On sale in the UK since 1998, and a consistent best-seller for Skoda, this all-new third generation Octavia should be the best yet. Previously squeezed between the smaller Volkswagen Golf and larger Passat in stature, this model has leapt up the size charts ready to challenge Ford’s Mondeo and Vauxhall’s Insignia head-on. But while it’s bigger than ever, it’s also lighter (thanks to the MQB platform that also underpins the Seat Leon, Audi A3 and VW Golf) and sharper to drive – all while majoring on value for money. With prices starting at £15,990 for the 1.2-litre TSI S, it looks like a success story waiting to happen.
Longer, wider and with more space between the front and rear wheels it’s no surprise that the new Octavia looks sleeker than before – with the added benefit of more interior space for good measure. Up front there’s LED running lamps and a Skoda Rapid-inspired grille, while the sides are dominated by the distinctive kink where the rear door blends into the C-pillar. The rear is probably the least pleasing aspect, the high-set numberplate creating an impression that this car is treading on its tip toes rather than hunkered down onto the tarmac below. Regardless, it’s still more elegant and expensive looking than the previous car.
A browse through one of the three different press packs we were handed shows the cabin’s longer than any rival, and there’s more head and knee-room in the rear. That’s certainly believable in the real world, where even behind a six-footer there’s room to stretch out – in fact the new Octavia should have the long-wheelbase Superb slightly worried, it’s so big. The boot is huge, too. With the seats in place they’ll swallow 590 litres of luggage, while front passenger seat can be folded flat to liberate over 2,700mm of load length — enough to accommodate a horse.
Performance & handling
There’s no ‘hot’ version for the moment, but Skoda promises its new vRS will be the fastest yet – partly due to this Octavia being up to 102kg lighter than its predecessor. For now the quickest models are the 2-litre 148bhp diesel and 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol, both of which mix their strong performance with pleasantly surprising economy and CO2 emissions.
If you’re hoping to save the environment, or your bank balance, it’s the 1.2-litre TSI or 1.6-litre TDI that should hold your attention. Neither are what you’d call exciting, but the 1.2-litre TSI especially provides strong mid-range acceleration with a particularly smooth and linear power delivery.
A firm ride is certainly more noticeable here than in any of the other MQB platform cars, but the Octavia makes up for this with impressive front-end grip. There is an option to customise the car’s responses with the Driver Profile selections, though there’s no change to the damping – only the steering and throttle are altered.
Economy & environment
There’s a special Greenline model coming, which is said to be 23 per cent more efficient than the regular car, but for now the other options aren’t too thirsty. Choose the hyper-economical 1.6-litre TDI and consumption is an impressive 74.9mpg while low CO2 emissions of 99g/km mean it’s so clean that it’s road tax exempt. Even the 2.0-litre diesel can return 68.2mpg while the 1.2-litre TSI petrol manages 57.7mpg and 114g/km CO2. All come with standard stop/start which is smooth and quick in its operation.
Equipment & value
Skoda has always represented good value for money, and that trend continues here — especially now the Octavia has grown to offer even more space for your cash. Equipment levels are high across the board, with even the basic models benefitting from standard 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, DAB radio, stop/start, iPod connection, air conditioning, hill hold and daytime running lights. Opt for a top-spec Elegance model and you can add dual-zone climate control, Alcantara and leather trim, sat-nav, cruise control and Driver Profile selection to that list. With prices ranging from £15,990 to £23,240 it may not be as cheap as it once was, but still undercuts a number of its main rivals.
Too new to have undergone EuroNCAP, even the basic models are loaded with safety kit including seven airbags and a new Automatic Post-collision braking system. The latter applies the brakes to the vehicle after an impact to lessen the chance of any further incidents while a Front Assistant slows the car at low speeds in the event of an impending collision in front.
The Octavia has always been something of a left field choice in the sector, occupying its own space between rivals – but now it’s big enough to challenge the big-hitters head on. The new MQB chassis means it’s sharper to drive than ever while the rest of the package has the class, refinement and space to challenge for top spot in the sector. Choose one of the smaller engines – either the 1.6 TDI or 1.2 TSI – and it makes even more sense, the high levels of economy, equipment and low price making it better value than almost anything else out there.
Model tested: Skoda Octavia 1.2 TSI
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged four cylinder
Top speed: 122mph
Emissions: 119g/km CO2