Thursday 24th September 2020
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Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

Long term test: 2014 Skoda Octavia Estate
Adam Towler currently has a high-spec Skoda Octavia Estate on loan for a few months. With baby no. three arriving this year it should make another welcome addition to the family...


About the author:

A lifelong car enthusiast, Adam began his career in motoring journalism at Autocar Magazine in 2003, eventually holding the title of Road Test Editor. He subsequently edited the popular Pistonheads website before turning freelance in 2007. Since then his work has appeared regularly in titles across the spectrum of motoring media, including Top Gear, EVO, Octane and Classic Cars. He is also currently a regular motoring reviewer for the Express national newspaper at the weekend. Adam loves most types of cars, but has a particular obsession with classic French hot hatches and older Porsches, along with a keen interest in historic and modern motor sport. If it's not cars, you'll probably find him immersed in the world of old aircraft.

Follow Adam Towler on Twitter: @AdamTowler

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  1 October, 2015
The Skoda's multimedia lead has arrived. Just to recap, instead of a more conventional USB socket, our Laurin & Klement features a 'Mitsumi Apple connection' charged at an additional £100, but unfortunately no lead was present so it was about as much use as a D90 tape (that's a strange rectangular object we used to listen to music off when I was young, kids, before that antique called the CD came along. Anyway...).

To be honest, although the lead allows you to charge your iPhone and listen to your music through the infotainment system, I haven't yet worked out what benefits it brings over a simple old USB. Not sure that's a great use of £100!

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  1 September, 2015
The DSG twin clutch gearbox on Ďmyí Skoda has become one of the cornerstones of its appeal, suiting the laid-back character and dynamics of the car. However, it frustrates during low-speed manoeuvring. Imagine you need to do a three-point turn in a hurry: the gearbox suddenly feels very lazy - you have to wait for the next gear to select and if you rush it, then youíre subjected to a sudden surge as gear and throttle opening combine in a horrible lurch. The same can happen if you need to pull out of a stationary junction, and this is compounded by the stop-start system. At times like these, the simplicity and control of a manual would be very nice indeed!

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  1 August, 2015
At last, a big journey to really put the Skoda through its paces. Don't get me wrong; the Octavia is ideal for the dull, monotonous mileage that makes up 99 per cent of our driving, but it's still revealing to put the car under a bit more stress.

In this case it was a track day at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, requiring a dash out there the afternoon before, some support laps on the track with cameras attached and then the thrash back to the UK. The trip was made more varied by the problems at Eurotunnel, which forced us to take a country lane route to the terminal, negotiated at a reasonable pace as the clock was ticking. In the end we made it to check in with about two minutes to spare.

Even so, it was much later than planned by the time we were well on our way through the European mainland. It's a credit to the car that we arrived at our hotel for 1.30am, all without too much in the way of aches and pains. With one quick stop for fuel it had been a four-hour trek.

The incongruous sight of the Laurin & Klement on the Spa circuit (surely a first!) was amusing, but this was only for slow-speed photographic work during the lunch break: there were no sneaky laps attempted.

By 4.30pm it was time to head for home, braving terrible Belgian Autoroute traffic, and once more sweating that we might not make our train in time. In the end we did - just. Ironically, I bought a USB adapter for the 12v socket on the way back so I could keep my phone charged and then a few days later the MMI cable finally arrived from Skoda. Still, the adapter should be useful elsewhere.

The Octavia averaged around 45mpg for the trip, which is the kind of figure I'm used to seeing from it. It was a fine companion, with only really the exaggerated drone of the TDI engine and the knobbly ride around town during our 'shortcuts' the downsides. As a reward, it's been treated to a full valet since, with those bling-tastic wheels shining up a treat.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  1 July, 2015
I've been forced to eat a slice of humble pie when it comes to the Octavia's Active Cruise Control. I never use cruise control as a rule, and I'm not interested in any driver assistance systems - as you may have picked up in previous reports. One of the elements that make up the Laurin & Klement package is the radar-based system; I'd kept it firmly switched off. Until now.

It was the dreaded M1 roadworks that did it. Seemingly endless miles of droning along at 50mph, under the watchful yellow poles of the average speed cameras. After a few miles it just became a grind having to keep the speed steady with traffic close around ebbing and flowing by a few miles-per-hour.

Normal cruise control wouldn't work in this environment, because you'd always have to cancel it as the car in front slowed to 49mph. With the radar system it just slows you when necessary, and then speeds you up again when it's clear. You can set the distance to the car in front, too.

So useful did I find the system that I've started using it on motorways and also in heavy traffic as well. For the latter, if you set the speed right, you can almost let the car drive itself. Or put another way, you can still be in control but let the car take a bit of strain. Never thought I'd say all this, but there you go: that's why running a car over a period of time is always insightful.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  May 29, 2015
The Octavia has really been put to the family holdall test recently when it provided the transport for our holiday. It never ceases to amaze just how much 'stuff' little people need to bring along, and I confess, when I looked from the empty boot to the mound of luggage I had to pack in, and back again, I began to see the Skoda for the stretched Golf it really is. Perhaps a Superb Estate would make more sense after all!

Nevertheless, with millimetre-perfect packing I managed to get everything to fit in there, and as usual, the extra rear legroom is a boon when it comes to doing up the kids' child seats. Sure, an MPV would make it all the more easier still, but then that's an MPV...

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time clearing out the Skoda of half-eaten bread sticks, banana skins, Lego man helmets, toy cars and other such stuff, but overall the Octavia's cabin is wearing well. I stand by my earlier thoughts that it doesn't quite feel like £30k's worth of car, and the satnav is fairly archaic when compared to the latest BMW system, for example, but it's still a pleasant place to be. Even when Old McDonald Had A Farm is being sung on a constant loop...

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  May 18, 2015
The Octavia had been parked up for a few days recently while I happened to be driving a sequence of cars with posh badges over large distances. But when the time came to jump into the Skoda for a late night drive home, it hit all the right buttons. Flopping into its comfortable chair I selected 'Drive' and we were soon rolling down the motorway, the 2.0 TDI engine feeling every bit as effortless as I remember it in getting us up swiftly to speed, and the DSG 'box swapping seamlessly into the next cog. I could feel myself relaxing as every mile rolled under our wheels. Radio 4 selected, temperature set just so, this is what the Octavia is all about, and proof, as ever, that regardless of price or badge on the nose, motoring is all about having the right tool for the job. In that situation I think this Skoda is brilliant.


Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  May 6, 2015
Lane Assist. It's one of those driver assistance systems that's currently sweeping through the middle segments of the car market, having until recently been the preserve of the expensive stuff.

My default approach to such technology is to switch it of: sounds harsh, perhaps, but I've yet to find one that I felt I couldn't do without - or that could be relied on 100% in any given situation. If you don't have that faith, then you might as well do it yourself.

However, with its radar positioned in the nose and aforementioned systems, I felt as though I should at least try one on the Octavia. It's one of the aspects that marks out the Laurin & Klement model after all.

Lane Assist - unsurprisingly - helps you stay within your lane. If you start to drift towards the white line you feel a torque reaction through the steering wheel and it will gently nudge the car back into line if you fail to react.

In fact, this does work quite well on the motorway. But if you leave the system switched on it quickly becomes annoying on other types of road: it's almost as if someone else has a hold of the steering rack as well and you're arguing about your chosen line through the corner.

So, where's the menu? Uncheck box 'Lane Assist'. Off. Thanks, but no thanks.


Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  April 27, 2015
A note on fuel consumption this week. To be honest, there are no great surprises with my findings so far. The official combined figure for this Octavia is 62.8mpg. But you know what? The 40s are this car's natural habitat. As a rough guide, 'sensible' driving on a mix of roads and traffic densities will see around 47mpg on the trip computer. If you're taking it particularly easy, and you're flowing along A-roads without coming to a stop, then you can break into the 50s, but unless you're at a constant 50mph for hours I find it hard to see how over 55mpg is possible. At the other end of the spectrum, when driven around town or briskly, the trip computer seems to settle around 43mpg.

So there you have it: the official figures are nonsense as usual, and fuel consumption varies a great deal depending on the environment you drive in. As ever, it's clear the diesel's home is the long, leisurely journey.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  April 22, 2015
It has become abundantly clear during the first few weeks of running the Octavia that this is the car for the long, straight-line haul. It's never happier than when ambling down the motorway or soaking up A-road miles, the TDI engine rumbling away quietly to itself and the relaxed suspension rates allowing the body to gently float across the road surface.

Where it's disappointing though is around town or in the country: I'm not talking about thrashing it along B-roads while expecting it to handle like a sports estate; the point I'm trying to make is all about ride comfort.

In the pursuit of visual and spec sheet impact, the L&K trim brings those jet turbine-like 18-inch alloy wheels with '40' section tyres. That's a performance-orientated tyre profile that doesn't prioritise a luxurious ride - as is surely the point of the L&K model - but there are plenty of cars that manage to combine good rolling comfort and that kind of wheel. In the Octavia it feels more like the problem centres on how - I'm assuming, but will confirm in due course - the standard suspension tune hasn't been adjusted to work with the added weight of larger wheels and the reduced 'give' of a low profile tyre. When you hit a bump or pothole in the road the bang sends a shudder through the car, as if the suspension can't deal with the sudden movement. It's noisy and awkward, and rather undermines this Octavia's proposition as a thirty grand car.

This is a shame. The Octavia is softly suspended, which is good for comfort, but perversely you need to be on a smooth road for it to really work. I'd much rather have a set of less flashy wheels on there: the Octavia L&K, throughout its makeup, must be the least sporting car I've driven for a long time, and that's no bad thing of course. But in that case, it should excel at comfort in all its forms.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  April 17, 2015
The connector you see in the photograph to the left is something called the Mitsumi Apple connector, and it cost £100 as an option when this Octavia was ordered. Unfortunately, the connecting lead I assume it comes with isnít present, for whatever reason, and therefore itís about as much use at connecting an iPhone to the infotainment system as a decent understanding of Morse code. This isnít altogether an ICE disaster, as the system supports Bluetooth connectivity, not just for phone calls and the phone book, but also for audio. However, while that means music can be streamed across, you can only control the basics through the car, such as shuffling tracks and volume; you canít browse your music. Clearly, hunting for songs on your phone is as bad as texting, so itís not a viable solution when youíre on the move. Moreover, connecting the phone in this manner eats into battery life, and without any charging link thatís nothing you can do to compensate for it on a long journey. I need to investigate that lead, smartish.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  April 10, 2015
The first journey in the Octavia and it's a late evening dash to an airport hotel ahead of a car launch the following day. Typically, I'm late, tired and not exactly looking forward to the uneasy night's sleep and crack-of-dawn start tomorrow. I just need to get to the hotel, no dramas.

The Skoda does me proud. It feels weird driving it for the first time in the dark, but knowing this is going to be a regular occurrence over the next six months. I adjust the basics such as the seat and steering wheel and feel my way around the essentials of the infotainment system, but the rest of it can wait for another day.

First impressions? Nice. Very laid back. The ride is a bit jittery, the steering light, the seat comfortable and the infotainment system a bit clunky. It feels massive in here, but then I did just climb out of a Ford Fiesta. The Skoda is the sort of car that encourages a relaxed, easy cruise - that's good for the heart rate. It's not a car you feel you want to drive in a hurry.

The trip computer reckons we have averaged 48mpg for the journey, which is ok. I've been taking it easy, and we've been on the open road. I can see that exceeding 50mpg in the real world is going to be unusual in the months ahead.

We've arrived. That was easy enough. My gut tells me this car and I are going to get along just fine.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  April 3, 2015
I thought it might be a good idea to set out the full specification of this particular Octavia. As you can see, it is both a) comprehensive and b) surprisingly expensive. At this sort of money, expectations are inevitably high.

Skoda Octavia Estate Laurin & Klement 2.0 TDI 150 DSG


Engine: 2.0 TDI CR 150hp DPF
Transmission: six-speed DSG
Combined economy: 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Max speed: 132mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds


Recommended on-the-road: £28,465

Options fitted:

Bluetooth+ £180
Boot net program £50
Crew protection assistant and rear side airbags £400
Metallic paint Race Blue Metallic £525
Mitsumi Apple device connection £100
Temporary space saver spare wheel £75

Total including VAT: £29,795

Key features on all L&K models
> 'Canton' sound system
> 18-inch 'Turbine' alloys with 225/40 R18 92Y tyres
> Four-spoke multifunction steering wheel
> Seven airbags - front, front side, curtain, driver's knee
> Adaptive cruise control with front assistant
> Amundsen infotainment system and satellite navigation
> Automatic Post Collision Braking System
> Bi-Xenon headlights with AFS and LED daytime running lights
> Bluetooth
> Brown 'Alcantara' and leather upholstery with L&K logos
> Chrome window surround
> Colour Maxi DOT trip computer
> Cornering front fog lights
> Cruise control
> DAB digital radio
> Decorative inserts in piano black with L&K logo
> Driver Fatigue Sensor
> Driving Mode Selection (Normal, Eco, Sport, Individual)
> Dual-zone climate control air conditioning
> Electrically adjustable driver's seat with memory function and lumbar support
> Energy recovery
> ESC including ABS, EBV, MSR, ASR, EDS, HBA, DSR, ESBS,
TSA, MKB, Prefill
> Heated front seats
> Hill hold control
> Illuminated front and rear foot wells
> Intelligent Light Assistant (including high beam assistant)
> L&K door sill trims
> Lane assist
> LED rear lights
> Park assist
> Rear backrest release from boot
> Stop-start engine system
> Sunset glass
> Telescopic front headlight washers
> USB and aux-in connection sockets
> Voice control for phone and navigation

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

Skoda Octavia Estate. Image by Adam Towler.

  March 31, 2015
There comes a time in all of our lives when our priorities change. The years go by, and with the onset of greater responsibility, family and so forth, different things take on a greater importance to those that appealed in our mid-twenties. Back then the idea of a diesel-burning estate car with an automatic gearbox would have hardly set my world on fire: today, the prospect of running the blue Skoda Octavia TDI Estate you see before you is really rather exciting indeed.

That's partly because the Octavia, particularly in wagon form, is one of those ultra-pragmatic purchases that seems to make so much sense. It looks good; there's no faulting the provenance of the mechanical bits under the skin; it's good value; it's spacious and has a large boot; and it drives well. This is a very appealing combination.

Moreover, 'my' car over this test period is a Laurin & Klement. 'A what?' you might say. The L&K is the rarely seen top specification of the Octavia, a kind of Ghia X for those who grew up with lavish Fords in the 1980s. That means it has all the extras usually available on SE and Elegance models, so it'll be interesting to see if they feel like they're worth the additional money, and whether I use the features they bring.

So here we go: I'm looking forward to see how the big Skoda and I get along.

A brief history of the Skoda Octavia

The current, third-generation Octavia appeared in 2013. Although the Octavia badge had been used by Skoda in the 1960s, the first new Octavia of the modern era appeared in 1996 and went on sale in the UK in 1998. It was the first completely new car to be developed by Skoda under the ownership of the Volkswagen Group. Since then - and up to and including the debut of the mk3 - 205,000 Octavias have found homes in the UK, with 3.7 million being built in total, making the Octavia the biggest selling Skoda ever.

The Octavia uses the flexible 'MQB' underpinnings of the Volkswagen Group, which also form the basis of the current Golf and SEAT Leon amongst others. Looked at in terms of parent Volkswagen's range, it sits between the Golf and the Passat when it comes to exterior dimensions. A long wheelbase means excellent rear-seat legroom, and both hatch (590 litres expanding to 1,580 litres with the seats folded) and estate (610- to 1,740 litres) offer lots of load space.

The current range features hatch, estate and off-road style 'Scout' variants, with a range of petrol (1.2 and 1.4 turbos) and diesel engines (1.6 and 2.0 TDI) offered. The 220hp 2.0-litre petrol turbo and 184hp TDI engines are reserved for the high performance vRS model. There are currently seven model lines: S, SE, SE Business, vRS, Scout, Greenline III and Laurin & Klement.

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