The new Skoda Octavia is based on the same platform as the new SEAT Leon and VW Golf but while they each have their bespoke selling points - flair and luxury, respectively - the Octavia majors on space. There’s more to it than that, though, as we found out during a prototype drive ahead of the car’s launch in March 2013.
These early models wear a slight disguise but official pictures, released by Skoda, reveal a design that’s sharp but sensible. Narrow headlights, creased bodywork and Rapid-inspired lines form part of a design that you’ll see on all upcoming Skoda models.
But back to the Octavia’s big selling point. No other car in this segment offers more rear legroom, headroom or boot space. The boot in particular is impressive: with the seats up it measures in at 590 litres (enough for four sets of golf clubs) and with the seats down there’s 1580 litres of space.
The big increases are down to a big boost in the Octavia’s dimensions. It’s grown by 90mm in length, 45mm in width and the wheelbase has been stretched by 108mm. Being sat in the back seats now is a much more luxurious experience and the amount of space is comparable to big saloons like the Ford Mondeo.
Sitting in the front also feels a lot more upmarket, with a better level of quality and a little more flair in the dashboard design - it’s a feeling of luxury that was missing in the old Octavia.
The driving experience is much improved, too. We tried the 2.0 TDI model with 148bhp, linked up to a seven-speed DSG gearbox. At idle and on the move this diesel is one of the smoothest and quietest we’ve tested, putting the efforts of much more premium models to shame.
It feels quick out on the road, with punchy in-gear acceleration and a 0-62mph time that's expected to be around the 8.5-second mark. Fuel economy with the DSG box will be just more than 60mpg, while with the six-speed manual it’s nearer to 70mpg. A Greenline model, powered by a 108bhp 1.6 TDI engine should manage 83.1mpg and 89g/km.
Snowy roads and temperatures well in to the minus numbers don’t make for the best conditions to test handling, but the usual Skoda feeling of solidity and surefootedness dominate the driving experience. The steering felt a little dead just off centre while on the motorway but that could be down to the fact that this car is still a prototype.
The ride was a slight concern, too, with ridges and small bumps making their way in to the cabin more than they would in a Golf or Focus. However, on flowing ups and downs the suspension performs far better.
It’s still too early to pin down an exact price for the Octavia but Skoda is predicting it’ll start from under £16,000. That’s a fair bit more than the current car but customers will get more equipment as standard, like ESP, electric windows and a touchscreen media system.