Skoda Octavia hatchback
Price: £16,310 - £23,560
- Class-leading space
- Cheap to run
- Generous equipment levels
- Design is a bit dull
- Not very exciting to drive
- Diesel engines are a little noisy
"When it comes to combining space, quality and value for money, no other family hatchback can match the Skoda Octavia."
The Skoda Octavia is a family hatchback, and that's one of the most fiercely competitive classes around. There are extremely affordable and well-equipped models like the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cee’d, well-rounded cars from mainstream manufacturers, like the Ford Focus, SEAT Leon and Vauxhall Astra, and premium-badged models like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class. With all those choices, it's extremely difficult for a family hatch to stand out – but Skoda have managed to do that by making the Octavia a little different. It's bigger than its rivals, for a start, and looks more like a large family car such as the Ford Mondeo than the smaller Ford Focus it actually rivals. And because of this it offers class-leading levels of space and practicality. It also offers superb fuel economy thanks to a range of efficient engines. And it has a fair price tag, too, offering excellent value for money. It's a package that has impressed owners – the Octavia regularly ranks as one of the top 10 cars to own in the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. And it's impressed us as well, because we gave it our 2013 CarBuyer Best Family Car award.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Great line-up of Volkswagen Group engines
Skoda is part of the Volkswagen Group, so even though it is a value brand, it uses many of the engines that are found in Volkswagens. All models come with stop-start fitted as standard, which helps to keep fuel consumption down no matter which engine you go for. The best of the range is the 1.6-litre TDI diesel in ultra-efficient Greenline spec. It will do 88.3mpg and emits just 85g/km CO2, making it exempt from road tax – very impressive figures for a car of this size. But even the standard 1.6-litre diesel is tax free when fitted with a manual gearbox, with economy of 74.3mpg and emissions of 99g/km CO2. As you’d expect, the petrol engines aren’t quite as good when it comes to economy, although they won’t break the bank. The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine will do 57.7mpg and emit 114g/km CO2. Servicing costs will be affordable and Skoda dealers are incredibly highly rated by their customers - one of the reasons for this being that they don't charge a fortune.
Interior & comfort
Space and comfort levels are among the best in class
The Skoda engineering team was clearly very focused on prioritising comfort and space when they were putting together the Octavia. The interior is incredibly roomy, with enough head and legroom in all seats to rival plenty of cars in the class above. It's comfortable, too. The suspension has obviously been set up for a smooth ride rather than driving thrills and while it's not quite as cosseting as the Volkswagen Golf upon which it is based, it's still one of the most comfortable cars in the class. The interior is also very well laid out and easy to use, and build quality is superb and a cut above what you find in other value-for-money cars.
Practicality & boot space
No other family hatchback can match the Octavia for practicality
The Octavia offers class-leading space. It's bigger than the Volkswagen Golf it's based on, and that really shows on the inside. You can easily fit five large adults in the car with room to spare. In fact, the Octavia doesn’t just have more head and legroom than rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus – it has more than cars like the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat from the class above.
The boot is vast, offering an incredible 590 litres of space, which expands to 1,580 litres when you fold down the standard-spec split-folding rear seats. Both figures are a class best by a long way. The Golf, by comparison, boasts figures of 380 and 1,270 litres, the Kia Cee’d manages 380 and 1,318 litres and even a Ford Focus Estate can only manage 476 and 1,502 litres. Skoda's designers have put a lot of thought into a number of useful little touches, from a slot to hold your smartphone to the reversible boot floor that can be flipped over to produce an easy-clean side for transporting muddy items. And there's a very useful automatic parking system that will help you slot into even the trickiest of spaces.
Reliability & safety
Owners rave about their cars and safety levels are first class
There aren’t many brands whose customers rave about their cars the way that Skoda's do. The company came second in the 2013 Driver Power satisfaction survey – only narrowly losing out on the top spot to Lexus after years of being number one - and it was the only company to have more than one of its models finish in the top 10 of the Top 100 cars league table.
The Yeti was ranked most satisfying car to own, the Superb came second and the old version of the Octavia came sixth – making it the highest ranked family hatchback (the current Octavia was still too new to figure in the survey). Part of the reason for this success is that Skoda's cars are very reliable, and when things do go wrong, the dealers put them right with minimum fuss and hassle. We expect the new Octavia to perform just as well, if not better, than the car it replaces. All its engines and mechanical components have been thoroughly tried and tested in cars like the VW Golf, Audi A3 and SEAT Leon. The Octavia also comes with a range of safety equipment as standard, including nine airbags, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes. It also gets automatic city brake (which automatically brakes the car if the system detects an imminent crash), driver drowsiness alert, and lane keep assist. So it's not surprise that it scored the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Engines, drive & performance
It’s not dazzling from behind the wheel but it’s certainly capable
The Octavia hasn't been engineered to be a driver's car, so don’t expect the kind of dynamics you find on the Volkswagen Golf or the Ford Focus. That said, it's still very capable. The steering is responsive, there's plenty of grip and the suspension is firm enough to keep the car from leaning through corners. The ride feels a little more firm than on the Golf, so you will notice potholes more, but it's not uncomfortable. And the engines are very good. The powerful 2.0-litre TDI diesel offers excellent performance while the 1.6-litre TDI diesel has the best economy – but both are noisier than we’d expect from VW Group diesels. Our pick is the entry-level 1.2-litre turbo petrol, which is surprisingly powerful and quick – even when the car is fully loaded.
Price, value for money & options
Excellent value for money and plenty of equipment as standard
The Skoda Octavia comes with a choice of five specification levels: entry-level S, SE, Elegance, Greenline III and sporty vRS. Prices aren’t cheap – certainly not as cheap as they used to be – but they do offer very good value. You get a lot of car for your money with the Octavia and equipment levels are really good, too. Even the entry-level S model comes as standard with air-conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, a digital radio, a touchscreen infotainment system, and automatic city braking. Plenty of people will turn their noses up at the Octavia because of the Skoda badge – but this car is basically a Volkswagen Golf but with more space and for less money. And it offers a much better level of standard equipment than most rivals.
What the others say
"The new Octavia will provide the VW Golf with a big challenge – it's a great car. It majors on value and space, with a stylish and well made interior. Ultimately, it's not quite as good as the Golf dynamically, but it's close and it's better value. It may lack the Golf's cache, but for an increasing number of Skoda buyers, that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter much at all."
"Whichever way you look at it, the new Octavia is superb value for money. It's more expensive than the outgoing model, but gets better standard kit, lower CO2 emissions and, on average, is cheaper to insure. It might not be the most desirable car in the world, but it's quite possibly the most sensible."
"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."
Last updated: 3 Feb 2014