From £17,7958
Is the Octavia still a supreme box-ticker in its new generation? We find out in the UK

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.

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What's it like?

To drive, the Octavia remains as easygoing and understated as ever. There’s little to get excited about, granted, but the relaxed steering is nonetheless accurate and sensibly weighted and allows you to track the car’s nose along the road without ever needing to second-guess your inputs.

Body control is decent enough through sharp bends, as is grip, and the 2.0-litre diesel engine provides useful low-end punch (with peak torque of 251lb ft), excellent refinement and respectable fuel economy; we saw 57mpg over the course of our mixed test route.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is a slick operator for the majority of the time, too, although it can easily be caught out at junctions and roundabouts, when you might suddenly need to accelerate from low speeds.

There’s an appealing suppleness to the ride. Our test car came without the adaptive dampers that feature as part of Skoda’s Dynamic Chassis Control option, but its manners were perfectly civil on 17in alloy wheels. Vertical body travel is reined in pretty effectively after you hit large lumps at speed, while intrusions from most ruts and craters are smartly rounded off without too much bother. Only the most decrepit stretches of road cause the Octavia to become a bit too excitable and filter a small amount of uncouth noise and vibration into the cabin.

But the truth is that the Octavia is never so uncomfortable as to give you serious pause for thought. It would be interesting to see how the new Volkswagen Golf stacks up against its Czech relative in terms of ride comfort. We’ll aim to find out soon.

Presently, the 148bhp diesel engine fitted to our Octavia is only available in the flagship SE L First Edition model, which is priced from £29,515. That makes it more expensive than the range-topping new Seat Leon Estate (£27,895), although it’s worth pointing out the Spanish car isn’t yet available with a diesel engine, so expect that gap to close up later this year. The Octavia is fractionally cheaper than the comparable Ford Focus Estate, too.

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Should I buy one?

The Focus is undoubtedly the more interesting car to drive and, for some people, its extra agility and generally more engaging driving experience will count for a lot.

But let’s not discredit the Octavia here. Yes, it’s rather plain from an enthusiast’s point of view, but as a smooth, practical and competitively priced box-ticker, it hits its brief very convincingly indeed.

Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 150 SE L First Edition DSG specification

Where Oxfordshire, UK Price £29,515 On sale now Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbocharged diesel Power 148bhp at 3500rpm Torque 251lb ft at 1600rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1412kg Top speed 137mph 0-62mph 8.8sec Fuel economy 52.3-60.1mpg CO2 123-141g/km, 31-35% Rivals Ford Focus Estate, Seat Leon Estate

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Comments
31

17 June 2020

The Octavia's diesel engine certainly delivers impressive performance and fuel efficiency, but it's matched by the Toyota Corolla's 2-litre hybrid for similar money. I accept that the Japanese model has less luggage accommodation, but surely it should be considered a rival? I suspect that it's a safer place to put your money given the uncertain future of compression ignition engines. 

17 June 2020

Yes agreed. All Corollas also get proper independent suspension, so rear passengers get less space but a more comfortable ride.

18 June 2020

You just wouldn't, would you.

They should replace SKODA across the back with LOSER.

17 June 2020
I think Skoda has done a remarkable job , I wouldn't just be comparing it to the Focus , but perhaps the volvo v60 , audi a4 etc . I find it very interesting that Skoda are now mimicking the Volvo lettering at the rear , I think that tells you a lot about their aspirations.

17 June 2020
Sundym wrote:

I think Skoda has done a remarkable job , I wouldn't just be comparing it to the Focus , but perhaps the volvo v60 , audi a4 etc . I find it very interesting that Skoda are now mimicking the Volvo lettering at the rear , I think that tells you a lot about their aspirations.

 

One type of lettering doesn;t mean anything, Skoda imiates many bits of other manufacturers and incorporates into their own design..

17 June 2020

It's not just the larger boot space that sets the Octavia apart, it's the way Skoda have designed it that's so 'simply clever'.

Not only can rivals get nowhere near it, very little else can. I drive the current Octavia and it makes A6 Avant, 5 Series look tiny. It's not quite as big as an E-Class, but it's actually more practical in use. As for the once go to estate manufacturer, it makes Volvo's V90 look impractical let alone the V60 which is closes in size. And if that's not enough, it then plays it's trump card because unlike an E-Class and 5-series, underneath all of that luggage space, you can have a spare wheel. The Octavia Estate is a remarkable design. 

I do not like the design of the new Octavia and one thing the report doesn't touch on is the option list is more complicated. Where as before you could pick individual options, for the moment anyway, many popular options come in packs which really bump up the price. I'd never consider a new Octavia as deprection works against it, but as a nearly new or low mileage car, it's unbeatable.

One other though, whereas before the VW Group hierarchy went Audi, VW then it's a toss up between Skoda and SEAT, some of the more recent Skoda offerings shame Audi farless VW.

AV

17 June 2020

As well as being a hybrid and having proper rear suspension, the Corolla is made in Britain and Toyota doesn't lie about emissions 

17 June 2020
The Corolla is a nice vehicle and also built in UK , but until they get rid of the awful CVT gearbox and replace with something that doesn't make the car moo like a cow , I will look elsewhere .

17 June 2020

Hope they have improved the NVH aspect, as every time I travel in a new ish Skoda I am always amazed at how much more engine/road/tyre/wind noise one hears over the equivilent Audi or even VW

17 June 2020

VW Group are still resolving compensation for the cheat device and this engine is one of them this Skoda is nice but as £30k that was the price of a 3 litre Xf from 2011,has the world gone mad it should be £20k or £25k with one of the groups posher badges.The Corolla will be the best bet for running costs and depreciation and still looks nice.

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