If you have seen recent advertising from Skoda, it’s clear the firm is keen to sell its reputation as a car company that knows how to please its customers – and with good reason.
As all-rounders go, it’s hard to beat the latest Octavia. Even though it’s been on sale since 2004, the family hatch betters many younger rivals simply because it does everything well for a price that undercuts most.
So could this new 1.8 TSI version be the best model in the range? Start-
ing at £15,665 in Elegance trim, it offers something for those who can’t stretch to the hot hatch vRS or luxurious Laurin and Klement models, but who still want a decent blend of pace and equipment. Under the bonnet is the VW Group’s latest 1.8-litre TSI engine. We’ve already tried the direct- injection unit in SEAT’s Altea XL, but unlike the VW’s TSI, it only has a turbocharger, rather than a turbo and supercharger.
In the Octavia, the motor delivers 160bhp and 250Nm of torque, and Skoda’s performance claims confirm the car is fast – 0-60mph takes eight seconds (only a seventh-of-a-second behind the flagship vRS) while the top speed is nearly 140mph.
And there’s no downside in terms of CO2 emissions or economy. In fact, at 176g/km and 38mpg respectively, the newcomer is more efficient than the Octavia 2.0 FSI, yet offers much more performance.
On the move, the powerplant pulls strongly from low revs, and provides ample overtaking punch. With a long sixth gear, refinement and motorway cruising ability are great, too. Unlike the sporty vRS, the 1.8 TSI doesn’t get stiff suspension settings, so while it’s still a capable performer, its ride is comfortable and relaxing. The steering remains impressively accurate, and there’s plenty of grip on offer.
The looks are measured, and don’t show off the model’s sporting aspirations. Other than standard-fit 16-inch alloy wheels, there’s nothing to draw the attention of passers-by.
Inside, our Elegance-spec car has an array of goodies as standard. A six-CD multichanger, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a leather steering wheel are all included.
There’s a handy air-conditioned cubby in the centre armrest, with a jack for connecting MP3 players. As ever with the Octavia, passengers get loads of space, and with a boot that measures 560 litres with the seats in place and 1,350 once they’re folded, luggage is equally well catered for.
Add in the fact the Skoda headed the Top 100 in our Driver Power 2007 reliability and satisfaction survey, and there’s much to recommend it. This 1.8 TSI Elegance effectively makes the 2.0 FSI redundant – and it’s the best petrol model in the Octavia line-up.
Rival: Ford Mondeo Edge
The Mondeo was voted our Car of the Year in New Car Honours 2007. But no matter how good it is, the Ford can’t beat the Octavia’s price, pace or
equipment – although even in base Edge form, it delivers a fantastic all-round driving experience.
* Price: £15,665
* Engine: 1.8 4cyl turbo, 160bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
* 0-60mph: 8.0 seconds
* Top speed: 139mph
* Economy: 38.2mpg
* CO2: 176g/km
* Standard equipment: Driver and passenger airbags, climate control, six-CD multichanger, cruise control, 16-inch alloys
* On sale: Now