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New Skoda Octavia Estate 2024 review: facelifted family wagon shines

The Skoda Octavia is at its most practical in estate form and there’s still a diesel for the real traditionalists

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

We’d like to think there’s still a place in this world for a diesel wagon, and the updated Skoda Octavia Estate is a fine example of the breed. It has more than enough space for most use cases, and a plusher, better-equipped cabin than before. We’d stick with cheaper regular versions over Sportline for a more comfy ride because if anything, the revised kit lists have pushed the big-value sweet spot slightly further down the range. And as before, the Octavia Estate plays best as a ultra-capable, long-distance, comfy cruiser. At this game, there are few that can truly rival it.

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The Skoda Octavia is known in the UK as a Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus rival – but it’s actually a bigger seller as an estate – marginally so in the UK, and overwhelmingly so across continental Europe. The model as a whole is a core product for Skoda, despite its proliferation of SUVs and big plans for all-electric models. So the stakes are high for this new facelifted version of the Skoda Octavia Estate.

The wagon gets the same basic upgrades as its hatchback cousin – which add up to a neat bit of restyling and some useful additions to the standard kit list. The new design extends to revised daytime-running lights and matrix-LED headlights, a more sophisticated front bumper with cleaner surfacing, new tail-lights with animated ‘welcome’ functionality and some fresh alloy wheels and colour options.

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There’s a notable tweak in the Octavia engine line-up, where the previous three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol motor has been dropped in favour of a slightly more powerful 1.5–litre four-cylinder unit. It produces 114bhp and 220Nm of torque, and is available, depending on trim level, as a cheaper alternative to the usual 1.5-litre 148bhp motor. Both of these engines get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but you can have them both with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto too – and that version comes with 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance to help improve fuel economy.

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Perhaps more significantly for the load-lugging estate car market, Skoda continues to offer the Octavia Estate with a couple of diesel options – a 2.0-litre motor in two states of tune, 114bhp and 148bhp. A six-speed manual is the standard gearbox on the lower-powered version, while the more potent configuration – the car we’re driving here – gets the seven-speed automatic, but does without the petrol model’s hybrid tech.

On the road, the 2.0 TDI does a terrific job of reminding you how effective a diesel powertrain can still be – deserving of far more sales, in fact, than it’s likely to get, given market trends. There’s more than 120Nm of additional torque here compared with the 1.5-litre 148bhp petrol, and even with the load bay relatively empty, you can certainly feel it. There’s more than enough shove from less than 1,500rpm and in general, you’re done and dusted and up to the next gear before 2,700rpm, with the minimum of fuss.

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This, in turn, means that the gearbox is hopping around all over the place, but most of the time, it manages to perform the necessary manoeuvres smoothly and slickly. It’s best at a cruise, really, although if you do decide to ramp up the pace and use the (cheap-feeling) shift paddles at the rear of the steering wheel, it’ll perform snappily. It’s at low speeds, as usual, where DSG can be exposed, with the occasional jerky shift or flare-up of driveline shunt – but these are relatively rare.

Even so, there’s no doubt that this engine makes the most sense if you’re planning to properly fill the Octavia Estate’s boot and/or all of its seats. It’s more than fast enough and those reserves of low-down torque mean you’ll rarely have to rev the engine beyond its usual slightly raspy, but generally inoffensive drone.

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The heavier engine makes the diesel Octavia perhaps a teeny bit more nose heavy, but its steering, handling and composure remain assured, if uninvolving. The best you can hope for, really, is the satisfaction of stroking the car down a fast, flowing road, because it will come unstuck by its own size and mass (as well as the gearbox) if you try to fling it around on twistier routes.

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The body control is probably a little more focused in the Sportline edition we’re trying here. It gets suspension lowered by 15mm and 18-inch alloys as standard, but it wouldn’t be our top pick from the range, frankly; it’s not uncomfortable but there’s an undeniable murmur from beneath you, as the car picks up more road imperfections than any of its more conventionally set up stablemates would. 

There’s a bit more road noise transmitted, too; we’d be inclined to stick with an SE L wagon on 17-inch wheels instead. Unless, that is, you’re desperate to have the slightly sportier look, achieved through gloss-black trim elements and more aggressive bumpers.

It’s not as if the more modest Octavias want for standard kit anyway, thanks to useful upgrades introduced with this facelift. The entry point for the range, SE Technology, gets a whopping 13-inch infotainment screen, front and rear parking sensors, heated front seats and a plethora of high-powered USB-C ports – as well as 16-inch alloy wheels. It’s available with both diesels but only the lower-powered petrol.

The SE L steps up to 17-inch wheels (not an issue for comfort, based on our experience with a pre-facelift car) and brings animated LED tail-lights, heating on the (two-spoke) steering wheel and windscreen, and a powered tailgate with gesture control. This is offered with both diesels again, but only the higher-powered petrol. And the Sportline driven here is restricted to just the high-powered petrol, in manual form, and the 148bhp diesel auto.

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The sheer amount of cabin and boot space have always been key qualities of the Skoda Octavia Estate, and they remain so here – but are joined by plush, well-judged finishes across the entire range. The Estate boot comes in at a whopping 640 litres with the rear seats in place, and you can boost this to 1,700 litres by folding down the second row; either way, you’ve a capacity that trumps those of the Octavia’s obvious Stellantis competitors, the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer and the Peugeot 308 SW.

Neither of those cars is available with a diesel option, though they are offered with the choice of a plug-in hybrid powertrain that could make them more appealing to company-car choosers. Skoda has elected not to include a PHEV in the Octavia range – but the tech is available within the wider VW Group and with the way the market is going, the smart money is on one arriving within the next 18 months.

Model:Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI DSG Sportline
Price:£32,700
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
Power/torque:148bhp/360Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
0-62mph:8.6 seconds
Top speed:139mph
Fuel economy:61.2mpg
CO2 emissions:121g/km
L/W/H:4,698/1,829/1,486mm
On sale:Now
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Editor-at-large

John started journalism reporting on motorsport – specifically rallying, which he had followed avidly since he was a boy. After a stint as editor of weekly motorsport bible Autosport, he moved across to testing road cars. He’s now been reviewing cars and writing news stories about them for almost 20 years.

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