What is it?
The Skoda Octavia first graced our roads 20 years ago, faced with the unenviable task of breaking down Czech brand's poor public image.
Three generations on and with more than five million sold since its first appearance, those negative perceptions have crumbled like the Berlin wall and Skoda is intent on focusing on the future. But it acknowledges that its family hatchback has been at the heart of driving the firm forward, so as the Octavia breaches its third decade, Skoda has added a raft of new options and technology to its popular five-door.
What makes this particular Skoda Octavia special is the inclusion of an all-new 1.0 TSI engine, which is a direct replacement for the four-cylinder 1.2 TSI unit that has until now propped up the petrol-powered part of the range. It also means that the Octavia now follows the lead set by Volkswagen, Audi, Vauxhall and Ford, who all use turbocharged 1.0-litre units somewhere in their family hatchback line-ups.
There's more. Skoda has added a wireless phone charger, which also automatically connects to the infotainment, while those opting for SE trim and upwards can spec their car with an umbrella and matching storage unit under the passenger seat. Surprisingly, however, smaller Skoda Fabias in SE trim and above will get this option as standard.
What's it like?
This Octavia is much like any other Octavia: a practical and well put together package, here fitted with a peppy little turbocharged petrol engine rather than a slightly gruff diesel unit.
The 1.0-litre three-pot is unsurprisingly similar to those found under the bonnet of the Golf TSI Bluemotion and entry-level A3, with this incarnation of the engine weighing in at 78kg and producing peak outputs of 113bhp and 148lb ft.
The engine makes the Octavia peppy and responsive enough to keep up with traffic and is matched with a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox (a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is also available) that helps keep engine noise at bay by keeping revs to a minimum while cruising at motorway speeds. Around town, however, you can find yourself continually swapping gears to best exploit the engine’s mid-range grunt - something that doesn't affect this car's 1.6 TDI Greenline III stablemate.
Accelerating hard does bring a thrummy note and some vibration into the cabin and gearlever, despite extensive efforts to balance the three-cylinder unit. But it does settle down as you ease off the throttle, after which it quietly hums away in the background.
This 1.0-litre TSI Octavia has an unsettled ride much like the rest of the range, with it becoming fidgety over broken surfaces and having a tendency to crash from pothole to pothole.
Inside, the 1.0 TSI Octavia is much the same as any other in the line-up, with buyers being greeted by a solidly built and easy to use dashboard, even if it is a little on the mundane side. The new engine is available in only two trims, entry-level S and next-rung-up SE. The former S comes with manual air conditioning, 16in alloys, heated and folding door mirrors, the 5.8in ‘Bolero’ infotainment system (including DAB radio and controls for Bluetooth audio streaming and phone), USB inputs and hill start control.
The latter adds luxuries as dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, lumbar support for the driver and front passenger and fully electric windows.
The cabin offers ample space front and rear, with enough room for a family to be seated comfortably for long journeys, while the enormous hatch-opening boot can hold 590 litres of luggage, or 1580 litres with the rear seats folded.
Should I buy one?
If a practical, spacious and well-priced family hatchback is on your list, you can’t really do too much better than the Octavia at this price point.
It's possible to buy the facelifted Audi A3 SE with the same 1.0-litre engine for £1975 more, but while that's better to drive and fitted with a more inviting interior, it is more of a compromise in terms of space and practicality.
The 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine renders the Octavia a quiet, refined and gutsy car, which will more than handle both motorway driving and crawling through urban surroundings with the minimum of fuss.
The only decision to make is whether this engine has the edge over the 1.6 TDI. But while the diesel offers more lowdown grunt and emits just 85g/km of CO2 to the 1.0 TSI's 104g/km, it simply doesn't have the character of its zesty petrol sibling.
Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI 115 S
Where Prague, Czech Republic; On sale Now; Price £16,660; Engine 3 cyls, 999cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 113bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 148lb ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1150kg; 0-62mph 9.9sec; Top speed 126mph; Fuel economy 62.8mpg (combined); CO2 rating/BIK tax band 104g/km, 17%