New Skoda Octavia Estate 2020 review

The new family Skoda Octavia Estate ramps up the practicality and quality

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Verdict

As an all-round, do-it-all family car, the new Octavia Estate is difficult to fault. Skoda has worked exceptionally hard to ensure the newcomer feels more premium and sophisticated than ever – and it shows. The cabin is the best Skoda has ever made and, as you’d expect from an Octavia, it’s one of the most practical cars in its class. However, in this top-spec SE L First Edition trim, it isn’t cheap. Once Skoda has rolled out the full range of models, there’s likely to be better value for money elsewhere in the line-up, where it will possibly earn an extra half star.

Porsche has the 911, Land Rover the Defender, and Skoda has the Octavia. Sure, it’s not as glamorous, but this practical family car is a stalwart of the Czech firm’s line-up: one in three Skodas sold across the globe is an Octavia.

So when a new model comes around, it’s something the company can ill afford to slip up on. That’s especially true when a new VW Golf and SEAT Leon have arrived at the same time and while the latest Ford Focus is back to its very best.

We’ve already driven the Octavia in Germany, but now we have the family car in the UK for the first time. Initially the Octavia is offered in a pair of high-end trims: SE First Edition and SE L First Edition. It’s not uncommon for brands to launch with pricier trim levels, but with the Octavia, which usually focuses on value for money, we can’t help but think this tactic might see a few potential customers turning their nose up.

For now, the cheapest version you can buy comes in at £22,390. That gets you an Octavia hatch in SE First Edition trim with a 148bhp 1.5 TSI turbo petrol. Depending on engine and trim, the Octavia Estate has a premium of between £970 to £1,400. Our top-spec estate, fitted with a 148bhp 2.0 TDI diesel and DSG gearbox, is the most expensive version at launch, coming in at £29,515, which is a lot for an Octavia. 

But you can certainly see where that extra cash has been put to use. The new model has a far more elegant and premium look to it. And it’s the same story inside, where you’ll find a clean, sophisticated cabin that could genuinely belong to an Audi. It’s the best interior we’ve ever seen from Skoda.

The two-spoke steering wheel has a whiff of old Mercedes S-Class about it (which is no bad thing) and the new 10.25-inch infotainment system integrates neatly into a dip on the dashboard. Material quality is also very impressive.

That added layer of quality has also been applied to how the Octavia feels on the road, because it’s more polished and refined than ever. The 148bhp diesel engine is a known quantity, because it produces decent punch from low down in the rev range. There’s the usual diesel clatter as it makes its way from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds, but once at a cruise, the engine settles to a distant hum.

The seven-speed DSG gearbox slurs its way through the gears smoothly, and is a perfect match for the torquey diesel, the two pairing up to deliver effortless and refined progress. If you want a manual gearbox from launch, you’ll have to plump for the 113bhp 2.0-litre diesel.

Our test car was fitted with optional 18-inch alloy wheels and the standard passive suspension set-up; adaptive dampers are a £925 optional extra. Skoda has tweaked the springs and dampers over the outgoing model to give greater compliance, and it’s certainly noticeable; there’s real fluidity to the ride quality, although the soft set-up does mean the Octavia can feel a little loose if you hit a series of potholes. This is likely to be rectified in more powerful models that have four-wheel drive, because they will come with more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension. But on the whole the Octavia is a well judged and comfortable family car on the move.

Don’t expect any fireworks in the corners, though. Refinement and comfort, quite rightly, are what the Octavia has been set up for, so the body does lean in bends noticeably. The steering is very light, but there’s a decent amount of response and good front-end grip. A Ford Focus Estate is more entertaining, yet the Octavia claims a significant advantage when it comes to comfort, quality and refinement.

The car comes with a series of driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. Rather than improving the Octavia in any given area, the result is compromised; Sport encourages the transmission to hang on to gears for too long, taking the engine out of its peak operating window between 1,500rpm and 3,000rpm, while Eco blunts the engine’s response. In truth, you’re best off leaving the Octavia in Normal and forgetting those driving modes even exist.

The Octavia’s infotainment system is also worthy of mention. The 10.25-inch touchscreen display is completely new, features a crisp display, and is fast to respond. Physical temperature controls have been replaced to clean up the cabin, so a digital strip for the climate control comes in as a substitute and can be found at the lower edge of the display.

Trying to hit such small icons on the move is tricky, but Skoda has integrated several shortcut buttons for the climate control (admittedly behind another sub-menu), which include ‘warm my hands’ and ‘cool my feet’. When selected, they engage a series of presets without you having to program them individually on the move. Nice touch.

Although the Octavia is new, it’s not actually any larger than the previous model. The new bodywork has added a few extra millimetres to the length and width, but the wheelbase and amount of space inside are unchanged. Having said that, the Octavia remains one of the most practical cars in its class, especially as an estate, with a 640-litre boot rising to 1,700 litres with the rear bench folded. That figure is larger than the outgoing Octavia’s, but only due to the way Skoda now measures it; usable boot space remains unchanged.

Elsewhere inside, if you opt for a top- spec SE L First Edition model, you won’t be left wanting for kit. The 10.25-inch display with navigation, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, digital instruments, wireless Apple CarPlay (plus wired Android Auto) and dual-zone climate control are all standard. The glass panoramic roof is a nice but pricey option at £1,150, while some buyers may be disappointed to find that an automatic tailgate is a £640 option across the range.

Model:Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI SE L First Edition
Price:£29,515
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl diesel
Power/torque:148bhp/340Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:8.8 seconds
Top speed:137mph
Economy/CO2:52.3-60.1mpg/97g/km
On sale:Now

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