If you’ve got a young family, a hatchback is likely to be top of your list of priorities – and the latest Volkswagen Golf is our favourite. More than 57,000 found homes in the UK in 2009, which put it in fifth place in the best seller’s list – nearly 10,000 ahead of the Peugeot 207 in sixth position.
The classy looks, premium badge and capable chassis help to explain why the car has proved so popular. But there is another option – so if you can’t stretch to the Golf or prefer not to follow the crowd, the Skoda Octavia is a ready-made substitute. It is built on the same platform as the VW, but with more room all-round.
The Octavia is 360mm longer than the Golf – most of which is behind the rear wheels. This means it has a much bigger load capacity – 585 litres to the VW’s 350 litres. The German model closes the gap when you fold the rear seats, as it trails by only
150 litres, but the Skoda easily wins the space race.
Further forward, you won’t feel short-changed by the quality on offer inside the Octavia – it’s not far behind in terms of fit and finish. But it’s a tough call when it comes to exterior styling. Many buyers will prefer the younger and fresher look of the MkVI
Golf; the Skoda is a far more conventional design.
As the two cars are so closely related, it’s not surprising they share many of the same engines. The biggest-selling Golf is the five-door SE with the 1.6-litre TDI engine – and this same diesel can also be specified in the Octavia.
Performance and fuel economy are almost perfectly matched. And while the Skoda pays for its larger dimensions and weight disadvantage against the clock, CO2 emissions are identical, so you won’t have to shell out any more in road tax than you do for the Golf – a year’s disc sets you back £35 in both models.
What’s more, the Elegance version of the Octavia features dual-zone air-con, a premium stereo with a six-CD changer, cruise control, parking sensors and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Hit the road and the Skoda isn’t quite as sharp, but it’s easy to drive, and has a comfortable ride and safe and secure handling. It trails on residuals, though – model for model, the VW will retain more of its value.
Two extra years of breakdown cover compensate for Octavia buyers – opt for the Golf, and you get only a 12-month package. And if anything does go wrong with your Skoda, the firm’s network finished second only to Lexus in Auto Express’s Driver Power dealer survey last year. This is on top of its billing as best brand overall in our annual reliability and satisfaction poll. Of course, choice is a key part of the latest Golf range’s appeal – there’s a three-door, five-door and an estate. The Skoda is offered only as a five-door or estate, although the latter is one of the most practical load carriers around.
Plus, Octavia buyers can get plenty of luxury by opting for a top-spec Laurin & Klement car. Or if you want a performance model, Skoda’s hot vRS offers a choice of 200bhp petrol or 170bhp diesel engines, plus striking styling and sharper handling.
As an overall package, then, it’s clear that the Octavia is the perfect understudy to the Golf.
VW Golf Mk VI- The UK's 5th biggest seller
It’s the family car class leader – but is latest hatch really worth price premium?
The Golf is our favourite compact family car, and with good reason. It offers the best-quality interior in this sector, as well as sharp handling, impressive refinement and excellent comfort – and is a hugely talented performer.
It was crowned Best Compact Family Car at our New Car Awards 2009, and is still winning group tests today. The line-up is huge, and ranges from the entry-level 1.4-litre to the hot Golf R tested in Issue 1,100. Prices start from £14,850, while the latest GTI lives up to the legend of the badge – so it’s easy to see why the Golf is Britain’s fifth best seller overall.