flicking through the menus, the icons are big enough to hit on the move and the graphics are sharp.

If you prefer touchscreens to rotary controllers, there’s not much to beat Skoda’s system at this price point. There’s also an additional bonus point for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink all being standard on every single Octavia. Our only real complaint is that the far left of the screen can be a stretch if you’re short of stature.

Move rearwards and you’ll find that it’s business as usual. As one of the bigger cars in its class, there’s loads of legroom and good headroom, too. While some rivals may have caught up on rear passenger space, none have yet matched the ginormous boot. Yes, the load lip could be lower but there’s no arguing with the Octavia’s cargo capacity.


Back to top

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for a seriously sensible yet quality-feeling car with lots of space at a reasonable price, then the Octavia really is hard to beat. It almost manages a Golf-like air of quality whilst being cheaper and more spacious. If you’re doing plenty of miles, then the 2.0-litre TDI has a great balance of pace and frugality, too.

What you won’t get is excitement. The Octavia is certainly competent on the road, but it never feels like it enjoys going quickly, more something it puts up with. Is that a problem? Well, that’s something only you can answer.

Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI 150 SE L

Location South Wales Price £23,365; On sale now; Engine Four cylinder, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 3500-4000rpm; Torque 251lb ft at 1750-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1352kg; 0-62mph 8.4sec; Top speed 135mph; Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 113g/km, 24% Rivals Ford Focus 2.0 TDCi, Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Spanner 9 April 2017

Winnie v odie fight?

Can we have in the VAG corner, Winnie the woo, and in the Vauxhall corner Odie the dog?

Or would they just cancel each other out?

bowsersheepdog 4 April 2017

The lights craptastic

The headlights are appalling, absolutely horrible. It could do with a bit of colour inside. Other than that I don't see much to complain about.
Thekrankis 4 April 2017

That grille just looks like a Hitler 'tache!...

.... and the lights are awful.

I will wait for the next version/facelift before replacing my beloved Octavia VRs ( petrol of course)