Skoda has endowed its latest Octavia with a precise, technical design, eschewing curves for sharp angles and taut-looking body surfaces. It is appealing and modern, although to our eyes lacks a little character compared to previous generations of the car.
But the way Skoda’s designers have succeeded in masking the car’s vast interior dimensions from the outside is impressive. That’s hammered home when you lift the rear hatch – no mean feat, it has a considerable weight due to its size – and survey the continent-size storage space within.
It’s not a smoke and mirrors trick where useable boot space is much smaller than the manufacturer’s claims either; the boot is commodious enough to take most objects, the hatch opening is massive, and the loading sill is at a comfortable height.
When you also consider the host of deft touches Skoda includes – a double-sided floor mat for clean or muddy goods, for example – it reinforces the Octavia’s practical stance.
Rear passengers also feel the benefit of that elongated wheelbase. Knee room to the back of the front seats has increased by 47mm to 73mm. Headroom has gone up, too, although the very tallest of passengers might find that the angle where the roof meets the rear hatch is positioned directly where their head is.
Up front it’s a similar story, with occupants getting more space in every dimension. Behind the wheel, the cockpit layout is clear and the controls feel solid and well designed, although those intimately familiar with more premium VW Group products might notice that the quality is a step below what you might find in more premium offerings.
The 2.0 turbodiesel engine is already a proven product across the Volkswagen range, and with 236lb ft on tap it provides plenty of flexible shove. The downside is a hint of brash engine noise when you accelerate hard, but it isn’t something that will be particularly noticeable when the stereo is on and the kids are babbling away in the back.
The 1.6 TDI would be the choice for those with a very keen eye on fuel economy, emissions and price, but we prefer this bigger unit. You can imagine it coping easily when called upon to haul family and luggage around during a summer holiday.
Whether you prefer the six-speed dual-clutch automatic fitted to our test car or the alternative (and cheaper) six-speed manual option will be a matter of personal preference. The auto interacts well with this engine, going about its task competently and anonymously, albeit with the occasional sneaking suspicion that it might over-optimise the gears in a situation where a driver might cruise along without so many shifts.
Less powerful Octavias in the range get a beam-axle rear suspension for reasons of weight and cost, up to this 148bhp example. More powerful cars will get a more sophisticated multi-link affair. Nevetheless it handled with composure and rides comfortably across almost all road surfaces, soaking up most bumps and potholes, apart from very broken roads.
The steering is light but and imbued with sufficient feedback to make this an all-round comfortable drive that demands little of the driver but offers little in the way of thrills either.