From £12,685
Cheap but charmless
10 August 2004

The Octavia 1.4 isn’t my first flirtation with Skoda’s new hatch, and it isn’t the first time that the following thoughts have crept into my mind.

Why is it that even though the Octavia shares the same mechanicals as the new Mk5 VW Golf, and the same comfort-orientated slant, it doesn’t quite have the same suppleness of ride as the Wolfsburg product? Nor the same ability to suppress noise? Nor even quite the same thunk when you slam the door? Has, then, its mild inferiority been engineered in?

Of course, if you were masterminding the VW Group portfolio you’d probably feel the need to have some sort of brand differentiation. Indeed, it only takes a look at the prices to understand why the Octavia is no Golf: this entry-level 1.4 16v Classic costs £10,750, while a five-door Golf using the same 75bhp engine will set you back £12,495. Suddenly it all makes sense.

Or it does when you consider their dynamic merits. But the Octavia doesn’t make a bad case for itself. It smothers road intrusions better than most other hatches and its handling is competent, if uninspiring.

Just 75bhp at your disposal isn’t quite the turgid experience you might expect, either. The 93lb ft of torque makes for respectable performance, but it is easily flustered by inclines and takes an age to recover from slower-moving traffic in the top two ratios. At least it’s commendably quiet, even at high revs.

Back at the kerbside, the Skoda has more than just a price advantage over the VW, and a further perversion in this brand cascading is that the cheaper car feels better built. 

We’re not talking about dashboard mouldings and switchgear, as both are the usual top-notch VW group fare. But look below your knees and the Octavia actually has superior plastics, fewer sharp edges and feels, well, more expensive.

So maybe my conspiracy theory about engineered-in inferiority is wide of the mark. Even so, you can’t help feeling that the Octavia’s case would be even further boosted if it provided a bit more zest, because despite the conspicuous value and quality, owning an Octavia 1.4 Classic would be a charmless experience.


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Chas Hallett

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1 April 2012

Now that small capacity turbo'd engines are becoming the entry-level powerplants for cars like this, it's unlikely that cars this size will be so affordable in the near future - that's already becoming the case for many cars. Although to be fair, this particular car had a weedy engine!

The current Octavia still represents pretty good value for money - perhaps it's the last of a dying breed. Until the Chinese inevitably come along...

1 April 2012

If you need to describe the principles of branding to anyone then the VAG is the example to use. The ability to sell the same car, off a common platform where the more 'premium' the brands perception then the more you can charge, often even with less space. And most people get sucked into it. But it suppresses creativity, not allowing the 'lower' brands to produce aspirational products, only functional. I wonder how many fantastic looking products have been developed I house by Skoda, only for the VAG Boss to put an ugly grill on it and tell them to discontent the interior. Branding is fascinating, for better or worse....

1 April 2012

So Mr. Hallett comes across as being a little underwhelmed by the Octavia 1.4?

But, if you look at Auto Express Driver Power you will find that owner/drivers have placed the Octavia and Superb in the top five for several years running, and now the Yeti. The Golf comes quite a way down the list, as do fords.

If Mr. Hallett wants more performance there are more powerful engines to choose from.

1 April 2012

According to VW's own website the Golf is no longer available with the 75hp 1.4 for £12.4k but the cheapest engine option is the 1.2 TSI with 85hp at almost £16.5k that is the S model with 5 doors.

1 April 2012

Why has this been posted today? the road test is dated August 2004. This is not the current 1.4Tsi engine.

1 April 2012

Confusing. At first glance, these tests look current, but on closer inspection, they turn out not to be.

It's probably better to post only those old tests that are obviously old, like the Ford Capri one that appeared a month or so back.

Mind you, regular magazine readers will know that Mr Hallett moved to What Car some time ago. That's what gave it away for me. 2004 Octavias are very similar to current ones.


2 April 2012

[quote Billericay]Why has this been posted today? the road test is dated August 2004. This is not the current 1.4Tsi engine.[/quote] Every so often, Autocar posts older tests from the archive. They've been doing that for quite a while now.

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