Third time lucky
The Octavia's engine line-up will look like familiar fare to anyone who, maybe not realising the increase in size of this third generation design, is maybe considering a slightly smaller Volkswagen Golf or a SEAT Leon as an alternative purchase. Four turbocharged powerplants are offered; 105PS 1.2, 140PS 1.4 and 180PS 1.8-litre petrols and 105PS 1.6 and 150PS 2.0-litre diesels. A Greenline version of the 1.6 TDI diesel that emits just 89g/km of CO2 is also available. Four wheel drive has also been developed for this car, along with a vRS sports model and a Scout version of the estate with additional body cladding and raised ride height.
Like the rest of its sibling vehicles in the Volkswagen empire, this Octavia rides on the modular MQB chassis, which means that it'll ride well, handle competently and won't cost the earth to develop. That's a major difference between this car and the less sophisticated family hatch-sized Rapid model that sits just below it in the Skoda line-up.
Design and Build
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The first thing you'll notice is that the Octavia has grown, and by quite some amount, now properly big enough to prospect amongst families you might have been considering Mondeos, Insignia and Passats. If you were a little puzzled as to why the Focus-sized family hatchback Rapid was slotted into Skoda's range, this bigger and plusher Octavia gives the answer. The Rapid now has breathing space and the Octavia can push for family customers more convincingly.
This third generation model is 90mm longer and 45mm wider than the second-generation Octavia. At the same time, the wheelbase has grown by 108mm, mainly benefiting the interior and space on the rear seats. This means the Octavia is now almost as long as a Ford Mondeo and there's genuinely impressive rear seat space — enough for a six-footer in the back to be comfortable behind one in the front. The boot has increased in space to 590-litres. A typical family hatch like a Ford Focus boasts 320-litres. Now you see how far the Octavia has stepped up in size.
Despite the notchback design, it remains a five-door car with a massive tailgate. There's a really crisp, architectural neatness to the exterior design and detailing, with plenty of shape in the flanks, an elegant sweep to the roofline and a refreshing simplicity to the front end. Less really is more here. It's a great piece of work. The interior is similarly simple and elegant as a result. Materials quality has improved and there's stacks of clever storage ideas. They include foldable cargo elements and a double-sided floor covering for the boot, plus a multimedia holder with space for an iPod, a mobile phone and the like.
Market and Model
The current range of petrol and diesel powerplants looks a good starting point but expect this to be rapidly extended with bigger and more powerful engines. Prices look to have crept up by around £2,000 at the entry level, with around £16,000 marking the entry point to the Octavia range, but this is now a significantly bigger and better equipped car than before, so we need to be comparing like with like. Given that the Ford Mondeo range kicks off at more than £18,000, the Octavia starts to look like very reasonable value for money.
The old Octavia was never really renowned as a car with a lot to boast about in the equipment department. It needed to maintain its place in the hierarchy with the SEAT Leon and the Volkswagen Golf, so it always seemed a bit sparse inside. The third generation model has improved things still further, but you'll need to ascend to the upper specification variants to get features like swipe control functions for the touch screen system. Likewise automatic parking assistance and adaptive cruise control will require you to fork out a good deal more than sixteen grand.
This third generation Skoda Octavia shifts the buyer proposition subtly but decisively. It's no longer something that goes head to head with most family hatchbacks. It's grown out of that class and is now looking for bigger rivals to challenge. Cars like the Peugeot 508, the Ford Mondeo and the Vauxhall Insignia will all be fair game and the Octavia's pricing is as aggressive as you'd expect from Skoda.
What's particularly interesting is that these models have all seen the big threats to their market share come from premium models from the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes and have in response become more expensive and better finished as a result, leaving a huge hole in the market into which the hefty Octavia can now reside. It's a nailed on winner. The established players should be very worried indeed.