We were blown away by the new Skoda Octavia Estate and its combination of space and value when we drove it last week. But if you spend £1,450 more, you can add four-wheel drive to the long list of features. We drove the flagship 2.0-litre TDI model to find out if more grip adds appeal.
Successive snowy winters have seen the popularity of SUVs soar, so offering customers this option could give the Skoda an edge on front-drive-only rivals like the Ford Focus Estate and Vauxhall Astra ST.
From the outside, there’s little to distinguish the Octavia 4x4 from the rest of the range, apart from subtle boot badges and 17-inch alloys.
A Scout version with raised ride height and rugged underbody protection will arrive later next year, but for now this 4x4 is a more subtly styled alternative.
No change to the ride height means there’s no more body roll than in the standard estate. In fact, thanks to mechanical upgrades, this is now the best handling Octavia.
Underneath, it gets the same complex multi-link rear suspension as high-powered versions of the VW Golf, plus an electronic diff lock and its clever XDS braking system for extra grip when cornering on slippery surfaces.
On the road, that translates to a planted and composed ride, while the added grip allows you to use all of the smooth 2.0-litre TDI engine’s extra power.
With 44bhp and 70Nm more torque than the 1.6 TDI we tested last week, it covers 0-62mph three seconds faster, in 8.7 seconds, and feels significantly more eager and responsive in-gear.
Unlike the Yeti SUV, there’s no dedicated off-road mode or hill- descent control, but the Octavia 4x4 can tackle gravel tracks and steep inclines with ease. And for drivers who don’t leave the tarmac, it offers a safety net when the weather conditions take a turn for the worse.
During normal driving, the Haldex 4x4 transmission only sends power to the front, but when the car senses a loss of grip, it reacts fast enough that you never notice any loss of stability. Stop-start is fitted as standard and there’s no auto, which helps keep CO2 emissions to just 124g/km.
Economy is 10mpg worse than the equivalent front-wheel-drive estate, but the 4x4 is still cleaner than any four-wheel-drive rival. And while it’s only available in SE trim, that keeps the asking price low, undercutting its close rival, the Subaru Legacy, by £4,510.