It's no secret that, over the last few years Skoda have come on leaps and bounds and the jokes have stopped; you now have to take Skoda very seriously as an option when looking at new cars. The previous Octavia was a very capable car, not class leading, but certainly better than the class average. The new Octavia is improved on almost every level and the price for many is the clincher. Look around and you'll see that some of the most discerning purchasers are buying Octavias.
Indeed, my first encounter with the Octavia was on a Friday night taxi ride to the pub when I was honestly struggling to work out what it was I was riding in. Bearing in mind that this was on the way to the pub, and not from, I was somewhat bemused. I actually had to ask the driver who proudly responded that it was a Skoda, an Octavia to be precise and that he and all his peers were buying them because they were cheap as chips and there was no reason to justify the extra expense of his usual Passat.
Looking at the outside the Octavia bears a very strong resemblance to the VW family but is distinguished by the large grille that it wears with pride. The looks couldn't be described as gorgeous, but it is classy and refined. The new model has grown in every direction and this swelling pays dividends in the interior. Though the outgoing Octavia is already roomy, the new car is very spacious indeed offering occupants front and rear plenty of leg, elbow and head room.
The driver's seat offers a wide range of adjustment and it may just be my imagination but I found it more comfortable than the Golf's
and found an almost ideal driving position very easy to come by. Firing the 2-litre in-line four-cylinder VW turbodiesel engine up one is immediately familiar with its gruff thrum. It isn't offensive but this unit is a bit louder than some of the competition; inside the car though it's well isolated.
The 140bhp engine also packs a 236lb.ft punch with very little lag, and pulls well from just under 2,000rpm. On the move it's a very amiable companion with the gobs of torque and subsequent long ratios leading to deceptively rapid progress with the minimum of exertion. The engine is happy to be revved but there is very little point and most people who would buy this car wouldn't drive it like that. The natural thing is to surf the wave of torque. Regardless of driving environment and manner the Octavia refused to drop below the 40mpg mark giving a cruising range of almost 500 miles.
Driving the car leaves a very positive impression. Sat in comfort one enjoys the quality of the gearshift and the well weighted controls. It's a nice car to drive, as well as to be a passenger in. The chassis offers a good ride quality and good handling that whilst capable enough, one would never call exciting. This is meant to be a comfortable family car though and it excels in this role.
The specification list is equally impressive. Climate control, a six CD changer, electric everything and all the safety features one would expect. Optional extras include high tech features such as tyre pressure monitors and active headrests but the standard specification contains everything you'd need really.
The Octavia may be a low rent VW in terms of the interior but given that VW is the best interior in the class then being the poorer relative isn't at all a bad thing. The cockpit is well up to the standard of the majority of the volume manufacturers; better than many. A handy trip computer helps you keep tabs on progress and equipment specifications are impressively high, further increasing the already high value quotient. As is almost traditional for Skoda now the Octavia offers the roominess and features of the competition in its class but at a price more in line with a car in the sector below and Skoda reliability is a given nowadays.
For excitement then look further down the price list to the forthcoming 150mph vRS flagship but in the context of real world, painless, economical and dependable motoring with the least compromise in terms of quality, comfort and refinement you may just be looking at one of the best cars on sale. A car that is far too good to be condemned to the taxi rank.