Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI 4x4

Latest Skoda family car gets go-anywhere traction. We drive estate

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The facelifted Octavia has Skoda’s new family look, yet it still doesn’t stand out from the crowd. The interior is smarter, but also remains rather bland. Skoda’s fundamental values of offering an easy-to-own, easy-to-drive, go-almost-anywhere machine are still in evidence, though, especially in the 4x4 model. And even committed diesel fans may be impressed by the refinement and poke of the 1.8 TSI petrol engine.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – that’s the mantra for Skoda’s facelifted Octavia family car.

So, it’s business as usual for the Czech model, with mild modifications, such as a thicker, chrome-rimmed grille and headlights with the car’s name written across them. Elsewhere, body-coloured rubbing strips and upgraded tail-lamps add class.

For the first time, the 1.8 TSI engine is offered with four-wheel drive – the set-up used to be reserved for the 2.0 petrol and 1.9 diesel. The new car costs £17,445, and its extra traction means 0-60mph in 8.1 seconds. The 4WD employs a fourth-generation Haldex system – the same as used by parent firm Volkswagen – to balance power between the front and rear wheels. Efficient design means this doesn’t limit our estate model’s boot space.

But on a slippery surface, it gives confidence, as the system seamlessly delivers maximum grip. During our exclusive first drive, it made unruffled progress over ice, mud and wet tarmac. We drove all three four-wheel-drive models in the refreshed Octavia range, and the 1.8 is the best. It delivers its 250Nm of torque from 1,500rpm, and is smooth and refined – unlike the turbodiesels, which rumble away like a pair of tractors!

The chassis offers impressive refinement, while a well judged suspension set-up means that the ride is never harsh. We were also impressed by the steering, which offers accuracy and good feedback on slippery surfaces. While the brakes are strong, we’d like more feel from the pedal. Still, the stability control is effective, while the car retains its slick road manners.

As well as a new drivetrain, the Octavia gets an upgraded interior. This brings a smart leather steering wheel from the Superb, as well as a VW-style touchscreen to control the sat-nav and stereo, plus seats with anti-whiplash headrests. Add in tasteful metal detailing, and the overall impression remains fuss-free and solidly built.

Rival: Ford Focus Estate Blending a practical load bay with good looks and decent economy, the Focus Estate is a capable all-rounder. It drives superbly, too, although depreciation can be heavy Sas there are so many around.

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