THE Octavia is the backbone of Skoda’s increasingly impressive model range, and is firmly established as the manufacturer’s most successful car.
From those dodgy early years, where there were more rattles than Mothercare, the Octavia has gone from strength to strength, picking up plaudits from critic and public alike.
This latest facelifted Octavia arrived on our roads in February and Skoda say that it has been thoroughly reworked with better looks, stronger performance and even better value for money.
And this new version is certainly going to do no harm to the company’s reputation.
Practical, well-built with a quality look and great value for money, it’s a difficult job making a case against the appeal of the Octavia if you’re in the market for a small family car.
Unflashy but sleek, with a smart-looking grille and headlight cluster, the Octavia has an understated look about it. Nothing to make it stand out, but confident with it.
The revised range now features four petrol units and three diesels.
There are 1.4, 1.4 turbo and 1.8 turbo petrols, plus 1.9 and two 2.0-litre turbodiesels.
I drove the 2-litre TDi, which had a good turn of speed. With 0-62mph figures of 9.,6 seconds, the Octavia more than delivers for a small family car.
And even more impressive w~s the pull through the gears. Right through the gearbox the Octavia delivers a surprising amount of oomph.
T~e six-shift gearbox is precIse and clean, slipping into each slot with an assured slot.
Sharing the same capabilities of many of its VW counterparts, the Octavia handles extremely well. Cornering is particularly good, and there’s a huge amount of grip and very little body lean. Steering is light and keeps you in touch with the tarmac.
The TDi I drove had the familiar diesel rasp but it was certainly was no worse than others in its class. Road noise is acceptable and there is very little wind noise. All the windows and doors are a tight fit.
It’s a big (small) family car but it doesn’t seem like it when you’re driving it. It’s got a tight turning circle and the rear parking sensors make parking simple.
You’ll have no problem keeping an eye on things all round the car – visibility is very good through all angles and the seats and steering wheel have enough adjustments to get the optimum driving position.
The seats are comfortable and a decent size.
Inside the cabin the theme of quality and value for money is continued. The most immediate feeling is one of space.
The Octavia is one of the biggest small family cars around and even taller occupants will have no problem stretching out both legs and heads (if you can stretch out a head).
In the be uncomfortable. The boot is massive, too, deep and wide, and will swallow up the kitchen sink without many problems.
All through the cabin the materials are solid and of a good quality. The plastics are soft and the dash is laid out in a sensible, practical fashion.
The ever-present green and silver Skoda brand colour scheme looks classy.
On the safety side, all Octavias have twin front and side airbags, although side curtain airbags are only an option for all but top-spec cars. Other standard safety features are ISOFIX child seat mounts and electronic brakeforce distribution.
There are seven trims in all for the Octavia range, from entry level S through to top of the range Scout (estate).
The entry level gets electric windows, central locking and a decent stereo but you need to move up the trims to get things like the touchscreeen CD / radio / MP3 player, electric rear windows. cruise control etc.
The Octavia comes in at just over £11,500 for the entry level 1.4 hatchback S level but my TDi, with extras in the SE trim, took that up to £19, 230.
But that is really good value for money in its class. It’s a big family car that has loads of room inside but handles like a much smaller car. The TDi is particularly nippy and is comfortable around town and on longer runs, with a comfortable ride.
The TDi also manages to return mpg figures of over 50 mpg which makes it even more of an attractive proposition economically.
And the reliability record of Skoda, with the backing of vw, is improving all the time.
It can’t be denied that the Octavia is right at the top of the league for value cars but that doesn’t mean it misses out on quality.
Move on up past the entry level models and you’ll get loads of kit, too.
Practical, great value for money and a decent drive – you can’t say much better for a family car.
SKODA OCTAVIA SE 2.0 TDI
Engine: 2-litre diesel Transmission: six-speed manual 0-62: 9.6
Top speed: 129mph
Combined mpg: 51.4mpg
OTR price from: £19,230