New Skoda Octavia

16 Jan, 2013 10:15am Steve Fowler

The all-new Skoda Octavia hatch is bigger and cheaper than the Volkswagen Golf, but is it better?


The new Octavia will provide the VW Golf with a big challenge – it’s a great car. It majors on value and space, with a stylish and well made interior. Ultimately, it’s not quite as good as the Golf dynamically, but it’s close and it’s better value. It may lack the Golf’s cache, but for an increasing number of Skoda buyers, that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter much at all.

Skoda is on a roll at the moment. Sales were up nearly 20 per cent in 2012, the Skoda Citigo is the current Auto Express Car of the Year and Skoda dominates the top of our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. So the new Octavia (which uses much of the tech from the brilliant new Volkswagen Golf and is bigger, yet cheaper than the VW) has to be a winner, doesn’t it?

The price advantage isn’t what it once was, though. The entry-level (and hugely tempting) 1.2 TSI S model is generously equipped, but only undercuts the Golf by a few hundred pounds. That theme continues all the way up the Octavia range – more kit for a bit less cash.

That range isn’t especially broad, with only 1.2 and 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels to choose from. Still, that should be enough for most - at least until the hot 220bhp RS turns up in the summer.

The model we’re testing here, the big-selling 1.6 TDI model in top Elegance trim, rolls in at a sizeable £21,090. Admittedly, most buyers will (and should) go for the S trim level, which comes with alloys, leather steering wheel, DAB radio and Bluetooth, plus a host of safety kit for £18,040.

That’s not bad for a car that just ducks under the 100g/km mark so is free from road tax, a tempting company car choice and has a claimed average fuel consumption of 74.3mpg. The equivalent Golf costs £19,565, also emits just 99g/km of CO2 but doesn’t get anywhere near the same level of equipment.

However, the Octavia doesn’t quite get the level of refinement the Golf gets. The engine combines a breathiness with some traditional diesel growling, and neither of which seem to die away. There’s more mechanical noise from the suspension and more road noise, too. Not that it’s noisy, just that the goalposts have been moved so far by the Mk7 Golf.

And that pretty much sums up the Octavia. On its own, it’s a brilliant car. But measured up against the Golf, it’s about 10 per cent off the pace.

Of course, there are some big benefits: space for one - an enormous 590-litre boot and masses of rear legroom make it a class topper on that score. Four large adults will be positively swimming in space, while a fifth person will be comfy enough, even if their feet are splayed either side of the transmission tunnel.

And Skoda has gone to town with clever practicality features, from a parcel shelf that can be stored neatly behind the back seats to an ice scraper that lives inside the fuel filler cap. It doubles as a magnifying glass, too – Skoda clearly knows its audience.

Using the same clever MQB platform as the Golf, you’d expect the Octavia to ride comfortably and generally it does. Yes, it’s a little firmer than a Golf, but it won’t upset anyone. Likewise, the handling is unexciting: secure and surefooted, but not especially communicative. The steering, in particular, could do with more feedback – this isn’t a car for keen drivers. However, there’s a decent amount of power – don’t go thinking a 1.6-litre diesel won’t be enough in this sizeable small hatch, as there’s plenty of poke on offer.

Skoda’s strengths are more about value (big tick), space (another big tick) and quality (yup, same again). The interior style is a step up from other members of the family and a whole lot more exciting to look at than the outside of the car.

Every model gets a touchscreen system with a minimum of five inches, while the dash and door tops are covered in nice, squishy plastics. Only some of the plastics between the front seats are harder, as is the glovebox lid. But even they are a cut above the class norm and can show the likes of Kia and Hyundai a thing or two.

What a shame, then, that the outside doesn’t look more inspiring. It's smart, conservative and unlikely to offend, but unlikely to get you glancing back over your shoulder at it either.

There’s some nice detailing, like the ‘fin’ at the back of the rear doors that kicks up into the window line and the strakes in the headlamp units that follow on from those in the new Skoda family grille. These details are too subtle to provide much of a talking point, though.

Skoda buyers love to talk, too, and one thing that’s for sure is they tend to be a very satisfied bunch, topping our Driver Power survey for the past few years. This new Octavia shows no signs of upsetting that particular apple cart.

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I like the simple styling, and will have a close look at the vRS Estate when it arrives.

The side profile looks a _lot_ like the old (ca. 2007) Audi A6

It's a whole lot more interesting to look at than the Golf, at least this looks classy - what's the reason the Golf consistently gets 5 stars AE? It's the most boring looking car on sale today.

I'd definitely buy the Octavia over the Golf - Octavia looks classy and has presence on the road, whereas the Golf is certainly looking tired and it's only just been launced!.Well done Skoda, now where's the vRS :-)

In the Skoda showroom recently. Looking at Yeti, but noticed the hard-on-the-eye Roomster, with 5 seats, 5 seat belts but no central rear head restraint. This is a basic, simple, cheap safety item. Why should the poor sap in the middle get whiplash, broken neck, life in a wheelchair etc for the sake of a few quid. The response from the Skoda man... 'It's not a legal requirement'. (Although it's fitted in Octavia, Superb & Yeti)
A VERY wrong argument. So I've bought a x35. Touch screen, alloys, cd-mp3 players and floor mats aren't legal requirement either, but are still fitted. Shame on you Skoda. Having said that, the new Meriva only has central restraint if ordered from new. Cost £25, but not available once out of the factory. Safety credentials, What safety credentials???

Sorry, I fell asleep looking at a picture of a Golf........

I don't think the new golf looks tired. It just hasn't changed enough from the previous models. But Volkswagen aren't going to change a winning formula.

this is a quality looking vehicle which is not in the same market as the Golf ..i would suggest it will be up against the mondeo and the 3 as a" budget "car compared to those it will be a great alternative ...with superb economy and zero road tax ..skoda onto a winner again

If the price difference is only a few hundred pounds, whats the point?

I wonder how much of that handling/ride difference between the Golf/A3 and the Octavia/Leon is down to the fact that I still have to read a journalist who has tested the Golf or A3 equiped with a torsion beam (as has this version of the Octavia). So far they all fell in love with the new Golf but have only tested the top of the range ones with multilink suspensions, powerful engines and lots of kit... while the Leon/Octavia have mainly been tested with smaller engines. How is that for a comparison!

The reason prices had to go up is to distance the range from the Rapid, which is where many of the old Octavia customers will migrate. My 2002 Octavia was the best car I have ever owned. (Out of nearly 40!)

The hard plastics are not a cut above kia and the bunch. It is debatable and just look the glovebox on the kia. So when your "opponents" come through as good if not better what do you do? Start trashing them in minor details? Every skoda dealer in my country was eager to point out that skoda has better "quality" and plastics than ford. Not other brands, ford! And when I pointed out that the mondeo was a much nicer job overall in trim and fit all of them tried to goof change the subject. Pathetic effort by VAG really and now it continues in the press too.

Well... It's subjective of course but I think the Skoda looks better, it's bigger, it's better specc'd and by all accounts, looking at the reliability indexes it'll be more reliable too...

Have you seen the hard plastics in the as yet to go on sale in the UK new Octavia then? I have always found the materials in Skoda's to be pretty top notch. And certainly the Superb is of a noticeably better quality than the Mondeo IMO (even though the Mondeo is pretty good and vastly better than it once was)

I'm quite surprised because I have yet to drive a Skoda (apart from maybe the new Citigo) that hasn;t had 3 head rests. Wonder why they haven't put one in the Roomster, there is one in the Fabia? Odd indeed.

Actually, they ARE a cut above the Mundano, and are better than Kia etc. What Car mag also said that the interior materials are easily a match for the Golf , and a notch or 2 above the new Mondeo too. Where does your Mondeo/Ford come in the satisfaction surveys? Skoda nearly always wins. Can Ford boast of being in the JD Power top 10 for 20 years running? Be interseting to know what country you are in, the model has only just be launched to the press....

They are actually an option on the Roomster also, only £65. Hardly likely to give you a broken neck in an accident, think you are over-reacting a bit and trying to glorify your iX 35. The sensible option is put the smallest person in the middle seat! Dear me, what did we do 10 years ago when hardly any cars had a 5th rear head rest!

£21000 for a Skoda! You can get a BMW for that kind of money. Anyone who pays anything more than £15000 for any Skoda needs their head looking at.

Thanks for comment. I wasn't, made aware of the option to buy. £65 retail is next to nothing at the factory so why compromise safety for the sake of a few quid? My daughter,s 03 Clio has central head restraint and surely a 2012 Roomster should be better equipped.

You may be aware of the massive increase in compensation claims in respect of whiplash injuries - some due to badly adjusted restraints but others due to lack of restraints. Your argument about what e did ten years ago is weak. We have a car manufacturer, part of VW Audi Group, who choose not to provide a highly effective, and very inexpensive safety item one one of their models. Just why would they do that, when they choose to fit them on their other models? Wat did we do before seat belts, air bags, crumple zones etc? We killed many more people on the roads, that,s what. Between 2000 and 2010 there were 33000 deaths and almost 3million injured. Safety should not be an option.

SAME CAR HIGHER PRICE, £21.090 For a 1.6Tdi is to much for an octavia which is basically the same just a stretched & lengthened wheelbase & a few styling tweeks in & out, I think the engine range is bland & so to the trim levels & i think it's to expensive for what you get for the money , It's just a bigger Rapid & that's just plain boring, A missed opportunity to make a better quality product/car They just overhauled the same Octavia & put the price Boring.:-(

Wow. I wouldn't like to have you as a customer...

Wouldn't the correct comparison for the Octavia be the Jetta? It would be absurd to state that because of the hatch they are in the same class.

Isn't the Passat just a stretched and lengthened wheelbase too? In fact, aren't all VAG cars either stretched or shortened wheelbases (wheels separated by lots of metal of varying shapes and sizes) that essentially use the same components, wires, switches etc? In fact isn't that how one could describe all cars of various sizes from every manufacturer? So i'd say if you want an Octavia, buy an Octavia, if you want a Golf, buy a golf.

Anyone like you needs their attitudes bringing up to date - are you one of those sad old fashioned badge conscious philistines, stuck in the 80's? BMW charge 50% for the badge because they know there are suckers like you around with small penises and shallow minds. I'm proud to drive a Skoda.

First off, it's totally new, based on the latest MQB platform, secondly, it's larger than the outgoing model, thirdly, it has taken a big leap in quality compared to the old Octavia which was still good, and is now an equal to the Golf, and the equipment as standard has increased significantly.Over £5000 worth more of extra equipment in the Elegance model compared to that of the outgoing model, but only £3000 odd more, so this Octavia is in fact BETTER vfm than the old one. Oh, and Auto Bild - this mags gertman sister car has tested new Octavia against new Passat - Octavia beat it hands down. Get your facts right before spouting rubbish.

Is it really appropriate to draw comparison between Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf? I won't recommend Octavia for private buyers. Its purpose built for minicab business or for those who prioritise space over style.
VW Golf, Audi A3, Seat Leon use the same VW hardware but they target private buyers.

er your spell checker has got the better of you - assume you meant to write 'cachet'?

Totally vagfan - smart and intelligent solution for car in this class.

Well you obviously haven't owned an Octavia then. I have, and still do, and will buy a new model too. I buy because I WANT one, I like the looks - it's not some all style and no substance crapheap with a Fiat or Alfa badge, and it doesn't date half as quickly either. 3,700,000 sales of Octavia so far, and no, they aren't all taxis. they are designed with families in mind who want space, quality, reliability and timeless looks.

And thats where you should stay.... In you big functional ugly boring box. Suits you well I would say.

So what do you drive? An Alfa I'll bet, or one of those other ugly italian budget Fiat rustbuckets.

Skoda were flogging brand new 1.6tdi last models for £13,999 about 2 months ago - 7 grand is lot of cash when the old car is a perfectly good workhorse.

Can you please tell me which BMW of this size and space costs £21k. I will buy it today.

Well said. Some idiots will always go that extra mile to show off. Even if the product is consistently falling in quality ratings.

By that logic, the Golf is bigger polo, the focus is a bigger Fiesta. Whats the point of thinking that way.

Key specs

  • Price: £21,090
  • Engine: 1.6 4cyl, 105bhp
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 10.8seconds
  • Top speed: 121mph
  • Economy: 74.3mpg
  • CO2: 99g/km
  • Equipment: Alloys, Bluetooth, DAB radio, Sat-nav, 8-inch touchscreen
  • On sale: March