Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSi Elegance

Revisions aim to make great-value family hatch even more tempting

The Skoda Octavia has always been a big car with a small price tag, and the revised model doesn’t stray from this successful formula. Even though it shares its underpinnings and wheelbase with the Golf, larger overhangs mean it’s 370mm longer than the German hatch.

This doesn’t help the looks, but it has allowed Skoda’s designers to do what they are famous for: providing the kind of interior space you expect from cars in the class above. Rear legroom is fantastic and the enormous 560-litre boot makes the Octavia a hugely practical car. Up front, the quality of the finish is just as good as the VW’s, with solid plastics and smart switchgear.

Revisions inside include the introduction of new-look LED instruments, a touchscreen audio set-up and a reworked multifunction display, all of which means the Octavia is as sensibly laid out as the Golf. There’s a wide range of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel, so the driving position is very comfortable, too. Our Elegance model brings dual-zone climate control, folding door mirrors, cruise control and a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel as standard. It’s a blend of equipment, comfort, quality and space that has you looking twice in disbelief at the £14,560 price tag.

The list of positives continues with the clever engine. Even though the 1.4-litre is smaller in capacity than the units in the Golf and Mégane, a turbocharger helps it deliver more power and torque, as well as emit less CO2, than its 1.6-litre rivals.

There’s 122bhp on tap, while peak torque arrives at only 1,500rpm, so the Skoda is punchy and responsive from low in the rev range. It’s the heaviest car here, at 1,265kg, yet at the test track it covered 0-60mph in 9.1 seconds – more than a second faster than any competitor. Plus, the Octavia was the most responsive car in-gear. The engine’s smooth and refined nature is as appealing as its punch, and a six-speed gearbox ensures relaxed motorway cruising.

Refinement is excellent across the board. Wind and road noise are muted, while the supple suspension means the ride is superb.

You can tell the Octavia and Golf share underpinnings, as both have composed handling and accurate steering. But the Skoda’s softer suspension means more body movement in bends. Weight transfer is always well controlled, though, and the car inspires as much confidence as the VW.

While it isn’t as dynamically sharp as the Civic, the Czech model strikes a fine balance between comfort and handling, so keen drivers won’t be disappointed, especially when they look at the package as a whole. It’s cheap, generously equipped, spacious and very well built – and sets a high benchmark for its rivals to beat.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: Czech hatchback is a family favourite, and has just benefited from a mid-life makeover.

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