Skoda Octavia 1.2 TSI

5 Feb, 2013 11:45am Steve Fowler

Can a tiny 1.2-litre engine work in this new, even bigger Skoda Octavia? We drive it to find out


This 1.2 TSI is the pick of the Octavias we’ve driven so far. The petrol engine makes more sense than the diesels unless you do mega miles, while it works better than you might imagine in such a sizeable car. Much of the reason it makes so much sense is the value on offer – the phrase ‘lots of car for the cash’ was made for this model.

The new Skoda Octavia is even bigger than before: 90mm longer and 45mm wider to be precise. So how does this not-so-small family hatch measure up with just a 1.2-litre engine under the bonnet?

Surprisingly well is the short answer, mainly because this is no ordinary 1.2. Turbocharging means it produces 103bhp and 175Nm of torque, and it’s actually quicker than the 1.6-litre diesel we featured in Issue 1,252 – 0-62mph takes 10.3 seconds versus 10.8 seconds in the TDI.

It’s frugal, too, claiming an average 57.7mpg and emissions of 114g/km (the diesel claims 74.3mpg and 99g/km).

The best bit is it feels really lively: throttle response is good and, while you’re not exactly going to be tearing away from the lights, there’s decent in-gear grunt. It’s quieter than the diesel as well – still not exactly whisper quiet (although you might enjoy the mildly fruity exhaust note), but there’s more hush at speed.

The lighter weight of the petrol engine pays dividends with the handling, too. While the Skoda’s still no sports car, this version feels more wieldy than the diesel. Turn-in is slightly sharper and the steering feels more responsive. Ride quality is okay – not VW Golf smooth, but comfy enough and not likely to jolt or jerk too much.

Where this particular model scores massively is on value. At £15,990, it’s £2,050 cheaper than the cheapest diesel. You’re going to have to cover a fair few miles to make that extra expense worthwhile – our back-of-an-envelope calculations show that even if you do 15,000 miles a year, the money you’ll save on fuel over three years won’t even go halfway to paying back the extra £2,050 the diesel car costs in the first place.

Our test car was a top-spec Elegance model, which won’t be available with the 1.2 engine in the UK. Nor should you want it; the cheapest S-spec is plenty generous enough. You get alloy wheels, air-con, a DAB radio with Bluetooth (all operated via a touchscreen), leather steering wheel and a host of safety kit that includes a driver knee airbag.

Space inside is similarly generous with a boot that’s bigger than a Ford Mondeo’s and loads of room for passengers. The transmission tunnel that runs down the middle of the car means the fifth passenger will have to adopt a knees together, feet apart position, but otherwise all will be comfy with decent shoulder and headroom.

The driving position is good, too, with the steering wheel moving in and out and up and down, plus plenty of seat adjustment. Dials are clear, controls are easy to reach and the dash is smart and upmarket.

Build quality is a step up from the old car, although there are a few areas where you’ll notice some cost cutting over the latest (brilliant) Golf. There aren’t chrome edges to the window switches (outrage!) and the plastic for the glovebox lid and between the seats feels a tiny bit flimsy.

We could easily live with that, and, given the value here, we’re starting to overlook the duller than dull looks of the car, too.

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Wait to see what the fuel consumption really is.

Prefer the looks of this one, especially now they've ditched the chrome snout. Looking forward to the vRS Estate.

This car is far too large for me and this 1.2L engine may be too small for such a large car. It should be okay in A3. But its not on offer. I'll certainly try this engine in Seat Leon when it arrives in March.

If you think this engine isn't large enough, what about the 1.0 Mondeo! Ditch the SEAT, build quality not as good as the Octavia, and it will definitely not age as well either. SEAT's are ok, just not got the heritage or elegance of a Skoda.

I heard they are launching the vRS at Goodwood FOS this year. Can't wait :-)

It looks just like an Audi from a few years ago. It will be interesting to see if it can get the claimed MPG - on a run our 1.4TSI Octavia estate can get 47MPG against a claimed 44.8MPG, but it's more like 41MPG with commuting thrown in. Some of these tiny turbo petrol engines don't get anywhere near the claimed figures, though, and the smaller you go the less likely it is.

On flattish roads with one passenger even with the AC on it would be ok. But on hilly roads with four people and the AC on the fuel consumption may be much closer to larger engines I think.

Knew there had to be a Golf brown nosing in there somewhere.

Please by all means go the whole hog and call the magazine Volkwagen Express.

A seat buyer is not the same with an octavia buyer. The shape of the octavia does not age because it is already senile. Not offensive, sure but I wouldn't pay to own and look at this car. Not in this age (31). This is by far the worse interior design wise I've seen for a long time. Quality wise all of the cars tend to build over the some squishy stuff, some hard in this class. Even the latest golf isn't "brilliant". Hard plastics dominate the lower dash, the lower door panels, all of the rear door panels on the 5 door versions and now, they did the same mistake with the previous leon and passat, they engulfed the instrument panel with the shitty fake aluminum hard trim. As far as the octavia, it will excel doing what it was designed to do best, offer a good, value for money practical family car for people who can't or won't want to buy the better cars of the class above. Compared to a cruze, it is really good. Compared to a mondeo, insignia mazda is less of a car, really blunt, torsion beam equipped for the smaller versions but value and economical. Positioning is the word here.

The car may be bigger but it probably weighs around the same as the old Octavia due to the focus on weight reduction with the MQB platform so its not much of a surprise that the same 1.2tsi that worked fine in the last generation Octavia works well in this one too. I guess the fuel cost calculation against a 1.6 tdi was done based on official figures rather than real world driving but a break even period of over 6 years ownership means petrols are starting to become a lot more viable.

Why has a fwd got a transmission tunnel?

Looks duller than dull?

It's worse - it's duller than duller than dull.

I'm with you on this - motoring journalists insist on still calling it a transmission tunnel when the job of the hump is to strengthen the floor (and by extension the rest of the bodyshell).
In the case of the Octavia 4x4 models, though, it will revert to carrying a propshaft.

it would be interesting AE if you could tell us what actual mpg you achieved on your test drive?? if it gets anywhere close to 57.7 as claimed then for sure it makes sense. but somehow in the real world I doubt it. 40mpg if you are really lucky?

the heritage of Skoda?? you mean clapped out Eastern Bloc bangers?? The new Leon wins by a mile over the design of this Skoda. unless you are 60.

Has any one any idea about the longevity of such highly stressed small engines in cars with such a large body/carrying capacity? I can't see many going "around the clock", can you?

You can tell it is an Auto Express article by the "Brilliiant Golf" statement, boring

I would never ever buy a medium/big car with a small petrol engine. Result = struggle on any hill.

My 6 year old Passat TDi Estate gets more MPG than that in real world situations fully loaded, I just don't see the point in small engine tech. I agree with Gregor R, small engine in big car just wont last the distance, plenty of trouble latter on its life due to being too highly stressed and will have rubbish performance when fully laden.

Anyone know if their has been any problems with the small TSI engines?

Mine had lots.. Engine knocking and loud vibrations into the cabin, excessive use of oil.

I had the 1.2 tsi 105 engine in the fabia and got about 42-45 ish.

i would guess MPG of mid 40s would be achievable
but once it is gunned this would soon nosedive to 35 ish
as with all turbo petrol engines they drink the stuff once the turbo gets 1.4T gets 45 on a run of motorway driving (70MPH)..will only get 50+ if i drive at 60 mph average ...... but the Skoda is a decent diesel engine worth getting chipped to get more pace and MPG

Can SEAT boast of being the third oldest manufacturer in the world? Can SEAT boast of 118 years history? Can SEAT boast they have won the IRC 3 years running? Can SEAT actually boast about anything? At least Skoda never ever built clapped out old fiat designs, like SEAT did. New Octavia for me, and I'm a good 20 odd years off 60 yet!

If it had a BMW badge on it, you'd probably be saying how beautiful and elegant it looks.

SEAT can boast of having the best reliability record of the entire VW Group (not counting Porsche as i'm not sure who owns who these days)

Key specs

  • Price: £15,090
  • Engine: 1.2-litre 4cyl
  • Power: 103bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
  • Top speed: 122mph
  • Economy: 57.7mpg
  • CO2: 114g/km
  • Equipment: Alloys, DAB radio, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth
  • On sale: Now