Long term test report: Skoda Octavia Greenline II 1.6 TDI
Matthew Carter tells us the latest news of his long term Skoda Octavia
As winter gets its drawers on, my thoughts have turned to tyres. Not a rush to fit winter boots and pray for snow, you understand… just a slight concern that the low rolling resistance tyres that the Octavia GreenLine has as standard might prove worse than useless if things turn slippery. So I’ve been speaking to the Michelin man (not Bibendum himself but a chap at the company who knows about these things). The first thing he did was reassure me that the Michelin Energy tyres would be no worse than ‘ordinary’ summer tyres in winter. In fact, he confessed, most regular tyres these days have adopted reduced rolling resistance technology in the name of economy, so the vast majority of us are all in the same boat whether or not we run ‘eco’ tyres. So if winter stays as mild as it has been to date, I will be fine.
In the meantime, I’ve been taking advantage of one of the Octavia’s USPs. Thanks to its sub 100g/km CO2 emissions, the Skoda is exempt from London’s congestion charge so just before Christmas I decided to breeze into town to do some shopping. Big mistake! While driving into the centre of the city was free, I needed a mortgage to park it: meter charges far outweighed the cost of taking the tube. The next time I venture into London, therefore, I won’t be stopping but will benefit by being able to use those old back doubles previously denied to me by the advent of the charge zone.
Date arrived:11th July 2011
Mileage to date: 12,017miles
Fuel consumption: 74.3mpg (official combined) / 56.3mpg (on test)
I guess I must have upset Mr Editor at some point. He phoned the other day and announced, cheerfully, that I was to take charge of the Diesel Car long term Skoda Octavia. Now I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but my first thought was ‘why me?’ But that’s got nothing to do with the Skoda, which impresses me more each day I drive it. No, it’s the fact that the Octavia’s previous custodian was Sue Baker… and she’s been filling these pages with tales of extraordinary fuel consumption figures. She managed to squeeze 85.89mpg out of the thing on the recent MPG Marathon. How, on earth, am I going to match that?
I live in London and most of my driving is either spent stuck in a city traffic jam or bowling down a motorway, neither of which is conducive to strong economy figures. And yet so effective are the GreenLine’s economy tweaks that I am regularly seeing mpg figures in the high 50s and low 60s. OK, that’s some way short of what Sue achieves, but for me, that’s brilliant, especially as the standard stop/start function doesn’t seem to cut in as regularly as it should. Perhaps it doesn’t like the cold weather, but I need to keep an eye on this. Best of all, I don’t have to drive abnormally to get those figures. I go with the flow in traffic, changing up at around 2,000 to 2,500rpm, and I refuse to sit in the inside lane at 47mph in the name of saving fuel, though I am (relatively) religiously obeying the gear change indicator.
It also helps that the Octavia GreenLine II comes with very few ‘toys’ so one of the few things to play with is the unusually accurate fuel economy section of the trip computer… the game is to see how quickly I can get to start reading over 60mpg.
A week or so after picking the car from Sue, we bumped into each other and her first question was to ask what I thought of the car. I replied that it was one of the most honest cars I can think of. It’s never going to set the pulses racing but it does what it sets out to do quite brilliantly. Despite being a big, roomy, car, the 1.6-litre TDI engine never feels out of its depth while the ride comfort is limousine-strong. And as for the boot… well, it’s the first car I’ve run for some years that has room to spare after the weekly supermarket shop has been loaded.
The Octavia Greenline comes with very few ‘toys’ so one of the few things to play with is the unusually accurate fuel economy section of the trip computer.”
As Sue has mentioned previously, there are some irritating specification omissions. The lack of a rear wiper grates, while if I were buying the car new I’d pay an extra £300 for rear parking sensors. The bootline is so high and the car unusually long that parallel parking without electronic assistance is a skill I’m having to re-learn. My biggest gripe so far, though, centres on the Columbus Sat Nav, a £1,515 option fitted to the car. It’s gone mad. The other day it tried to tell me I was in Germany. Yesterday it had me driving up a river and it regularly reckons I’m ploughing through fields. Mind you, Columbus himself made a career out of getting lost: in 1492, he discovered the Bahamas when looking for Japan, for example. A quick trawl of the excellent Skoda Owners forum (briskoda.net) revealed that I am not alone in having problems with this system. According to a number of discussions on the site, the cause of the problem is down to dodgy GPS antenna connections preventing it from ‘seeing’ any satellites. A trip to a dealer is called for. I also have to say I’m not impressed with what the system offers for the price: there’s no Bluetooth, no accessible hard drive on which to store music and only a single CD disc player. For the time being, then, my trusty TomTom is on official Skoda duty.
The trusty Skoda distinguished itself on this year’s MPG Marathon, proving that with judicious driving, a largish family car can achieve a remarkably good result in an economy trial. Considering that this is a car some four and a half metres long, weighing the thick end of two tonnes, I was pretty proud of it for recording an average miles-per-gallon figure in the mid-80s over two exhausting days of be-stickered fuel-sipping purgatory.
Here’s a confession. When you have spent interminable hours pussyfooting around the countryside in obsessive eco mode, it is almost impossible to resist the urge to splurge on the way home. So I did. Heading east after the marathon for the homeward haul, I couldn’t resist flooring the throttle, braking with impunity, liberally stoking the gearbox and generally driving in a manner that was more red mist than frugal green. Result: Economy halved. Fuel consumption for the two and a half hour homeward trip slumped to an all time low, during my time with the Octavia, of 45.8mpg. I felt both liberated and ridiculously guilty. It just goes to show the difference that your driving style can make.
Skoda is currently on a roll, with enough canny, unsnooty customers to keep its dealers very busy. But it still suffers from badge snobbery. Less well-informed chums who drive premium brand models still tend to curl their nostrils slightly at the green arrow badge. More fool them.