The Octavia’s handling scorecard reads similarly to that for its performance: there’s enough competency to ensure that casual owners should rarely, if ever, have any negative feelings on the matter, but neither are they likely to have any positive revelations at the wheel.
In short, the car possesses very little in the way of dynamism beyond its ability to keep its body reasonably level and to go in the direction in which it’s pointed. The Octavia is therefore easy to drive but unrewarding, and its ability seems to largely stem from the underlying excellence of the MQB platform rather than any fine-tuning undertaken by Skoda. The Czechs can build cars that are satisfying to drive – anyone who drove the old Fabia or Octavia vRS models knows as much – but in the case of this car, the engineers’ priorities lay elsewhere, and understandably so.
One thing is clear to us, though: that when it comes to steering, not all Octavias are created equal. This diesel estate steers with more conviction and heft than the inertly responsive rack of the 1.5-litre petrol hatch we’ve also driven. There’s no obvious reason why this might be, but the surprisingly serious Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres fitted to our diesel test car are unlikely to have done it any harm. These tyres also help give the chassis plenty of grip, and along with the reasonably even weight distribution, it means the Octavia will cover ground quickly if you need it to.
However, don’t expect it to feel cut from the same cloth as, say, an Audi A4 Avant on S line suspension. On this car’s passive suspension, it doesn’t take too much commitment to unearth a thoroughly unsporting degree of float and body roll, although the former is more noticeable than the latter.
Skoda’s vRS-badged performance models have in the past proved to be decently effective point-to-point machines, but the best we can say about this more anodyne example is that you’re unlikely to run into much trouble – or excitement – while you’re behind the wheel.
It lapped the Hill Route at Millbrook with exactly the sort of joyless stability you’d expect of a utilitarian estate, generating good grip from its Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres but with every direction change laced with some degree of understeer. Beyond the car’s natural meter, float then becomes an issue because of the soft springing, while the engine note becomes notably uncouth under load at higher revs.