Skoda’s Octavia set fair to fill big market hole

IS SENSIBLE enough? Probably not. If you want a purely functional vehicle, there are many cheaper than Skoda’s third-generation Octavia. If, on the other hand, you want good common sense mixed with a warm feel-good factor that reminds you how wise your purchase was, Skoda’s now Mondeo-sized and much-improved mid-ranger could be just the ticket.
Skodas third-gen Octavia is bigger and better, and cruising for mid-range market actionSkodas third-gen Octavia is bigger and better, and cruising for mid-range market action
Skodas third-gen Octavia is bigger and better, and cruising for mid-range market action

There’s always been substance to the Octavia, and this third-generation car, which despite its Golf underpinnings moves up a size into Mondeo and Insignia territory, explores that theme still further. The look may be evolutionary, but this platform has real legs. Get used to it as it’ll be sticking with us for quite some time.

The Octavia’s engine line-up will look familiar to anyone who, perhaps not realising the increase in size of this new design, may be considering a slightly smaller Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon as an alternative purchase. Four turbocharged powerplants are offered: 105PS 1.2, 140PS 1.4 and 180PS 1.8-litre petrols and 105PS 1.6 and 150PS 2.0-litre diesels. A Greenline version of the 1.6 TDI diesel that emits just 89g/km of CO2 is available too. Four-wheel drive has also been developed, along with a vRS sports model and a Scout version of the estate with additional body cladding and raised ride height.

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Like the rest of its sibling vehicles in the Volkswagen empire, this Octavia rides on the modular MQB chassis, which means that it will ride well, handle competently and won’t cost the earth to develop.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the Octavia has grown, and by quite some amount. The third-generation model is 90mm longer and 45mm wider than the second-generation Octavia. At the same time, the wheelbase has grown by 108mm, mainly benefiting the interior and space on the rear seats. The boot has increased in space to 590 litres. A typical family hatch such as a Ford Focus boasts 320 litres. Now you see how far the Octavia has stepped up in size.

Despite the notchback design, it remains a five-door car with a massive tailgate. There’s a really crisp, architectural neatness to the exterior design and detailing, with plenty of shape in the flanks, an elegant sweep to the roofline and a refreshing simplicity to the front end. Less really is more here. It’s a great piece of work. The interior is similarly simple and elegant as a result. 
Materials quality has improved and there’s stacks of clever storage ideas.

The current range of petrol and diesel powerplants looks a good starting point but expect this to be rapidly extended with bigger and more powerful engines. Prices look to have crept up by around £2,000 at the entry level, with around £16,000 marking the entry point to the Octavia range, but this is now a significantly bigger and better equipped car than before. And given that the Ford Mondeo range kicks off at more than £18,000, the Octavia starts to look very reasonable value for money.

You’ll need to ascend to the upper specification variants to get features such as swipe control functions for the touch screen system. Likewise automatic parking assistance and adaptive cruise control will require you to fork out a good deal more than 16 grand.

Skoda’s engineers have achieved significant improvements in fuel consumption and emission figures thanks to advanced petrol and diesel engines, a low drag coefficient and reduced vehicle weight. The 1.6 TDI Greenline version of the Octavia underscores this commitment to efficiency with CO2 emissions of only 89 g/km and consumes a mere 3.4 litres of diesel per 100 km, which in old money is around 83mpg. Except for the entry-level petrol and diesel option, all engines are available in a fuel-efficient version with a start-stop system and recuperation.

Cars such as the Peugeot 508, the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Insignia will all be fair game for the aggressively priced Octavia. What’s particularly interesting is that those models have all seen the big threats to their market share come from the premium models of BMW, Audi and Mercedes – and in response they’ve become more expensive and better finished as a result. This leaves a huge hole in the market into which the hefty Octavia can now settle. It’s a nailed-on winner. The established players should be very worried indeed.