This is the all-new Skoda Octavia estate, the car that offers a boot you can loose your luggage in, all for the cost of a Ford Focus. It’s also the car Skoda can’t afford to get wrong, with the last model ending its life sitting pretty as the best-selling estate car in Europe. Impressive sales can’t breed complacency, however, not only do the traditional European big players all have worthy competitors, the Koreans have rocked up with the appealing Hyundai i40 Tourer.
The new Octavia is the third Skoda launched with the ‘Simply Clever’ tag line, and its design follows suit. The grille has been de-chromed (most of the way around anyway), there’s a simpler black and silver badge and the radio aerial has even been integrated into the car. The main design features include a sharp crease stretching from the headlights to the rear lights and a kick-up of the elongated window line at the back of the car. Blacked-out window pillars stop the estate looking too top-heavy, and silver roof rails (on SE and Elegance trim levels) will appeal to those who don lycra at the weekend Tour de France-style.
If it’s space you want, look no further. Reach too far into the Octavia estate’s 610 litre boot and you might fall in, only to be ensnared in one of its cargo nets. Like in the Honda CR-V, there are handles inside the boot (on all but the S trim) which flip down the rear seats, allowing you to get on with man-handling the ambitious flat-pack furniture you just bought.
There’s 1,740 litres of potential stowage with the seats down, and you can load items up to three metres long if you flip flat the front passenger seat as well — handy. A star feature from the ‘Simply Clever’ boffins is a plastic right angle, a bit like a square boomerang. Use its velcro underbelly to stick it to the boot floor, and hey presto, it’s a corner to secure the wedding cake you’ve been asked to deliver. We’d also recommend a full set of the aforementioned cargo nets, unless you want an impromptu ‘Will it Blend?” in the back of your nice new car. An increase in length of 90mm and width of 45mm has liberated extra cabin space, so even the gangliest teenagers can slouch in the back seat.
Performance & handling
Did we mention it’s practical? OK, that’s a low blow. The Skoda is good to drive, in a thoroughly competent and unflappable way. It’s quiet and stable, loves motorways and has more grip than you should ever need on the public highway. You’ll just need to go on the odd super car experience to blow off steam, if you get your kicks from driving, that is.
All the UK models (except the 4×4, reviewed separately) get torsion beam rear suspension, which makes that boot even bigger, but also makes the ride more jittery, and the handling less precise than a Ford Focus estate, which has fully-independent suspension. Sports suspension is an option on Elegance models, but we’ve no idea why you’d want it. Instead, wait for the vRS version, which will have a trick chassis and is going through its final development now.
Engines range from a 1.2-litre petrol with 103bhp to a 148bhp diesel, with the 103bhp diesel 1.6-litre being the expected big-seller. We say, go for the silky smooth 1.4 petrol if you do less than 10,000 miles each year, the 1.6-litre diesel if you need astronomical economy and the 2.0-litre diesel if you tow heavy things or spend your life on the motorway. If you don’t like changing gear, the optional DSG gearbox is as good as ever.
Economy & environment
On average, the new model is 17 per cent more economical, with headline figures of 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km for the small diesel. Choose this model and your tax bill is non-existent, while its 50-litre fuel tank gives you a cruising range better than some light aircraft. The 2.0-litre diesel isn’t far behind, with 70.6mpg and 104g/km, while the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol manages 53.3mpg and 121g/km of CO2. These are top-notch engines from the VW stable, which cut out to save fuel at traffic lights and have ultra-precise fuel injection, so nothing is wasted.
Equipment & value
It’s impressive you get a capacitive touchscreen as standard, allowing you to pinch, zoom and swipe your way through menus. You can also keep your wallet in your pocket if you need Bluetooth or DAB digital radio, yours even with the S trim, dear customer. Audiophiles take note, eight speakers are standard too.
SE trim comes with dual-zone climate controls, helping resolve cabin temperature-related arguments, and adds front fog lights, storage cubbies around the front seats and a driving mode selector. This lets you switch between Normal, Eco, Sport and Individual settings, for a sharper or softer throttle and different steering feel. Elegance trim adds 17-inch wheels, Alcantara and leather upholstery, folding door mirrors, front and rear armrests, luggage nets, sat-nav, cruise control and auto-dimming headlamps.
The Octavia certainly feels like a solid and secure car to drive, and that’s backed up by a five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. A top score is almost expected nowadays, but you can’t underestimate its importance for a family car like the Octavia estate. Seven airbags are standard, while rear side airbags are optional. There are new systems too, such as Post-Collision Braking, which slams on the anchors after an impact is detected, hopefully stopping your damaged car having another impact, or rolling into danger. Standard on SE and above is a Driver Fatigue Sensor, which monitors your inputs (or lack of?) and recognises signs you might be losing focus at the wheel, before alerting you to stop for a break.
If a mix of immense practicality and low running costs already put the Octavia estate at the top of European sales charts, we can see no reason the 2013 model won’t stay in the lead. Heck, with India, China and Russia already firmly in Skoda’s sights (it has factories there too), the Octavia could become the best-selling estate car in the world. And that’s no joke.
Model tested: Skoda Octavia estate
Engine: 1.6-litre TDI Elegance, 2.0 TDI Elegance DSG
Power: 103bhp, 148bhp
Torque: 250NM, 320NM
Acceleration: 0-62 in 11, 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 119, 132mph
Economy: 74.3mpg, 62.8
Emissions: 99, 119g/km CO2
Price: £21,890 to £24,040