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Driven: Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI. Image by Skoda.

Driven: Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI
The Skoda Octavia facelifted. Still brilliant, if you can ignore what’s happened to its face...

   



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Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: Refinement, cabin space and quality, smooth drivetrain, effortless road manners, equipment levels

Not so good: Those split headlights will divide opinion...

Key Facts

Model tested: Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 150 SE L
Price: Octavia Estate range starts from £18,395; TDI 150 SE L from £24,565, car as tested £28,085
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 113g/km (£160 VED first 12 months, £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 65.7mpg
Top speed: 134mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Power: 150hp at 3,500- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 340Nm at 1,750- to 3,000rpm

Our view:

It was just one of those weeks. The revised Skoda Octavia Estate MkIII was booked in for seven days of testing with us and, at first, all we had to do with it was run down to the Cotswolds and back for a one-day event. Simple enough, really, about 240 miles all-in and no major bother. Sweet.

And then The Boss emailed to ask if it would be possible to do another couple of single-day trips in the same week. Trips that necessitated going to East Sussex and then to Norfolk. All on consecutive days with the gig over in the West Country. Which meant that the Skoda was now facing a gruelling 640-mile trek that would take in practically every major A-road and motorway in the southern half of England in the process. Riiiiight...

Mind you, there are few cars better for this sort of mind-numbing, long-slog driving than a 2.0-litre diesel Octavia wagon. It's a shame it didn't have Skoda's excellent DSG auto or active cruise control to further smooth out the repetitive motorway marathons, but as a high-ranking SE L model it did come with most of the desirable luxuries (including plain old cruise control) already fitted. Options on our car included the gorgeous 9.2-inch Columbus sat-nav/infotainment system with WiFi (£1,050), Qi wireless phone charging (£300) and 18-inch Alaris alloys (£400), plus Park Assist and a rear-view camera (£590 and £375 respectively), and a few other sundry items besides.

These toys resulted in an Octavia Estate with a middling-to-upper drivetrain configuration that nevertheless cost more than £28,000, which seems a lot when you can get into the basic version for almost ten grand less. But the Octavia SE L feels really high quality inside, even if that massive touchscreen shows up greasy fingerprints easily. We've always liked the way Skoda marks out its cluster dials, making them look like the faces of expensive watches, and the quality of all the major controls and switchgear feels first-class. Honestly, it is every bit as appealing as a Volkswagen Golf - and it still pulls off the classic Octavia trick of being a C-segment-sized and priced car, that is as big (if not bigger) inside than machines from the Ford Mondeo class.

Indeed, the facelift has simply polished all the typically understated but alluring Skoda excellence that was always inherent in the Octavia anyway. The steering is sharper than we remember it on the pre-facelift cars, with good heft and directness to it. The body control is of a standard that means hustling the Skoda along is pleasant enough work; here, the best news is that despite its physical presence, back-road driving is where the Skoda feels most like a C-segment hatch. It's not actively thrilling, but the Octavia is extremely composed and grippy, and no less dull to steer than the Golf or the Audi A3 which it shares its platform with, for instance.

Nevertheless, the Skoda truly shines once on bigger roads, where the epic refinement of its drivetrain, ride quality and noise suppression makes the Octavia an absolute grandmaster on motorways. On its first giant stint down the A46 and M1, round the western half of the M25 and then along the breathtakingly beautiful A22 (try it sometime; there can't be many A-roads in Britain that go through much prettier scenery than this... most of Scotland excepted, of course), it ticked off 200 miles-plus of late afternoon/early evening drudgery with consummate ease. It even gave back 62.1mpg in the process, too.

And then it hauled from Uckfield to Hethel in Norfolk in similarly stodgy rush-hour traffic as if it were simply popping down to the local Asda for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. The very next day it made mincemeat of a 160-mile route east to west across a wide variety of single- and dual-carriageway A-roads linking Norfolk to Northleach in Gloucestershire. Its final gig was a thrash up the Fosse Way (A429/B4455), during which time it was gamely up for repeated overtakes on some of the long straights of the Roman road and fast-flowing driving when the corners came. Remarkable.

All told, it was an imperious performance from one of our favourite C-segment... actually, scratch that, one of our favourite cars of any segment. The Skoda Octavia Estate remains a car that is extremely strong in every department. It's just those quad headlights of the facelift. Why, Skoda, why?! Some people might like them and find them distinctive, but we've tried to like them, and yet we can't. They're overly fussy and bizarrely ill-resolved, especially that descending central pair which frame the wider, Kodiaq-sourced grille. What we wouldn't give for some one-piece items either side of the radiator, rather like the pre-facelift clusters, in fact.

So we'll conclude with this little snippet of buying advice: definitely get yourself an Octavia Estate if you're in the C- or D-segment markets, looking for a blindingly good, well-specified car at a reasonable price. And then paint it black (no comma, there, like the Rolling Stones' song), because that is the colour which best disguises this brilliant Czech machine's one weakness - the accursed headlights that make it look like a strange homage to the Griswolds' Family Truckster in Metallic Pea.

Alternatives:

Audi A3 Sportback: We're being naughty and listing only the in-house alternatives. Audi doesn't do an estate A3, so the Sportback is as practical as you get. And it ain't half as practical as the Skoda.

SEAT Leon ST: Like Skoda, SEAT has just facelifted its C-segment machine and it hasn't gone and ruined the Leon's appearance. The SEAT is sharper to drive, but it's not as big inside and has a less impressive dashboard.

Volkswagen Golf Estate: Loads of badge cred here and detractors of the Octavia will always say the Golf is the better car, but we can't fathom why you'd have the smaller vehicle that costs more cash.


Matt Robinson - 11 Aug 2017



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2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.

2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.2017 Skoda Octavia facelift. Image by Skoda.








 

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