From £17,7958
Hatchback version of Skoda's affordable family transport gets driven on UK roads for the first time
28 July 2020

What is it?

Skoda may be an automotive synonym for utility but I guarantee this won’t be at the forefront of your mind when you clap eyes on the the new Octavia

Still available in both hatchback and estate form, nothing aside from the introduction of hybrid powertrains has changed radically since the third-generation car, and yet the sharper creases, sharper lighting and surprisingly sharp silhouette deliver a car more striking in the metal than many of the Octavia's recently refreshed including the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Seat Leon

Naturally, the new Octavia is also less expensive than its rivals, and the upcoming entry-level 1.0-litre TSI should drop below £20,000. Models equipped with the ultra-smooth Volkswagen-built 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI tested here aren’t quite so exceptionally affordable, but do still undercut most rivals. 

And they do it despite the inclusion of Skoda’s new 10.25in virtual cockpit display, five USB-C ports, cruise control, light and rain sensors, two-zone climate-control, smartphone wireless (wireless for Apple CarPlay) and rear parking sensors as standard. 

There is then the not-so-small matter of space. The Octavia uses the same MQB platform as its Golf cousin, only with the gap between the axles widened by 67mm. Slimmer seats (with dedicated phone pockets) then free up even more legroom in the back and the sloping hatch results in 600 litres of boot space, compared to a paltry-looking 380 litres for the others. So despite its sharp new suit, clearly the Octavia remains very much The Pragmatists’ Choice in this class.

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What's it like?

The price to pay is that this latest Skoda also remains far from being The Drivers’ Choice.

Glitzy scrollers on the steering wheel and slick touch-points elsewhere in the cabin – the door handles genuinely look as though they could have come out of a Type 57 Bugatti – demonstrate where Skoda has chosen to spend its money, and perceived quality is high.

More than almost any other, the brand knows its customer base, but this doesn’t change the fact that the steering and gearshift action are then wholly light and inert, almost to the point where it impinges the accuracy of your inputs. Turning into a bend can feel a little like that phantom extra step you weren’t expecting at the bottom of the stairs.

Like almost any modern hatch, the car can be hustled effectively and safely, and this petrol engine is willing, but the Golf is more assured on the move, the Leon marginally more involving and the Focus simply in another galaxy of satisfaction. At least the Octavia is noticeably refined at a cruise, where its well appointed, well isolated and airy cabin defies the low asking price, and where this 1.5-litre TSI returns more than 60mpg. TDI versions will do better still.

Aside from the insipidness of the driving experience, the sensibly sized Octavia is mostly vice-free and truly would, as the cliché goes, slip into anybody’s life with barely a ripple. But there are two irritations that need mentioning.

This is a now-familiar complaint with the last generation of VW Group wares, but the lack of physical switchgear for the infotainment irks. Simply, your eyes need to fully leave the road in order for your hands to make any meaningful adjustments.

The other complaint is minor, but on the standard passive suspension the Octavia can be brittle on poorer surfaces in a way that each of the other cars referenced in this review are not.

Skoda’s optional Dynamic Chassis Control dampers might improve matters, though strangely they’re not available with the 1.5-litre TSI or the 114bhp 2.0-litre TDI. Higher-ranking models fitted with multi-link rear suspension rather than this car’s torsion beam should also fare better. Go for both and it could well be a case of problem solved.

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Should I buy one?

There are few surprises here. The Octavia is more spacious than before and, with mild- and plug-in hybrid models on the way, potentially also more frugal and versatile than ever, so long as you're happy to give up some boot capacity to make way for the battery pack. The optional seven-speed DSG gearbox may also suit the driving experience better than the manual tested here.

Equipment levels are also generous and, depending on your budget, it’s also possible to fit assisted-driving features, though the fundamental charm of the Octavia has always been founded on getting an awful lot of the car for not very much money. We'd stick to more basic trim levels, because the standard kit is generous.

The Octavia is an excellent tool-car, decently refined, and easier on the eye than ever. For most owners it will therefore feel like a four-and-a-half-star car. And yet, if you enjoy driving and want to feel some level of involvement, it’s more of a three-star car. Let's settle on something in between.

Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI SE L First Edition specification

Where Northamptonshire, UK Price £25,1250 On sale Now Engine In-line 4 cyls, 1498cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 148bhp at 5000-6000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1338kg Top speed 143mph 0-62mph 8.2sec Fuel economy 50.4-42.2mpg CO2 127-153g/km Rivals Ford Focus, Seat Leon

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Comments
41

28 July 2020

I thought that Octavias used the Golfs platform bit with a longer wheelbase ? Either way, its a VW so steer clear.

28 July 2020

What a beautiful label maker!

28 July 2020
typos1 wrote:

 Either way, its a VW so steer clear.

Errrr.........why?  I have owned an Octavia VRS  for five years.  Nothing has gone wrong (apart from a rear wiper which about once a month turns itself on for no apparent reason!!), it still feels as good as a new car, it still drives superbly.  I have had a lot of cars and this is by far the best one I have ever owned.  Not sure what your issue is?

28 July 2020
martin_66 wrote:

typos1 wrote:

 Either way, its a VW so steer clear.

Errrr.........why?  I have owned an Octavia VRS  for five years.  Nothing has gone wrong (apart from a rear wiper which about once a month turns itself on for no apparent reason!!), it still feels as good as a new car, it still drives superbly.  I have had a lot of cars and this is by far the best one I have ever owned.  Not sure what your issue is?

I dont like, bland, characterless, flairless, badge engineered, "car as appliance" sh*te from an emissions cheating company with zero conscience.

28 July 2020
typos1 wrote:

martin_66 wrote:

typos1 wrote:

 Either way, its a VW so steer clear.

Errrr.........why?  I have owned an Octavia VRS  for five years.  Nothing has gone wrong (apart from a rear wiper which about once a month turns itself on for no apparent reason!!), it still feels as good as a new car, it still drives superbly.  I have had a lot of cars and this is by far the best one I have ever owned.  Not sure what your issue is?

I dont like, bland, characterless, flairless, badge engineered, "car as appliance" sh*te from an emissions cheating company with zero conscience.

Oh!  You are funny!!

28 July 2020

Anyone else think new family car prices are getting out of hand? 25k+ for a ‘no frills’ 1.5L white goods skoda? Why no mention of this from autocar? VAG’s brown envelopes thicker than normal I guess.. A 280bhp Nissan 350Z sold for around 25 grand new in 2004 so what justifies the overinflated cost of cars in 2020? A cheap ipad knockoff stuck to the dash and B grade VW switchgear? If you are in the market for a jr d-segment car a Toyota Corrolla hybrid saloon would make more sense: higher mpg, lower ved , better reliability and “real world” performance(0-60 is meaningless) from the instant reaction hybrid vs tiny displacement high geared turbo..

TS7

28 July 2020
nimmler wrote:

Anyone else think new family car prices are getting out of hand? 25k+ for a ‘no frills’ 1.5L white goods skoda? Why no mention of this from autocar? VAG’s brown envelopes thicker than normal I guess.. A 280bhp Nissan 350Z sold for around 25 grand new in 2004 so what justifies the overinflated cost of cars in 2020? A cheap ipad knockoff stuck to the dash and B grade VW switchgear? If you are in the market for a jr d-segment car a Toyota Corrolla hybrid saloon would make more sense: higher mpg, lower ved , better reliability and “real world” performance(0-60 is meaningless) from the instant reaction hybrid vs tiny displacement high geared turbo..

£25k today is equivalent to £16.5k in 2004. I agree the price of cars seems steep today, but 16 years ago... 

28 July 2020
TS7 wrote:

£25k today is equivalent to £16.5k in 2004. I agree the price of cars seems steep today, but 16 years ago... 

16 years ago people were moaning about how expensive cars were getting, and that 16 years previously they could have bought a Ford Sierra for threppence and still have had change for a bag of chips and bus fare home.

The actual issue (as others have pointed out previously) is not that car prices are rising in real terms (we keep getting more for the same or less money), but that wages aren't keeping up with inflation.

29 July 2020
Sporky McGuffin wrote:

TS7 wrote:

£25k today is equivalent to £16.5k in 2004. I agree the price of cars seems steep today, but 16 years ago... 

16 years ago people were moaning about how expensive cars were getting, and that 16 years previously they could have bought a Ford Sierra for threppence and still have had change for a bag of chips and bus fare home.

The actual issue (as others have pointed out previously) is not that car prices are rising in real terms (we keep getting more for the same or less money), but that wages aren't keeping up with inflation.

Exactly.  Prices of many things have risen in real terms.  

28 July 2020
nimmler wrote:

Anyone else think new family car prices are getting out of hand? 25k+ for a ‘no frills’ 1.5L white goods skoda? Why no mention of this from autocar? VAG’s brown envelopes thicker than normal I guess.. A 280bhp Nissan 350Z sold for around 25 grand new in 2004 so what justifies the overinflated cost of cars in 2020? A cheap ipad knockoff stuck to the dash and B grade VW switchgear? If you are in the market for a jr d-segment car a Toyota Corrolla hybrid saloon would make more sense: higher mpg, lower ved , better reliability and “real world” performance(0-60 is meaningless) from the instant reaction hybrid vs tiny displacement high geared turbo..

You are just getting old.

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