Skoda Octavia Estate review
The new Skoda Octavia Estate won Auto Express' Best Estate Car of 2013 award and offers huge value for money
The Skoda Octavia is our current favourite estate car, thanks to its cavernous boot and neat practical touches. It’s based on the same platform as the Golf Estate and uses the same engines, so it’ll be a close match for the newcomer. The car in our pictures is an Octavia SE, but we’re testing the higher-spec Elegance model.
It goes head-to-head with the likes of the Ford Focus Estate and Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, but its biggest competition could well come from the forthcoming new VW Golf Estate and SEAT Leon ST, as they both use the same lightweight platform and efficient engine line-up as the Skoda. The Kia Cee'd Sportswagon is also a worthy rival.
For a small premium over the already spacious Octavia hatchback, the estate offers even more space, sharper looks and the option of four-wheel drive on the two diesel models. There are three trim levels to choose from, but even entry-level S models come well-equipped. SE and Elegance versions add luxuries like satellite-navigation, dual-zone climate control and leather upholstery. An ultra-efficient GreenLine version will go on sale in October, boasting C02 emissions of just 87g/km, while high-performance vRS models will also be released this year.
Our choice: Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI SE
Skoda has obviously taken a leaf out of VW’s book when it comes to styling, as the third-generation Octavia is a clear evolution of the previous model. The combination of right angles and straight edges means that, much like the Golf, it’s handsome rather than pretty, but there’s no mistaking it for its platform-sharing rival.
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 quite as awkward as it does on the hatch. The only other difference between hatch and estate is the addition of black roof rails on the latter – although you can upgrade to silver rails for £150. The SE model in our pictures comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, which seem a little lost in the arches, but the 10-spoke 17-inch wheels on Elegance versions are smarter. There’s also the option of 18-inch alloys, but while they look good, they reduce ride comfort.
Inside, the Octavia has plenty of dark grey plastic trim, but it’s lifted a little by the gloss- black finish that surrounds the radio and the extra silver trim around the gearlever andon the doors. Like a VW Golf Estate, it feels sombre, but it’s not as dark as the cabin of a Kia Cee'd Sportswagon.
As it’s built on the same platform as the Golf, you’d expect the Octavia to feel similar from behind the wheel, and on the whole it does. However, there are a few key differences. Firstly, the 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine is noisier than it is in the Golf. There’s a distinct diesel rattle at idle, and it sounds slightly rougher than the VW’s engine when accelerating, too. That can be put down to the fact that the Skoda has less sound deadening, but it cruises smoothly at low revs and is less rattly than the Kia’s more powerful engine.
The five-speed manual Octavia has long gear ratios, so it wouldn't really match a seven-speed DSG-equipped Golf in-gear, but it's capable of reaching a 30-70mph time in 10.8 seconds. In reality, you need to work the engine harder due to the five-speed transmission, although the positive shift action means this isn’t difficult.
One strong point for the Octavia was its braking figures. Like the Golf, 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). There’s plenty of grip in corners and the same keen turn-in as the VW, but again, it’s not the most exciting car to drive.
And when you’re taking it easy, it’s clear that the Skoda’s suspension isn’t quite as supple as the Golf’s. It can soak up most bumps, but big thumps can send judders through the cabin – something that simply doesn’t happen in the VW. In every other regard, the Octavia is just as comfortable and easy to drive as the Golf. It just lacks that final edge in terms of finesse.
It’s much the same story with the Octavia here as it is with the Volkswagen Golf Estate. The new car hasn’t been around long enough to judge reliability, but as the MQB platform will be the basis for a wide variety of new cars, it’s been designed to last. One advantage the Skoda has over the VW is that if things go wrong, you’re more likely to have your issues resolved quickly by the dealer network, which consistently does well in our Driver Power satisfaction surveys.
Euro NCAP awarded the Octavia hatchback a five-star crash test rating and its percentage scores are similar to the Golf’s. Standard safety kit includes post-collision braking, which immediately applies the brakes to stop the car moving in the event of a secondary impact, while driver fatigue and tyre pressure monitors are included, too.
The Octavia still leads the way for boot space in its class, but the gap is narrowing. There’s 610 litres with the seats in place and 1,740 litres when they’re folded. The Golf isn’t far behind, with 605 and 1,620 litres, and the Skoda edges the VW for rear seat space, too. The SE car has a step in the floor behind the seats, but Elegance models get a level floor with storage underneath. The Octavia has a larger floor area (106cm long and 101cm wide) and a boot sill that’s just as high as the Golf’s, although a bigger bumper means there’s a wider sill to deal with when loading heavy items.
Go for the Octavia Elegance with the DSG gearbox and you’ll pay £23,140, which is a tenner more than for the equivalent Golf SE. However, the Skoda comes with more equipment, including part-leather seats, sat-nav and dual-zone climate control – adding just the latter two items bumps up the Golf’s price by £1,140.
Both cars 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.