The Skoda Octavia estate has a growing reputation around the world for being the ultimate everyman car. Did you know they now sell Skodas as far away as Australia? The manufacturer has made big inroads into China and India too, countries which have economies growing so fast, they are now the favoured stop-off points for European politicians on tour. And, in Skoda’s plan to make the Octavia one of the world’s best-selling cars, it certainly makes sense to have a go-anywhere four-wheel drive version. We’ll get the car here in the UK, too, so vets, farmers and caravan owners can rejoice! It’s a car that delivers all the best of the brilliant Octavia estate, with even more versatility.
The 4×4 version of the latest Skoda Octavia estate looks just the same as the front-wheel drive model, except for a 4×4 badge on the boot with a natty red ‘x’. You’ll have to be sharp-eyed in the cabin too, the only clue being an emblem on the top of the gearknob, to remind you you can keep going when a normal Octavia would be left stuck in the mud. In the UK, the 4×4 is only available in SE trim, which is expected to take the Lion’s share of sales in front-wheel drive guise. That means you get front fog lights and black roof rails for a reasonably rugged look. If it’s a cut-price Volkswagen Passat Alltrack you’re after, with raised ride height and skid plates, you’ll need to wait for the tougher Octavia Scout to be released.
With the biggest (610-litre) boot in its class, the Octavia estate 4×4 can swallow almost anything you can throw at it. To put its space into perspective, it beats the Ford Mondeo estate (from the next class up, remember) by 73 litres and an Audi Q5 4×4 by 70 litres. The main difference over the standard car, is that you can still get your precious cargo where it needs to go, even if you live at the end of a muddy track. We’d say the £50 optional luggage nets are an option you have to tick, both keeping things safe and saving you the hassle of a search and rescue operation each time things slide around back there.
Performance & handling
The top bods at Skoda have ordained that the UK will only get the 4×4 with a 103bhp 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre 148bhp diesel. On the continent a punchy 1.8-litre turbo petrol with 177bhp is offered, but sales in the UK would have been prohibitively tiny given how thirsty it is. While we found the smaller diesel adequate in the front-wheel drive car, its 11.7 second zero to 62mph acceleration is hard to recommend in the 4×4. Far better is the 2.0-litre, which manages the same sprint in 8.7 seconds, giving far greater confidence to overtake slower traffic.
It should also give the towing fraternity a greater sense of control over their holiday cottages on wheels. Perhaps the second biggest reason to choose the 4×4 (behind not getting stuck in a rut), is the marked improvement in ride comfort. To fit four-wheel drive, Skoda has also switched the rear suspension to an advanced multi-link setup, instead of a pesky torsion beam. As a result, fewer lumps and bumps are felt in the cabin, and a forest track we drove along felt like a section of German Autobahn.
Economy & environment
The Skoda Octavia’s 4×4 system uses the Volkswagen Group’s latest electronic brain to sense when you need extra grip, and shuffles power to each wheel accordingly. The main benefit is improved economy in normal road driving, with 60.1mpg in the 1.6-litre and 57.6mpg with the 2.0-litre diesel, along with CO2 emissions of 122-124g/km. Despite the clever tech, this is still some way down on the front-wheel drive models, so you’ll have to need the 4×4 ability to justify taking the economy hit. The 4×4 models are just over 110kg heavier, the equivalent of having two teenage kids sat in the back on every journey.
Equipment & value
With starting prices of £21,490 and £22,390 there’s no arguing with the value of the Octavia estate 4×4. It carves out a niche in a market where there is no direct rival. If you want four-wheel drive, but car-like handling, the Subaru Forester 2.0D X is £24,995, but has less kit and can only manage 49.6mpg. The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack starts at a whopping £28,995. The Octavia has everything from Bluetooth, to a touchscreen infotainment system, DAB digital radio with eight speakers, dual-zone climate control and hill hold control as standard.
You can be safe in the knowledge the Octavia has a full five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, with seven airbags as standard. There are far too many acronyms to list here, but the Octavia certainly has your back, with a myriad of sensors monitoring the car and your driving. If you fall short of its standards on the motorway, don’t be surprised if a display flashes up on the dashboard, asking you to take a time out.
We’ve already given the Octavia Estate five-stars, thanks to its incredible space, smooth drive and value for money. With an even more comfortable ride, and go-almost-anywhere ability, the 4×4 version only falls down on its lower fuel economy. If you live or work out in the sticks, and think high-50s mpg is entirely reasonable, you might want to pop down to your local Skoda dealer. This is a good bit of kit.
Model tested: Skoda Octavia Estate 4×4
Engine: 1.6-litre TDI, 2.0-litre TDI
Power: 103bhp, 148bhp
Torque: 250NM, 320Nm
Acceleration: 0-62 in 11.7, 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 117, 132mph
Economy: 60.1, 57.6mpg
Emissions: 122, 124g/km CO2
Price: £21,490 to £22,390