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. It blends VW Golf mechanicals with lower prices and a practical bodystyle that's more handsome than the regular Octavia hatch. All this makes 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 1,740 litres with the rear bench folded, the Octavia Estate is roomy enough to embarrass cars from the class above such as 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 such as the Ford Focus Estate and Vauxhall Astra Tourer. You can identify the shared switchgear from the VW Golf Estate and SEAT Leon ST, but you should choose the Skoda if outright space is your biggest concern.
Skoda’s Octavia Estate was first seen on Britain’s shores in 1998, when it earned instant recognition for its now trademark qualities of practicality and space, VW-inspired reliability and relatively low cost.
That first-generation Octavia was one of the first really significant products of Volkswagen’s involvement with Skoda. The two companies had formed a joint venture in the early 1990s, which led ultimately to a VW Group takeover. The first Octavia was a runaway success because it was built on the same VW platform as the Audi A3 and MkIV Golf, and benefitted immediately from VW’s engineering prowess and reputation.
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Now in its third generation, the Skoda Octavia Estate has grown up a little in size, making room for the Skoda Rapid compact family hatchback to slot into the space between the Octavia range and the Fabia supermini. As a result, the latest Octavia estate offers an even more capacious load bay than its already competitive predecessor.
Six engine options are available, each a four-cylinder turbocharged unit, 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. There’s a GreenLine eco diesel version, and all-wheel drive is also available on some models.
Various trim choices are offered, starting with the S. This features plenty of standard equipment, including manual air-con, touchscreen-operated eight-speaker audio system with DAB and Bluetooth, height-adjustable drivers’ seat and rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel, plus split fold rear seats and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The SE model improves the spec a little with body-coloured mirrors and door handles, fog lights and various interior upgrades. There’s also an SE L which adds Alcantara and leather upholstery, plus various additions to interior comfort and practicality including a variable boot floor and a luggage net, and front and rear arm rests.
The Scout model is similar to the SE but with ground clearance raised by 33mm, a rough road package with engine and underbody stone guards, and some rufty-tufty body cladding for an adventurous outdoorsy look.
The range-topping Laurin & Klement model gets special 18-inch Turbine alloys, cornering fog lights and electric folding mirrors, plus the most luxurious interior with electric seat adjustment, automatic lights, park assist, cruise control and sat-nav.
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Engines, performance and drive
As it uses the same underlying architecture as the SEAT 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 109bhp 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, so the new seven-speed versions on other VW products perform better.
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, which means 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 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 when faced with the worst of British weather.
The Octavia Estate has four turbocharged petrol engines to choose from, starting off with a 109bhp 1.2-litre TSI that offers 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds and a 122mph maximum.
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Next up is the 1.4 TSI which has 148bhp and does 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds with a 134mph maximum. The 1.8 TSI has 178bhp, and the relevant numbers are 7.4 seconds and 142mph.
The performance range-topper is the 2.0 TSI which comes with 217bhp in the standard vRS, or 227bhp in the even more pumped-up vRS 230. The performance differential between the two is marginal – 0-62mph in 6.9 or 6.8 seconds, and a top speed of 152 or 153mph. If you pick the DSG gearbox you’ll lose a few tenths too.
Diesel options include the 109bhp 1.6 TDI which does 0-62 in 10.8 seconds and 121mph, unless you pick GreenLine eco-spec when the lower rolling resistance tyres and extra gear (it comes with a six-speed manual instead of five) shave a tenth of the 0-62mph time and extend the maximum speed to 127mph.
The 2.0-litre TDI comes in to variants, with 148bhp or 182bhp. The first delivers 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds with a 134mph maximum. The second does 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds and 143mph, and is yours with the diesel-powered vRS.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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.
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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.
The automatic models all have identical tax costs, but the manual Octavia 1.6 TDI emits just 99g/km of CO2, which means tax will cost less – although bear in mind tax bands do get rejigged from time to time. It also offers up to 74.3mpg on the combined test cycle.
The most economical option is the 90g/km GreenLine eco special, which can deliver up to 80.7mpg. With a 50-litre fuel tank, that gives a theoretical range of 888 miles, but even if you can’t match the official figures all the diesels should prove very frugal at the pumps.
The petrols are pretty efficient too, and even the 217bhp vRS has a claimed combined figure of 44.8mpg – but it does have a higher CO2 rating of 143 g/km.
Insurance groups for the Octavia Estate range from 14 for the entry S model, and rise to 29 for the sportiest petrol vRS. The 2.0-litre diesel models are group 20, while the flagship Laurin & Klement trim is up to group 25.
The Octavia Estate’s solid reputation and obvious practical qualities mean it’s quite in demand on the used market, so it'll hold onto its value reasonably well. Our experts reckon you can expect to retain up to 45 per cent of an Octavia’s value after three years, whereas a rival from Ford or Vauxhall would likely dip below 40 per cent.
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The 1.2 petrol is likely to perform less well than the frugal diesels in percentage terms, but it’s a couple of grand cheaper up front.
Interior, design and technology
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 attractive is the range-topping Laurin & Klement version, named after Skoda's 19th-century founders. Fitted as standard are bi-xenon headlights, LED rear lights and 18-inch wheels, adding a dash of sophisticated aggression to the plain Octavia Estate shape.
Surprisingly, the Octavia Estate is exactly the same length as the hatch, 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 for £150.
The SE model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, which seem a little lost in the arches. The 18-inch optional wheels 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 nature of the VW Golf's.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
All Octavia Estates come with an up-to-date touchscreen-controlled infotainment system that even has motion sensors to call up menus.
The standard audio system is an eight-speaker set-up with digital radio and a CD player, plus Bluetooth connectivity for music streaming if required. The display can hook up to your smartphone using MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
You can upgrade the audio to Skoda’s Canton system, which adds a central dash speaker and boot mounted woofer for surround effects.
The optional sat-nav system is a pleasure to use thanks to its intuitive menus and clear mapping.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Thanks to a straightforward dashboard and good ergonomics, the Octavia Estate is easy and uncomplicated to drive. There’s plenty of adjustment in both the steering wheel and driver’s seat, and with good leg- and head-room it’s easy to get comfortable, too.
Once on the move, you’ll be glad of the car’s good all-round visibility, although optional parking sensors and a reversing camera will help if you add them to your spec list.
Around 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.
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At 4,658mm overall the Octavia Estate is a big car, but some way short of the 1,867mm Ford Mondeo Estate, which the Skoda beats for interior space. The Honda Civic Tourer – which has a bigger boot than either if you don’t fold the seats - is 4,535mm long.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Overall, the Octavia Estate offers more passenger space than the Ford Mondeo, so accommodating five people should present no problems apart from a lack of foot space for the central rear passenger. (Although most models are front-wheel-drive, 4x4 models require a transmission tunnel.)
In the back, there’s a folding centre armrest with a pair of cup-holders. Better still, rear passengers get loads of headroom and legroom.
The Octavia no longer leads the way for boot space in this class. The 624-litre Honda Civic Tourer now wears that crown, although the Octavia’s 610-litre capacity will be more than enough for most buyers.
However, fold the 60:40 split rear bench and the space increases to 1,740 litres – which then comfortably beats the Honda’s 1,668 litres. The Ford Mondeo has 537 litres, or 1,728 litres with the seats folded.
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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 high-spec models.
Reliability and Safety
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 and in 2015 the manufacturer scored an excellent third overall, a few points behind the winner Lexus and runner-up Jaguar.
Getting down to specifics, the latest generation Octavia itself earned itself a decent 42nd place (out of 200 cars) in the 2015 reliability category, and an excellent 25th place for build quality. Overall, the odds for a positive ownership experience are definitely in the Skoda’s favour.
Meanwhile, on the safety front, EuroNCAP has already awarded the Octavia hatchback a five-star crash-test rating. While the estate model hasn’t been independently tested we’d expect any future results to be broadly similar.
EuroNCAP awarded it a very reassuring 93 per cent rating for adult occupant protection, with a good 86 per cent for child occupants and 66 per cent for pedestrians. The latter score was downgraded because the Octavia was initially tested with an active bonnet that moved upwards to provide a crumple-zone effect for pedestrians – but Skoda hasn’t made the technology available.
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The Octavia’s 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, while other options include lane assist, and crew assist. The latter senses when a collision seems inevitable and closes the windows and sunroof, as well as tightening the seatbelts.
You might think that, given the brand’s decent reliability reputation, Skoda’s marketing types could come up with a warranty that improves the current offer. Three years and 60,000 miles used to be an industry standard, but with five- and seven-year deals on offer from Hyundai and Kia, and others offering much bigger mileage caps, the Skoda warranty is starting to look a bit miserly.
Skoda servicing is competitive with other mainstream rivals, and the firm offers a range of service and maintenance plans so you can spread the cost monthly.
Service plans cover just the scheduled checks, while maintenance plans also include any necessary repairs to cooling and electrical systems, plus engine, suspension and transmission repairs – with certain exceptions – up to a maximum of 120,000 miles. (Including many of the things that would otherwise be covered by a longer standard warranty term.)