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Skoda Octavia review review (2013 onwards)
Skoda says its cars give you "a little bit more" - but in the new Octavia's case it's not so much a little bit as a hell of a lot.
What: Skoda Octavia
Date: January 2013
Price: £15,990 - £23,240
Available: On sale now
Key rivals: Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai i30, Kia Cee'd, SEAT Leon, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf
We like: huge amount of space, generous standard equipment, great value
We don't like: occasionally fidgety ride, brave definition of 'compact'
This sharp looking new Skoda Octavia is the final piece in the Volkswagen Group 'compact' family car puzzle. Following the Audi A3, VW Golf and SEAT Leon, the Octavia is also based on the new "MQB" platform architecture.
According to Skoda it competes against the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. Yet both previous Octavia generations have taken a saloon-like form, bridging the gap to the Mondeo / Passat segment above.
The latest version extends this to the extreme. Having made room for the recently introduced Skoda Rapid - a car that's basically as big as the original Octavia - the new one has the look and road presence of an older Audi A4.
Sound promising? We think so, and although prices have gone up, it's still usefully cheaper than the latest mk7 VW Golf - which makes it great value.
Add an impressive amount of standard equipment - in terms of both toys and safety credentials - and it essentially puts every other family hatchback to shame.
Skoda has elected to bring four engines to the UK in the new Octavia. On the petrol side you get a choice of 105hp 1.2-litre TSI or 140hp 1.4-litre TSI, while the diesels on offer are a 105hp 1.6 TDI or a 150hp 2.0-litre TDI.
All are turbocharged, and all are familiar from other Volkswagen Group products - hardly a surprise. Although given the size of the new Octavia you might raise an eyebrow at the lack of more powerful options.
Seems less gruff here than in the Golf
High performance vRS models are due in mid-2013, but the UK misses out on a feisty 180hp 1.8 TSI petrol, for now.
We tried the 1.4 TSI and the 1.6 TDI. The petrol is smooth, keen and has a pleasant tone of voice. The turbo gives it convincing response at low revs, but even with a six-speed manual gearbox it begins to get just slightly breathless at motorway speeds.
The diesel is paired with a five-speed manual only, and a good degree slower - as you'd probably expect. But what it lacks in fizz it compensates with efficiency, and for many this TDI Octavia combination will provide an ideal balance of oomph and economy. Seems less gruff here than in the Golf, too.
A seven-speed DSG automatic is optional on all UK engines, adding convenience at the expense of some CO2 emissions.
Ride and handling
As per every MQB-based model, the Octavia is both stronger and lighter than the car it replaces. It’s a bigger vehicle, so it inevitably weighs more than the equivalent Golf or Leon, but with savings of up to 102kg – huge – it’s not just svelte compared to the last Octavia but the first generation car as well.
So it’s the lightest Octavia ever. Together with a longer wheelbase and extra width, this ought to bode well for comfort and cornering stability. Only thing is, the current UK range is restricted to a cheaper, less sophisticated rear suspension design than Skoda’s VW Group cousins.
No buyer should see this as a deal breaker
Hardly the end of the world – and no interested buyer should see this as a deal breaker. Yet the result is an Octavia that falls short of the car’s ultimate potential. Especially when it comes to the ride quality, which is often fidgety where we were hoping for smooth composure.
The Octavia is also slightly less nimble than the alternatives from Skoda’s sibling brands. Still, since it’s larger, too, that’s not unexpected – and even so, it grips hard and rolls little, making for a respectably unflappable driving experience that, if not the very greatest thriller, is most definitely easy to enjoy.
SE and Elegance models include a button on the centre console that allows you to tweak this experience to your taste, through Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual settings.
We're betting this quickly becomes rather neglected - as the differences are slight, and most buyers are surely interested in the Octavia's other talents. Which is to say how spacious, well put together and usable it is.
The only way space will be an issue with this car is if you miscalculate the amount of room you have to park it. Front and rear passengers are generously accommodated, and at 590-1,580 litres the boot is class-leadingly massive.
Given the rest of the class consists of conventional compact hatchbacks, Skoda is clearly cheating here - but hey, if it wants to charge a similar amount of money for a much bigger car, why shouldn't you take advantage?
The build quality is easily on a par with the Golf, and although there are a few small areas where the plastics perhaps aren't quite so soft to your touch, the clarity of the instruments and the additional user-friendly features easily make up for this.
Take the ice scraper hidden on the backside of the fuel filler flap, for example. And the number of hooks and netting options available to keep your luggage in check - let alone a clever new folding plastic device that Velcros to the carpet when required, and stows away in a side panel when it's not.
Standard equipment on the entry-level S model includes a touchscreen stereo with DAB digital radio, eight speakers, USB connector and CD-changer, plus 16-inch alloys and remote locking. In all there's £3,500's worth of extra kit versus the old car, substantially compensating for the price increase.
SE and Elegance include £3,890 and £5,300 in additional gadgets, compared to their previous equivalents - with notable highlights including dual-zone air-con on the SE, and satellite navigation on the Elegance.
Economy and safety
Every Octavia includes stop-start, energy recuperation and a usefully slippery aerodynamic profile. Even the worst offending 1.4 TSI DSG emits just 124g/km CO2 and returns a claimed 52.3mpg; the 1.6 TDI manual manages a tax dodging 99g/km and claims 74.3mpg.
Inevitably there's more to come, and Skoda will inorduce an Octavia Greenline later this year. Powered by an optimised 110hp 1.6-litre TDI, the Greenline is set to achieve 89g/km and 83mpg.
Gizmos include "post-collision brake"
As for safety, the electronic stability control includes more acronyms than Oxford, and if seven standard airbags aren't enough you can option an additional pair for the rear.
Extra gizmos include "post-collision brake" - which will clamp on the anchors after impact, to stop you hitting anything else.
Then there's the city emergency braking system, to help avoid low speed accidents completely, lane keep assist, radar guided cruise control and the increasingly ubiquitous algorithms that watch for the driving falling asleep.
Skoda refers to most of these as "assistants". Which is cute.
The MSN Cars verdict
The new 2013 Skoda Octavia is going to make its buyers very happy. Though the pricing has gone up, we can't fault the value, and that good old cliché "a lot of car for the money" has never been so apt. Hell, yeah.
In the context of some smartly considered, user-friendly features and a fine line-up of modern, frugal engines, its weaknesses are scant enough to be ignored. Pick the engine the suits your aspirations of performance and economy best, and you'll have yourself a seriously well-rounded machine.
If not actually a compact one.
Specific model rated: Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI SE
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