Things absolutely got arise for Skoda in 1996 with the Octavia. Volkswagen, the company’s owner, had been bluffing about with the acclaimed Czech marque for bristles years. It reskinned the Favorit auto as the 1994 Felicia, which did well, but by mid-decade VW bang-up Ferdinand Piech had investments and bodies in abode for a additional archetypal and new architecture bang-up Dirk van Braeckel was active at the cartoon board.
This was VW at its pomp, awash with such aplomb that Piech accustomed a additional activity for Skoda’s admired Octavia name on a four-door auto based on the fourth-generation Golf.
Skoda congenital about 400,000 of the aboriginal Octavia amid 1959 and 1971. The name’s additional bearing did alike better. In 1997, its aboriginal year on sale, the Octavia represented 16 per cent of absolute Skoda production, 40 per cent by 1998 and by 2000 it was the acknowledged Skoda model.
With a few blips, that’s the way it’s stayed, with 2018 sales of 388,200 from factories in Mladá Boleslav in the Czech Republic, as able-bodied as in India, Russia and China.
Though it looked hardly awkward over the almost abbreviate Golf Mk4 platform, the 1996 Octavia broke into a bazaar for no-frills, reliable artlessness from the added affluent average classes in Eastern Europe and Russia, but additionally from Britain – decidedly amid adolescent families and earlier folk. The agitation is, as adventurous French artisan Eugène Delacroix already acicular out: “A aftertaste for artlessness cannot aftermost for long.”
By 2004, the second-generation Octavia advised beneath Thomas Ingenlath (now arch controlling of the Geeley/Volvo-owned Polestar brand) had bigger dimensions, four-wheel-drive models and the high-performance vRS; in India it was alleged Laura.
That trend connected with the 2012 Jozef Kabaň-designed Mk3; bigger central and out, with a host of little capacity like an in-cabin debris bin and an ice scraper in the fuel-filler cap. The RS alike had an bogus babble enhancer; simple cars aloof aren’t that simple.
As the Octavia got bigger and added refined, it additionally grew added expensive, blander and was starting to be attenuate and outsold by rivals. So, there’s a lot benumbed on this Mk4 model, which was appear in Prague aftermost November, but with its barrage arrange ravaged initially by Volkswagen afraid not to draw assimilation from its then-new Mk8 Golf and again Covid-19.
Lockdown altitude meant that our aboriginal aftertaste of the Mk4 Octavia is this station-wagon with a agent agent and a DSG twin-clutch gearbox.
You’ll accept to apprehend amid the curve a bit, but these barrage “first editions” are heavily loaded with accessories and big-ticket – the acreage adds amid £970 and £1,400 over the amount of the hatchback. Skoda sells over 50 per cent of Octavia models as estates in the UK and an alike college admeasurement in acreage Europe, area the Octavia is one of the continent’s best accepted cutting brakes.
It’s a appealing handsome car, too, with roof confined and accomplished chromium window curve that beard the hardly mumsy roofline, forth with a heavily angled tailgate which gets a roof addle-brain to acceleration the air off the car and accomplish abiding the dogs don’t bake.
With the caron aback on the S of the Škoda badge, the new Octavia feels actual developed up; book it beneath A for ‘A Lot Of Car For The Money’.
Just three engines are accessible at launch, a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbo petrol (badged 1.5 TSI 150) and a 2.0-litre TDI turbo agent with 113bhp or 148bhp. In time we’ll see the ambit aggrandize to accommodate a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo petrol and balmy and constituent amalgam models, as able-bodied as souped-up vRS and a Scout 4×4 version.
And while these barrage models are animadversion at the aperture of £32,000, Skoda says it will accept a sub-£20,000 Octavia acreage on auction by the end of the year.
The autogenous will appear as a welcome, if hardly intimidating, abruptness to owners of antecedent Octavias; it’s absolutely rather admirable and not at all simple. With seven trim changes on the dashboard alone, the Octavia feels added like a Golf acreage or alike an Audi A3 than a account offering.
There’s chromium highlighting, electrically adjustable and acrimonious seats, defrosting aperture mirrors, an e-call SOS button and a £1,150 across-the-board sunroof. The heavily bolstered seats accept such a ambit of acclimation that, with the reach- and rake-adjustable steering, you’d fit the Sasquatch in there. The aperture pockets are a appropriate size, the centre animate is a baby cube and the glovebox is, well, beyond than most.
The rear seats feel hardly too upright, like Victorian dining chairs, but there’s lots of leg and arch allowance alike with that sunroof abbreviation it by an inch. The bench backs bend 60/40 per cent, but there’s a abundant ski hole, which doubles as an armrest. Shame the bench backs abandoned bend assimilate the bases so the 640-litre amount amplitude isn’t absolutely flat, but there’s a apocryphal cossack floor, which is a advantageous abode to abundance the cossack tonneau.
There’s 18-carat anticipation rather than gimmicks in here, with four mini USB ports (so you’ll allegation advocate plugs for earlier phones), a cossack 12v allegation socket, a amount abstemiousness and, yes, a Skoda ice scraper still lives in the fuel-filler bear and an awning is furled in the door.
The dashboard is not the easiest affair to learn, with some actively complicated, rock, cycle and circle switches on the council caster and no aback buttons or rotary dials on the touchscreen; you can change the berth calefaction with a distinct touch, but added complicated acclimation takes several presses and your eyes abroad from the alley for longer.
You additionally accept to about-face off the annoying, steering-corrupting lane-keeping abettor every time you alpha the engine, which is an NCAP assurance claim aback touchscreen aberration is such an issue. The touchscreen cartoon are ablaze and bright, which is added than can be said for the aggressive acid articulation abettor that butts in at every opportunity.
Oh and the stereo ability be OK for alert to artificial Skoda agent Paloma Faith singles, but aloof not loud abundant for AC/DC or Rory Gallagher.
For some readers, us testing a agent car is like contagion Easter bunnies, but it’s account abandoning that not so connected ago the VW Accumulation 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo agent was one of the best thermally able prime movers in the world.
New and added acrimonious analysis procedures (bought about partly because of VW’s agent analysis cheating) accept dug into that supremacy and the added aboveboard bang phases accept added agitation knock, but this agent is still appealing impressive. It’s powerful, with a alpine beachcomber of torque from low bottomward the rev range, and already up to acceleration it’s quiet and analytic refined.
Not assertive the analysis burning of 62mpg, I arrested the odometer twice, but it’s true. If you drive a lot of miles, agent can still deliver, although Skoda won’t be appraisement the Octavia to the RDE2 accepted until the autumn so aboriginal agent models are accountable to the added VED rate.
The twin-clutch gearbox is bland and changes quickly, but as anon as you change the active approach to Sport it changes out of top accessory and clatters bottomward the ratios as you slow. With Eco approach actuality apparent annoying, it’s best to leave the arrangement in Normal.
Dynamically the Octavia is an absorbing mix. The abeyance is a MacPherson strut at the front, with a twist-beam rear (although 4×4 versions will accept absolutely absolute rear end).
But in animosity of the abstruse drawbacks of the rear suspension, antecedent bang assimilation is bendable and compliant. There’s a fair bit of backlash acerbity in the damping so it recovers bound and feels adaptable rather than bendable and wallowy.
The check (and a ancillary aftereffect of this array of abeyance set-up) is a hardly bulky amble on almost bland anchorage and alley babble on abrasive surfaces. It’s absolutely clever, however, and feels adequate on connected journeys and able-bodied ill-fitted to UK roads.
The council is low-geared (perhaps that’s why the caster is small), but the 17-inch admixture auto and almost alpine 205/55 Continental tyres turn-in abundantly after too abundant sidewall slop. It feels accurate rather than chill and the anatomy heels over a bit in corners, but a blubbery advanced anti-roll bar stops it falling over on its advanced caster aback it meets a corner.
Comfort is, of course, what Skoda does and this archetype does it actual well.
We’ve been told that bodies accept been in lockdown surfing the net and attractive at all address of high-performance, cool and eco cars, but aback our anxiety appear aback to the arena it’s cars such as the Octavia that best of us end up driving.
In this Mk4 form, this rightly-popular car has taken a footfall advanced in berth affection and acumen as able-bodied as actuality one of the best-driving and adequate Octavias ever.
A actual solid four stars, then, but for this accurate model, that £30,000-plus amount keeps it off the best spot.
2020 Skoda Octavia SE L Aboriginal Edition estate
TESTED 1,968cc, four-cylinder turbodiesel, seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox, front-wheel drive
PRICE/ON SALE from 29,515 (£31,440 as tested)/now
POWER/TORQUE 148bhp @ 3,000rpm, 250lb ft @ 1,700rpm
TOP SPEED 137mph
ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 8.8sec
FUEL ECONOMY 60.1mpg (WLTP Combined), 62mpg on test
CO2 EMISSIONS 97g/km
VED £145 aboriginal year, again £150
VERDICT Amount admitting (there will be cheaper and added big-ticket versions to come), the Mk4 Octavia is a actual absorbing allotment of kit. The perceived affection of the berth is top of the chic and the dynamics are good, with a accomplished ride and abundant bigger handling. Whether you’d accept to absorb as much, or baddest this turbodiesel agent and semi-auto gearbox combination is a arguable point, but they will acceptable be an Octavia to clothing best tastes and pockets.
TELEGRAPH RATING Four stars out of five
Toyota Corolla acreage 2.0 VVT-I CVT, from £28,825
Toyota’s new Corolla comes with two amalgam drivetrains and the beyond 2.0-litre adaptation is the abundant the best impressive. The Corolla acreage is able-bodied engineered and fabricated with a appropriate accepted specification. It drives able-bodied and is able-bodied priced. The ammunition burning is an absorbing 60.6mpg but you’ll not accomplish that if you don’t drive in town.
Ford Focus ST-Line 2.0L Ecoblue 150PS, from £27,095
ST-Line is one of the best accepted trim levels for the Focus. This adaptation gives a appropriate blueprint and the 148bhp turbodiesel with an eight-speed automated ‘box. Ford win the acclaim for its ride and administration in this class, although the berth isn’t up to the Skoda’s akin of fit and finish.
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer Elite Nav 1.6CDTi auto, from £27,895
Unloved at buyer PSA as they pay General Motors for every archetypal built, but a accomplished car nevertheless. The 1.6 agent is active and economical but needs revving, but the automated works able-bodied and the berth is able-bodied made, ample and comfortable.
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