If you’re looking for a family-friendly hatchback that's well built, spacious, cheap to run and comfortable, the Skoda Octavia is a clear favourite. It's based on the Volkswagen Golf, but loses some of that car's classy touches in favour of lots of extra room inside.
The Skoda gets many of the Golf's engines, which is excellent news because it is blessed with some of the best diesel and petrol engines in its class. The result is that the Skoda comes in various forms stretching from the super-economical Skoda Octavia Greenline model to the quick Skoda Octavia vRS, with plenty to choose from in between.
Grippy four-wheel drive is another option you can go for, but only on the estate, and while the Octavia's not designed for off-roading it gives it plenty of grip for muddy tracks or adverse weather conditions.
Decent equipment levels are guaranteed, with even the basic model getting a touchscreen infotainment system, alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a DAB digital radio. The most luxurious Skoda Octavia Laurin & Klement model gets adaptive cruise control (that can keep a safe distance from the car in front), lane assist (it gently keeps the car in lane), and fog lights that follow the curves on the road. New to the range is the Skoda Octavia Black Edition, which gets a striking all-black look thanks to black paint, black front and rear spoliers, plus matte black 18-inch alloy wheels.