IAIN ROBERTSON 

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia

Invariably Golf-based and always classified as such, reports Iain Robertson, has never hindered the Octavia model’s perpetual hunt for recognition, which has been helped immeasurably by a reputation for total reliability and market acceptability.

Volkswagen may have its problems to contend with but nobody will deny that its transformative actions carried out on many of the brands that constitute its Group structure have been anything less than successful. The deals have been formulated in the most tastefully staged ways, working with the Czech government (for Skoda), the Spanish government (Seat), the Italian owners (for both Bugatti and Lamborghini) and with Rolls-Royce (BMW) and the British owners (for Bentley).

At no point can the ‘Trojan Horse’ epithet be applied to VW Group, unlike the Chinese takeovers that are inspired by a Communist regime that realises its own products would struggle but that taking over key manufacturers is the underhand method of infiltrating other nations and, yes, I am referring to British Steel and Jingye in this paragraph. I have no objection to overseas funding opportunities but I am highly concerned, when they involve the Chinese and the ways they treat their charges.

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia

Fortunately for Skoda, German investment was its lifeline three decades ago and it remains in a most healthy state. However, it originated during a period, when Dr Ferdinand Piech was in charge. Since his retirement as CEO and subsequent passing, VW Group has been losing much of the brand identification that existed during that time. Badge engineering seems to predominate, while price parity between the main four brands (VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda) is fast approaching, albeit with Audi maintaining its executive advantage.

Although Octavia has been a model for Skoda for 60 years, it has only been available in the UK since 1996 in the form we know it today. Yet, in that time, it has become one of the UK’s most popular family cars in either hatchback, or estate forms, defining the medium sector in stock outline, enlivening it in vRS and Scout variants and becoming as much admired by the emergency services, as taxi firms and both private and business buyers, to which the operational benefits have been myriad.

While the VW-isation of all models across the VW Group has meant that Octavia was the sole remnant of standalone brand identity, it is fantastic that in its latest iteration, the new Octavia manages to retain Skoda distinctiveness, while also being hefted onto a higher plane. It is unmistakably a Skoda but every aspect of its exterior design appears to possess a hand of higher quality. The new Octavia is a real corker, make no mistake!

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia

Looking leaner, knowing that it is greener and dramatically improved across all elements of its design and engineering, the new Octavia has placed a defined line in the sand for the Czech marque. It is a genuinely new car, almost ground-up, with new ergonomically designed seating, a totally refreshed dashboard layout, with digitally reconfigurable instrumentation, shift-by-wire technology and a choice of plug-in, mild hybrid and efficiency enhanced petrol and diesel power options.

Four generations in and the Skoda Octavia provides even more boot space (600-litres hatch; 640-litres estate) than ever, within a body of greater length (+19mm hatch; +22mm estate) and width (+15mm). It is a key feature that has led to Octavia’s success over the past three decades. All lighting benefits from LED technology, including the new daytime running lamps signature, with Matrix automated illumination as an optional extra. Alloy wheel options are now up to 19.0-inches diameter, which enhances overall the more dynamic styling of the car.

Inside, the new two-spoke steering wheel contains enough control interfaces for up to 14 functions, all without the driver being forced to remove his hands from the wheel and it is not the only safety item built into the new car. The dashboard architecture is more layered and the trim quality is vastly improved, with innumerable soft-touch surfaces and use of tactile materials. Even the interior lighting is possible in different colours and different lighting scenarios can be selected through the on-board computer. On auto-gearbox models, a new stubby shifter is a major departure from past practice. The seating is improved with optional ventilation, chilling and heating, as well as massage functions, while head-up display is also available.

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia

In Octavia iV form, the plug-in variant, a 1.4TSi petrol-turbo engine is supported by an electric motor to produce a cool 201bhp and a 35 miles range in EV mode. The 1.0 (107bhp) and 1.5-litre TSi (147bhp) turbo-petrol engines, equipped with, or without mild hybrid technology, feature stop-start and coasting facilities to maximise fuel economy and reduce emissions. The familiar 2.0-litre unit (197bhp) provides 0-60mph in 6.6s and a top speed of 150mph for added entertainment. Meanwhile, the diesels (all 2.0-litre displacement, in three power levels: 113, 147 and 197bhp) now feature AdBlue ‘twin-dosing’ technology to clean-up exhaust emissions. As soon as we obtain the test cars, we shall be able to confirm performance figures and also announce the pricing levels, which have increased over the outgoing models but not by as much as the all-new Octavia warrants.

Conclusion:     Skoda is about to enjoy a real boom period for new Octavia demand. Much improved in all areas, with several ‘clever’ features incorporated, the new model looks and feels so much classier and is sure to become a market leader soon after its introduction early next year.

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia