Skoda Octavia review
The Skoda Octavia is a subtle alternative to the Volkswagen Golf that offers more space and better value
The Skoda Octavia is a family hatchback based on the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon. It's brilliantly packaged and offers more bootspace than both, as well as a hugely practical interior and enough room for five.
In fact, it's one of the biggest cars in its class, coming close to models such as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat from the class above. It's available as either a five door hatchback or more practical estate, though both offer plenty of space and identical levels of standard equipment.
While it might not offer the same exceptional value as Skodas of old, all current-generation Octavia models boast alloy wheels, automatic post-collision braking and DAB radio. Mid-range SE models are better still, while top-spec Elegance and L&K versions can rival sister company Audi for luxury. If you're a company car driver, Skoda has added SE Business trim to the range recently, which adds essentials like sat-nav to the standard kit list.
The Skoda Octavia engine range offers an expansive line-up of diesel and petrol units, which range from the 1.2-litre petrol - the smallest engine in the range – to the turbocharged 2.0-litre turbocharged found in the Skoda Octavia vRS. All engines blend performance, practicality and economy very well, although the GreenLine is by far the most economical returning an incredible 88.3mpg and 85g/km.
There is also a Skoda Octavia Scout, which gets four-wheel drive, plastic body cladding and an increased ride height. This makes it a rival to the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.
In terms of driving, the Skoda Octavia feels competent, but it isn’t as fun behind the wheel behind some of its rivals such as a Ford Focus or a Volkswagen Golf. The Skoda Octavia Estate won the Auto Express 'Best Estate Car of 2013' award as a result of its attractive price, spacious interior and understated looks.
Our choice: Skoda Octavia GreenLine
The Octavia isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but the Skoda’s upright lines and straight edges are handsome and defined. The nose features a rectangular grille and headlights, while the grille under the bumper stretches the full width of the front end. This makes the Octavia look wide and low.
From the side, the Skoda is long and low, while the rear windscreen’s shallow angle and the lengthy rear overhang are virtually saloon-like. As standard, the Octavia doesn’t look particularly racy, but the car in our poictures features the £570 Sport style pack. This adds black stripes to the bottom of the doors and bootlid, a subtle tailgate lip spoiler and gloss-black mirror housings. Combine this pack with our test car’s £650 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Octavia certainly looks a bit racier - although there’s a bit of an aftermarket feel to the body stripes.
Inside, the Skoda is restrained and sensible, with a conventional dashboard and centre console layout. The dash features a lot of dark grey plastic, and some of it has a hard finish, but the silver trim around the gearlever, plus the gloss black trim on the centre console and steering wheel, both give the cabin a lift.
This means it doesn’t feel like a dreary place in which to spend time. The white-on-black dials and trip computer are simple to read, while the touchscreen sat-nav is a breeze to use, with a logical layout and straightforward controls allowing you to input destinations with ease.
Elsewhere, there’s dark grey cloth upholstery and more dark grey plastic throughout. However, this is countered by a light grey roof lining, which helps the Octavia’s cabin feel more spacious. Overall, the Skoda is functional, but it’s arguably all the better for it, while build quality is excellent.
Skoda offers the Octavia in seven trim levels, which are all available in either a hatch or estate body style: the entry level S, mid-range SE and Elegance the eco-friendly GreenLine. There's also a high-spec Laurin and Klement and recently introduced SE Business, plus a hot Skoda Octavia vRS.
Given Skoda's reputation for good value, standard equipment on the Octavia is excellent, with alloy wheels, DAB radio, a touchscreen system and Bluetooth connectivity all coming as standard on the entry-level S model.
The racy Skoda Octavia vRS adopts a sporty appearance, with a boot spoiler, bigger alloy wheels, a red strip across the rear bumper and a more aggressive bodykit. It’s also available in a bright range of colours. The interior of the Skoda Octavia vRS is also given some much needed flair thanks to sports seats, which are also available in black and white alcantara, aluminium dash-inlays, aluminium pedals and a sports steering wheel.
Behind the wheel, the conservative appearance of non-vRS Skoda Octavia models matches their handling. While it shares many components with the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, the Skoda Octavia is not as good to drive as either. It also can't match the Ford Focus for driving thrills.
The Skoda Octavia vRS gets the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It manages 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds, it handles rather well and it will suit keen drivers who are also on the look out for practicality and economy.
The Skoda Octavia may not be quite as much fun to drive as the Volkswagen Golf, but there's very little body roll. Less sound deadening means you hear bumps in the road more than the VW, but it's far from uncomfortable.
The engine range on the Skoda Octavia yields plenty of choice. It’s comprised of four diesels and four petrols, all of which are available with Skoda's excellent automatic DSG gearbox.
With the exception of the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine in the Skoda Octavia vRS, none of the engines are particularly thrilling, but they are easy on the wallet, thanks to Skoda fitting stop-start tech across the Octavia as standard. There's even a handy 'eco tips' option that can help you save fuel by offering helpful driving advice while on the move.
If you're planning on covering big miles in your Skoda Octavia, then go for a diesel engine – they may be slightly more raucous than their equivalents in the Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf, but the economy will be worth it. The turbocharged petrol engines in the Skoda Octavia are also worth considering if you're not doing many long journeys, but it's the GreenLine model that's the pick of the bunch. Powered by a 109bhp 1.6 TDI engine it's not the quickest, but there's no precious little penalty in terms of cornering ability and refinement compared to less economical versions.
Skoda has a strong reputation not only for building reliable cars, but also for offering a first-class dealer experience. The brand placed third overall in our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey, while the Octavia itself came 11th in our top 200 cars rundown. Its dealers finished fifth in our most recent poll, too.
The Octavia has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and its percentage scores for adult and child protection are slightly ahead of the Civic’s. Standard safety kit on the Skoda includes tiredness recognition and seven airbags, but adaptive cruise and blind spot recognition are costly options.
The safety features fitted to the Skoda Octavia can also prime the seatbelt tensioners and close the windows to prepare for an accident. There are up to nine airbags plus anti lock brakes and anti skid technology.
The Skoda Octavia gets more space than a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. In fact, it can match larger cars such as the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat in the practicality stakes. It's a real selling point for the Octavia, and one that attracts a lot of potential buyers.
The current generation Skoda Octavia is much bigger than the previous model, with a huge 590-litre boot that expands to 1,580 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Skoda has been sensible with the interior of the Octavia, and there are plenty of storage spaces and cubbies. Look hard enough and you’ll find cup holders, rubbish bins, boot holders, a reversible boot floor and even an ice scraper hidden inside the fuel filler cap – these little touches all add to the Skoda Octavia's sensible and practical appeal.
None of the engines in the Skoda Octavia range are particularly thirsty, but the 109bhp 1.6-litre diesel is by far the most efficient, returning 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km on the standard 1.6 TDI model and 88.3mpg and 85g/km on the GreenLine model. These improved figures are thanks to an extra ratio in the manual gearbox and fuel-saving technology such as stop-start, low-rolling-resistance tyres and brake energy regeneration.
The Skoda Octavia's 2.0-litre diesel engine also returns good economy figures. Without the DSG gearbox, it returns 68.9mpg, and emits 106g/km of CO2, and with it fitted, it still does a respectable 62.8mpg with 119g/km of CO2.
The sporty Skoda Octavia vRS is also available with a diesel engine, which is far from a gas-guzzler. It does 61.4mpg and emits 119g/km of CO2. Even the petrol version of the Skoda Octavia vRS is impressive with 45.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 142g/km. With the DSG gearbox, the Octavia vRS' economy figures are still pretty good - 44.1mpg, and 149g/km.
The 1.8-litre petrol TSI engines are also quite punchy and return good numbers. With the DSG gearbox, it returns 39.8mpg, plus 131g/km of CO2. Without the DSG, it returns 46.3mpg, but CO2 emissions rise to 141g/km.
Overall, the Skoda Octavia is good value to buy thanks to a high level of standard equipment and low servicing costs - this means it's not an expensive car to keep on the road.