Skoda Octavia hatchback review
"The Skoda Octavia hatchback is more spacious, efficient and handsome than ever"
- Class-leading space
- Quiet and comfortable
- Low running costs
- Average to drive
- No longer a budget choice
- PHEV yet to arrive
The Skoda Octavia might be based on the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Golf but as it has evolved over the years, it's developed its own strong personality.
Its identity is based around a pleasing but unfussy design, sturdiness and class-leading interior space. Ever since the Mk1 Octavia launched, Skoda has stretched the bodywork sitting above its inherited chassis to provide more room for passengers and luggage, without charging any extra.
In fact, the Octavia used to be a good deal cheaper and feel less upmarket than the Golf. This gap has narrowed in both respects, to the point where buyers are more likely to choose the Octavia based on what exactly it is they need from their car, rather than because of its price. The Octavia's impressive rear legroom and class-leading 600-litre boot should certainly appeal to families, even beating cars like the Ford Mondeo, which are technically in the next class up.
Passengers in the front seats have never had it so good in an Octavia, especially so far as technology is concerned. There's been a push within the Volkswagen Group to make its latest interiors ‘digital’, so gauges and most physical buttons have been replaced with displays, touch-sensitive controls and improved voice recognition.
Even the entry-level SE First Edition comes with a 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit screen and large central touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. SE L first edition is seriously well equipped, gaining adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and 'Microsuede' upholstery.
The turbocharged engines on offer are efficient, with power spanning from 109bhp to 148bhp. Petrol engines include a 1.0-litre TSI and 1.5-litre TSI, while high-mileage drivers are catered for with a 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine in two power outputs. Power is sent to the front wheels, and either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox is available. Even the petrol engines can manage around 50mpg, while the 113bhp diesel can return an impressive 65.7mpg - a figure that appeared realistic when we tested it. A plug-in hybrid Octavia iV version with an electric range of up to 34 miles will follow later.
The Octavia isn't exactly a car you'd jump in for a Sunday drive - unless you buy the new Octavia vRS - with steering that lacks feel and a touch less agility than the smaller Golf. It is comfortable though, with suspension that takes the sting out of rough roads and betters the larger Skoda Superb for ride quality. Even its diesel engine is refined, too, emitting relatively little noise.
Skoda owners tend to be a content bunch, consistently giving the Octavia and the brand scores to put them near the top of the pack in our Driver Power survey. Safety should be reassuring for families because even as we await a verdict from Euro NCAP, the closely related Golf has already been awarded a top five-star score.
In similar fashion to the 'marginal gains' approach employed by the cycling teams Skoda tends to sponsor, the Octavia has improved in numerous small ways. These small tweaks, along with a design that arguably makes this the best-looking Octavia yet, add up to a very strong package.