What is it?
For a long while now, the Skoda Octavia has been a handy get-out-of-jail-free card for British motoring journalists.
Ask my colleagues whether they’ve ever replied “Probably just a Skoda Octavia, mate” when asked by a stranger at a party which car they should buy next and I suspect most will say they have.
The great thing is that were this person to then take us up on our advice, we would feel entirely comfortable about it. For ages now, the Octavia has been highly regarded for its ability to blend practicality and refinement into a relatively affordable and dependable package – something that has helped Skoda shift some 6.5 million Octavias since the original’s introduction in 1996.
Now there’s the fourth-generation model, and it has just landed in the UK. And although it essentially uses the same MQB architecture as its predecessor, initial test drives in Europe showed that Skoda hasn’t lost sight of the traits that have long made the Octavia so recommendable.
In fact, closer inspection suggests the brand is attempting to broaden the Octavia’s appeal even further – a tough gig given the solidity of its foundation. It’s a sharper-looking thing than before, both inside and out; a slightly more fulfilled version of the design language first seen on the Scala is present, with bolder lines and creases, as well as slick new light clusters front and rear, doing their bit to lift the Octavia ever so slightly out of the realm of relative visual mediocrity that it previously occupied.
The cabin’s design is also tidy, with its new, decidedly minimalist approach being facilitated largely by the 10.0in infotainment touchscreen that protrudes from the dashboard plateau of our SE L First Edition Octavia Estate test car.
Save for a few handy shortcut buttons beneath, this touchscreen controls the vast majority of the car’s features. The system is easy enough to navigate, but physical controls for things such as the air conditioning would undoubtedly be preferable.
There’s plenty of flexibility when it comes to the driving position, and the Octavia’s 22mm growth spurt means there’s now more space in the back, too. Leg room is abundant, although the optional panoramic sunroof might cause you to scrape your head against the ceiling every now and then. But it’s boot space that remains the Octavia’s party trick: few people would turn their noses up at 660 litres in an estate car of this size.