New car review

Skoda Octavia Estate test drive

Skoda has launched its fourth-generation Octavia with a vast swathe of new features. But is it any good?

The Skoda Octavia is a car which sits at the very heart of the Czech brand’s line-up. For several generations now, it has come to represent excellent value-for-money, brilliant practicality and genuine solidity. In short, it’s a pretty crucial car for the manufacturer.

Now, we’re into the latest, fourth-generation Octavia which, Skoda says, is better than ever. So, the question remains: is it? We’ve been behind the wheel to find out.

What’s new about the Skoda Octavia?

Take one glance at this latest Octavia model and you’re well aware that quite a lot has changed over the previous-generation car. Not only is it sharper to look at, but it’s now longer, wider and taller than the car it replaces – despite sharing the same length wheelbase. That’s because this latest Octavia has been designed to be more spacious than ever, making it even more appealing to the family buyers towards which it is targeted.

What’s more, the Octavia’s arrival has been accompanied by the introduction of cleaner engines, more interior technology and some clever voice-activated systems. There really is quite a lot going on here for a relatively ‘mainstream’ model.

How does it look?

The previous-generation Octavia was, in our eyes at least, one of the very best looking cars in its segment. It had proportions which just looked spot-on, and it was distinctive no matter which specification you went for. This latest version certainly moves the game on, but it doesn’t look quite as svelte as the car it follows on from.

It’s not a bad looking car, that’s for sure, it just doesn’t look quite as ‘tight’ in terms of design as the older Octavia. That said, we’re sure that many people will appreciate the more premium angle that the Octavia has taken. Our car – an estate – has been styled in such a way that much of the car’s heft is disguised, so it manages to appear a little smaller out on the road than its proportions would lead you to believe.

What’s the spec like?

Our car came in First Edition specification, which meant that it was practically weighed down with equipment. Features included 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, chrome roof rails and front heated seats. There’s certainly a lot of kit to play with here.

But what about that new infotainment screen? Since it controls crucial aspects of the car such as the heating and ventilation, it’s now a much-used part of the car’s cabin. Fortunately, it operates well and is easy to navigate through. The display itself is sharp and easy to read, and all of the various controls make sense. That said, we’d still be in favour of proper physical controls for the heating, as though better than in most applications, adjusting this via a screen can still be a little bit fiddly when on the move.

In terms of safety standards, the new Skoda Octavia has not yet been tested by Euro NCAP. Crash testing has been put on hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Octabia is likely to be one of the first cars put through its paces once testing resumes.

What’s the Skoda Octavia Estate like inside?

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Skoda benefits from access to the wider Volkswagen Group’s technologies, which is why the latest Octavia’s interior is a far more screen-heavy affair than the previous Octavia’s. As a result, the cabin feels cleaner, sharper and less button-cluttered, with the main screen giving access to practically every function for the car.

The front area of the cabin is wide and open – and the cloth seats in our test car were wonderfully comfortable – while there’s plenty of space for those sitting in the back too. When it comes to boot space, there’s 640 litres to play with – a helpful 30-litre bump on the outgoing car. This can, of course, be extended by folding the rear seats flat too. It’s a very practical option and outguns cars in even the class above when it comes to spaciousness.

What’s under the bonnet?

Our test car came fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, sending 150hp and 340Nm of torque to the front wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. And whereas those power outputs may sound relatively mundane, the Octavia’s economy figures are anything but; Skoda claims up to 60mpg combined with CO2 emissions of 123-141g/km depending on wheel size.

Performance-wise, you’re looking at 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds, while flat-out the Octavia will hit 137mph. Though a cheaper petrol option is available, we’re sure that given its low running costs this diesel choice will be a key consideration in the Octavia’s list of powertrains.

What’s the Skoda Octavia Estate like to drive?

If you’re looking for outright comfort then boy, is this the car for you. The Octavia feels as though it has been designed with the UK’s roads in mind, given its exceptional ability to steam out the creases in the road ahead and leave you riding a comfortable and soft wave of forward motion. For motorway slogs, the Octavia really is a great travelling companion.

Of course, a by-product of this soft ride is a limited ability to control body roll. Try and tackle a country road in slightly keener fashion and you’ll find the Octavia responds by leaning like a tacking sailboat in a gale. Would we sacrifice some of that ride quality for more body control? Absolutely not. The fact that the Octavia majors so heavily on ride comfort makes it a genuinely refreshing option in a wider car market which is dominated by firm-riding models.

Verdict

The new Skoda Octavia has arrived and has made a real impression. As a car for the rigours of the everyday, it’s fearlessly well-suited thanks to great practicality levels and a ride which turns even the most lumpen of roads into far more comfortable surfaces. It also looks good and feels good inside.

Our top-spec version may be accompanied by a reasonably hefty price tag – £33,210 – but go for a cheaper variant with fewer options which is no less accomplished and there’s no reason why the Octavia couldn’t be all the car you ever need.

Similar cars

Citroën C4 Cactus | Fiat Tipo | Ford Focus | Honda Civic | Hyundai i30 | Kia Ceed | Peugeot 308 | Renault Megane | SEAT Leon | Skoda Scala | Toyota Corolla | Vauxhall Astra | Volkswagen Golf

Key specifications

Model as tested: Skoda Octave SE L First Edition
Price: £32,120
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 150 hp
Torque: 340 Nm
Top speed: 137 mph
0-60mph: 8.5 seconds

Fuel economy: 52.3 – 60.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 123-141 g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: Not yet tested (August 2020)
TCE Expert Rating: Not yet rated (August 2020)

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Tried an SE first edition estate out, initially very impressed after the overpriced low rent Kamiq rubbish last week. However two very major faults with the Estate became apparent on a one hour drive. One is the dangerously tiny rear view out for the driver basically a letter box view caused by a ridiculously highly mounted boot cover, cant be adjusted down as far as I can tell. Dont be fooled by the large rear window, you can’t see the bottom from inside the car. The other issue is when I tried travelling as a passenger in the back after about 10 min I started to suffer acute car sickness/ nausea, 1st time in decades since I experienced this in a car (usually only suffer on small ships in a heavy swell). Appears to be caused by a wallowy 3D, side to side as well as up/down, ride at the rear from the rear beam suspension I suspect. Unusual as car had no load, just me and my son.

    Screen still to low and touch screen slider control of fan speed is absolute rubbish and confirms touch screen controls in general are this years most dangerous trend.

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