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 brilliantly packaged variation on its Volkswagen Group bedfellows, the VW Golf and SEAT Leon. It offers more boot space than either, as well as a hugely practical interior with enough room for five.
In terms of driving, the Skoda Octavia feels competent, but it isn’t as much fun behind the wheel as some of its rivals such as the Ford Focus or even the aforementioned 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.
Talking of looks, you wouldn’t call the latest Octavia racy, unless you’re lucky enough to be in the market for a hot vRS version. But for solidity, reliability and all-round, practicality the Octavia is hard to beat for family or business drivers.
The first modern-era Octavia revived a Skoda name from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and went into production at Skoda’s Czech headquarters at Mladá Boleslav. Sales began in the UK in 1998, and since then the Octavia’s popularity has been based on providing excellent value for money, solid reliability and genuine practicality. Today it remains 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.
Under the bonnet, the Octavia features a broad range of engines from the Volkswagen stable, and a choice of six-speed manual or DSG automatic gearboxes. You can also get the estate with a 4x4 drivetrain.
While today’s Octavia might not offer the same exceptional value as Skodas of old, even entry level Octavia S models boast alloy wheels, automatic post-collision braking and DAB radio. Mid-range SE models are better still, while top-spec SE L and Laurin & Klement versions can rival sister company Audi for luxury.
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If you have particular preferences in your equipment list, there are also SE Sport and SE Technology models available.
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.
The high performance Octavia vRS has also developed an enthusiastic following over the years, after the first version was launched with a high profile World Rally Championship campaign behind it, way back in 1999.
Engines, performance and drive
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 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 in the VW, but it's far from uncomfortable. The 4x4 estate is unique in offering a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, and this noticeably improves both ride and handling.
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 with a 154mph maximum, it handles rather well, and it will suit keen drivers who are also on the look-out for practicality and economy.
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. The expansive line-up of diesel and petrol units ranges from the 1.0-litre 3cyl TSI petrol - the smallest engine in the range – to the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol found in the Skoda Octavia vRS.
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With the exception of the engine in the vRS, none are particularly thrilling, but all blend performance, practicality and economy very well. The petrol-powered vRS tops the performance table, and two versions are available. The standard vRS 220 with 217bhp, and the 230 version with an extra 10bhp, lowered suspension and an electronically-controlled front diff that distributes torque across the axle to give better traction out of corners. It’s only minutely faster in a straight line – 6.7secs 0-62mph/155mph maximum – but it handles with a little more verve. The diesel vRS hits 62mph in 8.1 seconds, but has a welcome extra wallop of low end grunt, which makes its performance very usable in daily driving.
At the other end of the range the 113bhp 1.0-litre TSI is surprisingly perky, with a 0-62mph time of 10.0 seconds and a 125mph maximum, while the 1.4-litre TSI covers 0-62mph in snappy 8.1 seconds thanks to its 138bhp.
The turbocharged petrol engines in the Skoda Octavia are definitely worth considering if you're not doing many long journeys, but if you're planning on covering big miles, then go for a diesel engine – the 148bhp provided by the 2.0 TDI engine offers 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and is a great choice. The diesels may be slightly more raucous than their equivalents in the Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf, but the economy will be worth it.
Overall it's the diesel GreenLine model that's our pick of the bunch. Powered by a 109bhp 1.6 TDI engine it's not the quickest with its 10.6 second 0-62mph time, but it is by far the most economical and there's precious little penalty in terms of cornering ability and refinement compared to less frugal versions.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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. The latter’s 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.
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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.
Octavia vRS drivers pay a price for driving some of the fastest Skoda road cars ever built, and it comes in the shape of group 29 insurance. Still, that’s about par with other similarly performing cars elsewhere in the VW group.
Other Octavias in the line-up are more affordable to cover. The 1.0-litre TSI is group 14, along with the 1.6 TDI, while the 1.4-litre TSI and 2.0-litre TDIs range from 18 to 20 depending on model spec.
If you’re buying an Octavia privately you will lose a significant amount in depreciation over three years of ownership, but at least you can be confident buyers of its rivals are faring a lot worse.
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If used demand for the latest Octavias keeps pace with the last generation, you might expect to retain around 45 percent of your car’s value. Typically TDIs have done a little better, as have mid-range trim levels.
Interior, design and technology
The Octavia isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but the Skoda’s upright lines and straight edges are handsome and well defined. The nose features a rectangular main grille and headlights, while the second 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 can be ordered with 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 a set of (£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 and the gloss black trim on the centre console and steering wheel, 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 rather than flashy, but it’sarguably all the better for it, while build quality is excellent.
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Skoda offers the Octavia in seven trim levels, which are all available in either a hatch or estate body style. Mainstream models are the entry level S, mid-range SE and SE L, and Skoda also offers the eco-friendly GreenLine, the high-spec Laurin & Klement, the company car-focused SE Business, and the hot Skoda Octavia vRS.
Skoda's reputation for good value is well deserved and 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.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The infotainment systems on the Octavia are bang up to date, with full connectivity, touch screens with motion sensors that call up menus, and the option of advanced navigation systems offering intuitive controls and clear mapping.
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You can connect your smartphone using MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces, while SmartGate tech allows you to send vehicle driving and performance data to a connected device.
There’s a decent 8-speaker sound system as standard, but you can also upgrade to a Canton system which adds a central dash speaker and a boot-mounted sub-woofer – it’s the standard set-up on the Laurin & Klement model.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The current generation Skoda Octavia is much bigger than the previous model, and the ‘Simply Clever’ marketing line attached to the car is not just spin, it actually rings true.
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.
But it’s comfortable too. All models have a steering wheel that’s adjustable for height and reach, and the driver’s seat has plenty of adjustment too. Forward visibility is good, but you are likely to rely on the parking sensors at the rear, as there’s quite an overhang to contend with. If you’re opting for the estate version, you’ll be in load-lugging heaven – its interior is cavernous.
The Skoda Octavia boasts more interior 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
So how do they actually measure up? Well the 4,659mm long Octavia five-door hatch gives only 20cms away to the Ford Mondeo five-door, but is 40cms longer than the five-door VW Golf. Switch to the estate and the numbers are the same for the Octavia and Mondeo, but VW cheats by giving its Golf estate a longer body than the hatch – it’s almost identical to the Octavia at 4,657mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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The Octavia’s interior is cavernous, offering the sort of leg and headroom for passengers that you’d expect in the class above. No wonder the model has been a perennial favourite with mini-cabbers. The rear doors open wide too, and SE L spec cars even get cupholders in the back.
The Octavia hatch has a huge 590-litre boot that expands to 1,580 litres with the rear seats folded flat. The estate can handle 610-litres with the seats still in place, but really comes into its own with the 60:40 split rear bench folded flat – suddenly you’re in the removals business, with a remarkable 1,740-litres.
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But it’s not just the space that impresses. The ‘Simply Clever’ thinking means the boots of both hatch and estate feature shopping bag hooks, a 12 volt power supply and a pair of bright load bay lights – just the thing when you need to unpack the boot to change a flat tyre in the dark. The estate also features a secure storage area under a removable deck, and there’s a ski flap in the rear bench too.
You can also spend extra on a powered tailgate, and the versatile Octavia will tow up to 1,600kgs with the 2.0-litre diesel engine.
Reliability and Safety
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 2015 poll, too. Those Volkswagen Group underpinnings pay dividends for Skoda across the board, and our sister site Carbuyer is full of owner reviews praising the Octavia’s build quality and reliability.
The Octavia has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and its percentage scores for adult and child protection are slightly ahead of the Honda Civic’s. Standard safety kit on the Skoda includes tiredness recognition and seven airbags, but adaptive cruise and blind spot recognition are costly options.
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The safety features fitted to the Skoda Octavia can also prime the seatbelt tensioners and close the windows to prepare for an accident if the car thinks the odds of an accident are looking unfavourable – although we’re not sure the system will be to everyone’s liking, and even the brochure suggests ‘sporty drivers may like to desensitise the system’.
There are up to nine airbags plus anti-lock brakes and anti-skid technology, and an automated parking system is available to reduce the likelihood of low speed manoeuvring bumps.
There’s nothing exciting to shout about on the warranty front, but given the Octavia’s reliability record that probably won’t be a cause for concern. You get the standard Skoda offer of three-year/60,000-mile cover – but breakdown cover is included for that entire period too. If you want extended cover, you can purchase a five-year/100,000-mile package but it costs over £500 for the two extra years.
Skoda offers two servicing regimes for the Octavia. Private buyers are likely to opt for the standard schedule of 10,000-mile/12-month service intervals. High mileage or business users might prefer a flexible plan based on the car’s onboard monitoring systems which can stretch service intervals out to 20,000 miles or two years.
There’s a fixed rate service plan available at £479 for three years, but that’s £150 more than VW charges for maintaining what is essentially the same set of mechanicals.