The Skoda Octavia is based on the same mechanical platform as the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and SEAT Leon, but it offers the best value of the lot, largely due to its size. It's one of the most spacious cars in the family hatchback class and its 590-litre boot is bigger than some from the class above.
There's a choice of bodystyles, too, including the even bigger Skoda Octavia Estate, the rugged Skoda Octavia Scout and the sporty Skoda Octavia vRS (which is available as both a hatchback and an estate). There's a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, plus trim levels to suit all tastes.
Both inside and out, the Octavia is very understated, but the car feels solid and well put-together. There's plenty of space inside, too, with room for five passengers and their luggage. Every Octavia model comes with a generous amount of standard equipment, so you don’t have to spend over the odds for a well specified version.
The Octavia S kicks off the range and comes with touchscreen infotainment, comprising DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and CD player, as well as alloy wheels and air-conditioning. You need to step up to SE for all-round electric windows, dual-zone climate control, front foglights and rear parking sensors. This costs around £1,400 more than the S, but the extra equipment it brings is worth it.
There are also SE Business and SE L trims, which add a few more extras. Laurin & Klement trim is the most luxurious: it includes an automatic parking system, power-adjustable leather seats and sat nav, but at around £27,000, it's quite expensive.
Hot-hatchback fans won’t be disappointed, either, as the Octavia vRS version shares engines with the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf GTD, plus four-wheel drive is available on the petrol vRS.
From behind the wheel, the Octavia is comfortable and refined to drive, if not hugely exciting. The steering is well weighted and it rides well, but you’ll want to go for the vRS for the most involving driving experience.
There's a choice of efficient petrol and diesel engines. Petrol fans can pick from 1.2-litre TSI, 1.4-litre TSI and 1.8-litre TSI turbocharged engines – our favourite is the 1.2-litre TSI, as it offers a good blend of power and efficiency, plus it's not too expensive to buy.
If you prefer diesel power, the most efficient is the 1.6 TDI GreenLine III, which boasts fuel economy of 81mpg and CO2 emissions of just 90g/km. There's another 1.6-litre TDI with slightly less power available across the range, as well as a 2.0-litre TDI with 148bhp that we’d recommend if you spend more time on motorways and travelling long distances.
All engines in the Octavia range are available with Skoda's six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. This adds around £1,200 to the price of the car, but fuel-economy figures are virtually the same.
Skoda has a solid reputation for producing reliable and good-to-own cars – with consistently impressive performances in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. For the Octavia in particular, practicality, running costs and reliability are particularly strong points, while Skoda dealers score highly, too.
In terms of safety, the Octavia achieved a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested, and all models comes with seven airbags and stability control as standard. The mid-range SE L model comes with Skoda's Safety Assist system, which will sense a potential impending collision and apply the brakes if needed.