Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI review
Skoda's Octavia has long been a sensible choice - one picked by those that know plenty about cars, and recognise value for money when they see it. The new Octavia looks to build on this reputation, and offer even better value. Shifting away from the conservative and quietly stylish looks, the Skoda's latest model is more striking than before, and comes with improved kit thanks to a recent refresh across the family-sized hatchback models from the VW Group.
Review by Chris Lilly
Under the bonnet of the Octavia tested was the 1.0 litre, three-cylinder TSI petrol unit, which doesn't behave anywhere near as wheezily as you might think. The Octavia offers the space of a VW Passat at the price of a Golf, and putting a compact engine up front could sound fool-hardy, even in this age of downsizing and turbocharging. However, the unit is excellent. It's gutsy, frugal, and feels more like a 1.6 than a 1.0. It will pull keenly in any gear if you're in the right rev band. If the revs are too low, the engine will bog down and do almost nothing - at least that's what it seems. Just remember to change down a gear when approaching a junction, rather than lazily relying on the engine's torque, and all will be fine. Even pulling up hill with a fully-laden car, the 1.0 TSI performs well. A 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds is far from shabby, and the top speed of 126mph is more than enough for most drivers. The Octavia sits equally well at motorway speeds or pottering around town. The six-speed manual gearbox isn't the slickest around, but neither does it hinder driver's shifts. It's well matched to both the job and the car's character.
Like the engine's performance, the Octavia tested doesn't offer the last word in driving dynamics, but it's more than up to the task of day-to-day life. The steering is pretty accurate, and it's light too, helping make the Octavia nimble around town. The suspension is set to comfort rather than sporty, which means the Octavia is more at home on the motorway than along a twisty country road. Since this first scenario, along with tackling pock-market urban roads, is more likely to be encountered than a B-road blast, it makes the Octavia a more usable proposition compared to faster models. Long-distance driving is easy in the Skoda, and it cruises along nicely at speed. Those wanting a more engaging experience will be disappointed, but then they should know to look elsewhere anyway. Octavia buyers will have no complaints with its driving capabilities.
The big selling point of the Octavia is that you get a larger car than would be expected for your money, and this plan continues with this latest version. The hatchback model tested - an estate is also available - is spacious both in the cabin and the boot. Those sitting in the rear have oodles of head, leg, and shoulder room considering the the class the Octavia sits in. Up front, driver and passenger are well catered for too in terms of space. The load area out back is capacious even in the hatchback, swallowing all the kit and detritus a family needs to go on holiday with easily.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Octavia's cabin is excellent - but you would expect nothing less from a VW Group offering. Skoda doesn't get all the bells and whistles of the latest Golf and A3, but then with prices undercutting both by some margin, that's to be expected really. A new infotainment system is the primary change inside, with clearer graphics and a larger touchscreen interface. Using it can prove tricky over bumpy roads since the dials that could previously be used to zoom in on the map for example have now been removed for the sake of a clean design. Still, the rest of the controls feel as though they've been built with bomb-proof reliability and solidity. There's a great driving position for those sitting behind a good sized steering wheel, and ergonomics have been perfectly designed too. The design is solid if uninspiring, but it's much better than a host of other rivals.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The 1.0 TSI is the pick of the petrol units in terms of both fuel economy and car tax. According to official figures, the engine is able to return 58.9 MPG, while emitting 110 g/km CO2. This last figure means that first year VED comes in at £140, with the same figure due thereafter too. In the real-world, with yours truly behind the wheel, the Octavia averaged an exceptionally creditable 55.3 MPG after my time with it, covering more than 650 miles. Getting this close to an official fuel economy is rare, and on a long, motorway-heavy run, the Octavia managed to achieve 61.3 MPG after more than 160 miles of driving.
There isn't yet a Greenline version of the new Octavia, so for optimum green credentials, we shall have to wait until it comes out. However, the Octavia retains much of the previous models improvements in efficiency. Features such as a gear change indicator, reduced weight thanks to the latest MQB platform, and engine stop/start. The Skoda also features Drive Mode Select, which allows the driver to switch to Eco mode when they wish. This reduces the drain of the car's auxiliary systems, such as the air-conditioning, while also reducing throttle response on the manual model. Fitted with a DSG gearbox, it also improves the efficiency of the transmission's gear changes. A GreenScore screen rates how well you've been driving in terms of economy - giving feedback on how you can do better too. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 37.
The Octavia retains its value-for-money status with a good level of kit throughout the range. Even the test car's SE trim - one up from entry-level S - features 16-inch alloys, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, Drive Mode Select, dual-zone air-conditioning, electric windows all-round, infotainment system with Bluetooth, USB, DAB, and smartphone connectivity. A sat-nav system with WiFi using the touchscreen, was installed, along with the addition of metallic paint - but that's about it. And although the SE is low down the trim levels, it feels far from poverty-spec. That amount of kit in a car the size of the Octavia, and with the fuel economy on offer, all for less than £19,000 is extremely good.
Skoda hasn't messed about with a winning formula. The Octavia is still the go to choice for top value-for-money, and in fact Skoda has improved it with the recent changes. The new, more striking looks grow on you over time, and the Octavia looks more grown up than before. It's a solid choice for anyone wanting a Golf, but who can't afford one, or needs more space. The Octavia might not be the most exciting car around, but it remains one of the best all-rounders.
Model tested: Skoda Octavia SE 1.0 TSI 115PS
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.0 litre petrol / 110 g/km
Trim grades: S, SE, SE Technology, SE L, Laurin & Klement, vRS
On-road price: From £17,195. Price as tested £18,500 (£20,030 with options)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars