I’ve been writing about cars for 20 years and in that time Iíve seen Skodaís products go from worthy but dull, to class leading. Owners love them and even reviewers, a notoriously difficult bunch to satisfy, write very positive things about the cars of this Volkswagen Group subsidiary. The turning point for Skoda came with the original Octavia, launched in 1996. This was the first model from the brand to be based on a Volkswagen platform and as a result it was modern, efficient, safe and good to drive.
In the intervening 21 years, Skoda has replaced the Octavia twice and the third iteration has recently gone under the knife, which is why weíre running one of these updated hatches for the upcoming months. The obvious change is the redesigned nose, which has distinct overtones of the pre-facelift previous-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class. I think the facelift is a retrograde step aesthetically, but the refresh ushers in a raft of new technology which is rather more welcome.
Some of the gadgets now fitted includes wireless phone charging, a much-upgraded multi-media system and the ability to set up an in-car wi-fi hotspot. Thereís a load of new safety features too, including an autonomous emergency braking system with predictive pedestrian protection, of which Iím hoping wonít be put to the test during my tenure.
Iíll cover this new technology in the coming issues but my first impressions are incredibly positive ñ to the point where Iím already plotting how to keep the car for longer than the allotted six months. The acid test with any car up for review is whether or not I would buy one with my own money. At the time of writing weíve covered 1,500 miles in a month and on the strength of this the answer is a resounding yes ñ thereís much to love and very little to dislike about the Octavia.
Until the arrival of our test car, I would have plumped for one of the smart-looking estates; a car which recently notched up a Diesel Car award for being the best medium estate on the market. Iím a big fan of cargo carrying cars this size, but the hatchís boot is so cavernous that Iím not sure Iíd need the extra space afforded by one; weíll see in the next six months whether I manage to exhaust the supply of luggage bay space at any point.
Having enjoyed a pre-facelift Octavia vRS for three weeks earlier this year, our SEL 2.0 TDI initially seemed slow in comparison. Our car has 148bhp compared with the 181bhp of the vRS; I didnít expect the difference to be as noticeable. But while our Octavia isnít sporty, itís plenty quick enough and as it sits towards the top of the model range, it has plenty of buttons to press and the cabin is very well appointed. As a result it feels genuinely special despite a relatively modest list price of £23,365 (but £26,695 as tested).
As I write this the Octavia has covered just over 4,000 miles in all. So the engine has loosened up pretty well and the near-52mpg that weíve averaged is no disappointment for such a big and luxurious car. Iím already starting to see why the Octavia does so well in all of those customer ownership surveys…
Date arrived 2nd May 2017
Fuel economy urban/extra urban/combined 55.4/72.4/65.7mpg On test 51.8mpg
The LED headlights are quite superb. They have a good spread and reach of light, while the daylight-balanced colour temperature is perfect.
The air vents on top of the dash reflect badly in the windscreen.