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Skoda Octavia 1.9 TD review (2003-2006)
Bodystyle: 5-door estate
Engine:1.9 in-line 4-cylinder
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: March 2003
What is it?
A medium-size estate car. It's really that simple - this is a very conventional take on the estate car brief. It's not intended to make striking statements about fashion, style, technology or design: it's designed to provide lots of usable space in an appealing, efficient and above all usable package.
Where does it fit?
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Is it for you?
It's probably best to think of this as a car for people who want high-quality, appealingly styled cars but who are equally keen to find good value. If that's you, and you want a medium-size estate car, then you have found your match. Don't underestimate the standard of build quality that this car has achieved, either. In the luxury 'Laurin and Klement' trim in which we tried it, the quality of this car's interior is a match for some of the most prestigious marques around. It can appeal to both the head and the heart.
What does it do well?
The stand-out parts are the quality of fit and finish in the cabin, and the punchy diesel engine. The motive power comes from the VW Group's 1.9 turbo-diesel PD engine (PD stands for 'Pumpe Duese', German for 'unit injector'). The Octavia is one of the lighter cars to which it's fitted, and the result is some very impressive performance, which feels far more noteworthy on the road than the figures on paper suggest. There's very little turbo-lag and much of the torque is available at low revs, which means you can nip into traffic and position the car on the road with considerable ease. Press hard on the accelerator pedal and you're rewarded almost instantaneously with a surge of power that makes it easy - and fun - to drive. The interior is well built and in the luxury trims feels lavishly appointed. Ultimately it may lack, all the bells and whistles of some prestige brands (though with climate control, ESP, trip computer and Xenon headlights on top models, it's hardly Spartan), but in look and feel it creates an ambience that's within an ace of them. More prosaic trims, of course, offer less of that, but the quality argument remains.
What doesn't it do well?
There's little that's worthy of serious criticism. The ride and handling balance is set up towards comfort so if (unlike most people) you love driving aggressively, this probably isn't the car for you. The ride is more compliant than some VW models, though, which probably makes it more suitable for British conditions. It's no longer the newest of designs and this shows most in the fact that rear passenger space isn't vast, though the boot is generous. Styling is easy on the eye but very coherent, and though it has aged well and will continue to do so, it doesn't look as sharp as some newer alternatives.
What's it like to live with?
Easy. It's an undemanding car to use and drive, and the platform-sharing that VW employs throughout its range means that the technology is all well-proven, and parts are produced in vast quantities. The lack of obvious shortcomings and irritations is a sure sign of the quality of the engineering and design work that has gone into the car; it might not be the most exciting car you could buy, but it will be satisfying day after day and year after year. Skoda's dealer network has been much improved in recent years in terms of quality, but although coverage is pretty good they're not as thick on the ground as some makes and you'll want to check how far you need to go to find one.
Would we buy it?
Yes, we would. It's easy to answer the question without equivocation because the Octavia is such a smart choice. It might not be quite as cheap as some ultra-budget rivals, and it might not be quite as innovative, exciting or flashy as its upmarket rivals. But it looks good, is comfortable, well equipped, well-built and sensibly priced. Above all it just does its job admirably well. For most people, it's quite simply a compelling real-world choice.
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