The Octavia was one of the first modern Skodas to demonstrate the firm’s preference for designing cars that bridge vehicle segments in simple size terms.
It has always been large for the family hatchback class and, at approaching 4.7 metres in length, the five-door liftback version remains that way. So it’s not any particular packaging genius that has founded the car’s reputation for practicality but Skoda’s own realisation in the early 1990s that it could make a family hatchback more or less the size of a contemporary D-segment saloon for the same price that its rivals were asking for a C-segment five-door and, in doing so, it might give bargain-hunting families all the space they really needed at a knock-down price. And, for years, that’s precisely what the Octavia did.
Interestingly, though, when you shift your gaze towards current C-segment estates, the Octavia is suddenly not such a giant. Extended-wheelbase estate versions of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla and Vauxhall Astra have become a much closer match for the Octavia on overall footprint in recent years – and, this time around, Skoda has elected to make the liftback and estate versions of this car exactly the same length. That’s how it comes to pass that the Mk4 Octavia Estate is only an inch or two longer than the Focus Estate and Corolla Touring Sports – and its wheelbase is actually shorter than those of its two rivals.
Just as the recently tested eighth-generation Golf did, the new Octavia sticks with an overhauled version of the VW Group’s MQB platform, which has been lightened and stiffened in places. It’s powered by a range of transversely mounted three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines up front that in most cases drive the front wheels exclusively.
Right now, the engine choice is limited to 109bhp 1.0-litre and 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engines, as well as 114bhp and 148bhp versions of the VW Group’s latest 2.0-litre Evo diesel. However, by the end of this year the line-up will have expanded to include, for the first time, a 1.4-litre petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (as seen in the likes of the Superb iV and Volkswagen Passat GTE) and two 48-volt mild hybrid petrols, as well as more conventional petrols and diesels, with a plug-in hybrid vRS performance version at its upper end.
The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel in our test car features ‘twin-dosing’ selective catalytic reduction for what’s alleged to be an 80% reduction in NOx emissions. With a variable-vane turbocharger, the unit is also significantly more thermally efficient than the engine it replaces and produces a healthy 266lb ft of torque at peak output.