Skoda Octavia hatchback

£16,660 - £27,990

The Skoda Octavia is a good-value choice if you compare it with the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 or SEAT Leon. It shares its basic underpinnings with those three, but the Skoda is a larger overall package.

In fact, the Octavia compares well with the Volkswagen Passat, Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia, while its smaller sisters are closer in size to the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. If the 590-litre boot of the saloon isn’t enough, there’s the even bigger Skoda Octavia Estate.

The Octavia is a discreet car to look at, without appearing downmarket. In fact the car looks and feels well built inside and out. Accommodation is spacious: five passengers and their luggage can be seated comfortably.

Every model in the range is well equipped, starting with the Octavia S. Even this features a touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a CD player, plus the attraction of alloy wheels and the comfort of air-conditioning.

The SE model costs £1,350 more, but the extra equipment (dual-zone climate control, electric windows all round as well as rear parking sensors) makes it well worth the extra. SE Sport, SE Technology and SE L trims all feature sat nav and a wi-fi hotspot, with SE Sport including sports seats, SE Technology adding all-round parking sensors and adaptive cruise control, and SE L Octavias getting Alcantara suede fabric seats.

The range-topping Laurent & Klement trim level only really provides improvements in trim and decor and doesn’t increase the functionality of the car. It starts at £26,740 and is only available with the biggest, most expensive engines.

Low-mileage drivers might want to consider the two TSI petrol engines: the excellent 1.0-litre, rated at 115bhp, or if you want more power, the 150bhp 1.4-litre version. But while the petrol engines are good, some 80% of Octavia buyers choose a diesel.

If you’re looking to cover higher mileage (over 12,000 miles per year) there’s a choice of 1.6-litre 110bhp or 2.0-litre 148bhp diesel engines. Our recommendation is the smaller, more economical engine. Skoda quotes 74mpg, but the extra power of the 71mpg 2.0-litre TDI leads us to recommend it if you spend more time on motorways or travelling long distances.

If absolute economy is essential, Skoda offers a GreenLine III model, which boasts 81mpg fuel consumption as well as low 90g/km CO2 emissions, compared to 99g/km for the standard 1.6-litre diesel. All engines in the Octavia range are available with Skoda’s six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic gearboxes. The latter adds around £1,200 to the price of the car, but fuel-economy figures are virtually the same.

The Skoda Octavia Scout is worth mentioning. Available as an estate only, this rugged edition has four-wheel drive, increased ground clearance and protective exterior trims. Powered by the 2.0-litre diesel engine, it makes a good choice if your driving includes poor or bumpy surfaces.

There’s also a sporty Skoda Octavia vRS, which shares its engine with the Volkswagen Golf GTI or GTD. The vRS is available as either a hatchback or an estate, and four-wheel drive is also offered with this model, but this is more intended for added grip than the ability to deal with bad roads.

The Octavia is a comfortable and smooth car to drive. The steering is well weighted and the ride is good, but only the vRS models offer an involving, sporty driving experience.

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 come with seven airbags and electronic stability control as standard. The mid-range SE L comes with Skoda’s Safety Assist system, which will sense a potential impending collision and apply the brakes if needed.