Skoda Octavia Estate review
The new Skoda Octavia Estate won Auto Express' Best Estate Car of 2013 award and offers huge value for money
Long gone is the era of Skoda jokes: the latest Octavia Estate is in fact a class-leader. Its blend of VW Golf mechanicals with lower prices and a practical bodystyle more handsome than the regular Octavia hatch make this cavernous load-lugger a real winner for families, wallet-conscious fleet buyers and, in the case of the GTI-baiting vRS version, even hot hatch fans.
Offering 610 litres of space with the rear seats in place and a gargantuan 1740 litres with the rear bench folded, the Octavia Estate is roomy enough to embarrass cars from the class above like the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant. Yet its Germanic cabin, while rather dour and uninspiring, is solidly put together and feels more expensive and more refined inside than rivals like the Ford focus Estate and Vauxhall Astra Tourer. You can identify the shared switchgear from the VW Golf Estate and SEAT Leon ST, but the Skoda is the one to go for if outright space is your biggest concern.
As usual for a VW Group product, the Octavia Estate is available with a wide range of drivetrains. All our four-cylinder turbocharged engines, from the entry-level 104bhp 1.2-litre TSI right through to the flagship vRS hot-rod, which is offered in both 220bhp petrol and 184bhp TDI diesel form. A Greenline super-eco diesel version claims to achvieve a startling 88.3mpg and 85g/km. All-wheel drive is also available on some versions. However, it's not quite all positive, as the pricey six-speed DSG gearbox isn't as smooth to downshift or kickdown as more modern VW seven-speed efforts.
Our choice: Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI SE
Like the company’s larger Superb, the Octavia looks better as an estate than a hatchback. But the combination of right angles and straight edges means it’s handsome rather than pretty. And while it may not be as eye-catching as the SEAT Leon ST or as daring as the Honda Civic Tourer, the well proportioned Skoda has plenty of upmarket appeal, even in mid-range SE specification. Most sttarctive is the range-topping Laurin & Klement version, named after Skoda's 19th Century founders. Fitted as standard with bi-xenon headlights, LED rear lights and 18-inch wheels, it adds a dash of sophisticated aggression to the plain Octavia Estate shape.
Surprisingly, the Octavia Estate is exactly the same length as the hatch (4,659mm), but the estate-car styling means the long rear overhang doesn’t look anywhere near as awkward as it does on the five-door. The only other difference between hatch and estate is the addition of black roof rails – although you can upgrade them to silver rails for £150.
The SE model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, which seem a little lost in the arches. The 10-spoke 17-inch wheels supplied with Elegance versions are smarter.
Inside, the Octavia is pretty solid, but unspectacular. There’s plenty of dark grey plastic trim, yet it’s lifted a little by the gloss- black finish surrounding the radio, and extra silver trim around the gearlever and doors. In order to maintain the VW Group pecking order, materials aren't quite up to the plush nautre of the VW Golf's.
As it uses the same chassis as the Leon ST and VW Golf Estate, you’d expect the Octavia to feel similar on the move. Yet there are some key differences when you get behind the wheel. For starters, the 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI engine isn’t as well insulated - there’s a distinct diesel rattle at idle, and it sounds more strained when you accelerate, too.
There’s a six-speed manual or DSG gearbox available on the Octavia estate. The gear change itself is very smooth but opt for the automatic and you’ll sacrifice a little when it comes to economy. It's also too sluggish to kick down when you demand a squirt of quick acceleration.
The Octavia comes with a Driver Profile system, which adjusts engine and steering response according to which mode you’ve selected (Eco, Normal, Sport or Individual). Yet it doesn’t get a front differential, so it’s not really eager to turn in. Normal mode remains the only worthwhile choice, as Eco makes the throttle response too lazy and Sport spoils the normally fluid steering with a dollop of extra weighting. In its default mode, the naturally weighted steering, decent grip and strong brakes give the Skoda composed and confidence-inspiring handling.
All-wheel drive is available on certain models, handy for those who’ll be tackling tougher terrain more frequently. Under normal driving conditions the 4x4 model is driven only by the front wheels but when the car detects it is struggling for grip, the rear wheels come in to play. The transition from front to all-wheel drive is seamless even in when faced with the worst of British weather.
Like all Skodas, the ride in the Octavia estate is very impressive. It can be a little firm when driving around town but like its rivals from Honda, VW and SEAT, but the ride softens at higher speeds.
The Skoda is a relatively new car, but there should be no concerns about its long-term durability. Its platform forms the basis of many VW Group cars, while the 1.6-litre TDI engine is tried and tested.
You also get excellent dealer back-up from Skoda –the brand consistently impresses in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys.
Euro NCAP awarded the Octavia hatchback a five-star crash-test rating, and standard safety kit includes post-collision braking, which will automatically apply the brakes after a crash to stop the car moving in the event of a secondary impact. Driver fatigue and tyre-pressure monitors feature, too.
The Octavia no longer leads the way for boot space in this class. The Honda Civic Tourer now wears that crown but Octavia’s 610-litre capacity will be more than enough for most buyers. However, fold the 60:40 split rear bench flat and the space increases to 1,740 litres.
The Octavia has a step in the floor behind the seats, so you don’t get a totally flat load area. For £150, you can add an optional variable load floor, which removes any obstacles and creates handy underfloor storage. The load bay is also packed with useful hooks and cubbies, seatback release levers and a 12V socket. However, we find it very stingy that Skoda asks an extra £50 for a luggage net, even on top-spec models.
Elsewhere in the Octavia’s cabin, you’ll find plenty of useful storage, including an air-conditioned glovebox, deep door bins and a handy cubby in front of the gearlever.
In the back, there’s a folding centre armest with a pair of cup-holders. Better still, rear passengers get loads of head and legroom.
The Octavia Elegance with the DSG gearbox is just £10 more than the equivalent Golf SE. However, the Skoda comes with more equipment, including climate control, voice- activated Bluetooth and rear parking sensors – adding just the latter two items bumps up the Golf’s price by £1,140.
If you need the advantage of four-wheel drive (not available in the VW Golf Estate, or any rival this side of an Audi or Subaru), Skoda will charge you £1,450. The 4x4 variant also comes in at £2,630 cheaper than the equivalent Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer and a whopping £6,520 less than the VW Golf Estate.
Both the Octavia and the Golf have a decent range of options, although the Skoda manages to trump the VW once again here, as its extras are slightly cheaper. Tax costs for the automatic models are identical, but the manual Octavia emits just 99g/km of CO2, putting it in lower private and company car tax brackets. Most tax-friendly is the 85g/km Greenline eco special.