– Phenomenal powertrain
– Excellent handling
– Class-leading boot space
– Cabin design borders on dull
– Few ergonomic issues
– Brand perception
The Skoda Octavia is a sedan lost in a heavily-contested compact car segment. While being successful in Europe and many other parts of the world, we barely even realised the presence of the Czechs in the UAE, until a larger-than-usual hoarding outside their Dubai-based dealership caught our attention. Having known the first-generation Skoda Octavia, which went on to receive several accolades and rave reviews in many other countries, we were curious to find out how far the Octavia has progressed over the years.
Although appearing a tad large for a compact sedan, the Skoda Octavia competes with the likes of the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic. In its third generation, the Octavia sports a streamlined plain-yet-elegant design. The squarish headlamps and edgy stance in the front transforms into a smooth side profile, with well-defined lines flowing through to the rear quarters. The rear-end continues the clean styling with the C-shaped squarish tube-LEDs built into the tail lamps, and the sharp chiselled lines on the trunk and rear bumper run across the width of the car before curving off at the edges. The tube-LED DRL built-into the headlamps, LED turn lamps on door mirrors, and the 5-spoke aluminium alloy wheels wrapped in low-profile rubbers, all add to the looks. This is the final year of this design, as a mildly-facelifted version is already on the roads in Europe.
Stepping inside reveals a well-appointed interior with a mildly premium vibe, at least in our top spec tester. The fit-and-finish and material quality are good. Soft-touch materials have been extensively used in most of the upper panels. Hard plastics are mostly confined to the lower areas. There are padded door inserts, and a faux-wood insert around the gear lever. The armrests, steering-wheel and seats are all leather-clad. The front seats are moderately bolstered and snug, keeping the occupants in place during high-speed adventures. The rear seats are among the most comfortable ones we have come across, offering good thigh support and kneeroom.
The Octavia, while technically classified as a sedan, sports a hatchback-style liftgate that opens up wide to provide excellent boot access. The boot floor is square and deep, and offers 590 litres of space, further extendable with 60:40 split-folding rear seats. Combined with tons of legroom and headroom throughout the cabin, and class-leading boot-space, the Octavia is undeniably one of the most spacious cars in this class.
The layout of controls in the centre dash is simple, yet functional. All buttons are easy to reach, and the touchscreen system is quick and responsive even to light touches. One ergonomic oddity is the rather awkward placement of the push-start button, which is right below the wiper stalk on the steering column, exactly where a regular key slot would be for cars without the push-start button tech.
The a/c was obviously good during the warm noon weather in January when we tested the car. However, we are quite unsure of how well the thin cloth cover for the panoramic sunroof would be appreciated during hot summers, as it does not block out the sunshine completely.
The basic Octavia is still a well-specced car for its now-discounted price range, including features such as the aforementioned dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, cruise control, heated power door mirrors, Bluetooth with audio streaming, rear parking sensors with distance indication, touchscreen infotainment system with SD-CARD, Aux, and USB, a great sounding 6-speaker audio system, and auto dimming rear-view mirror. The top-spec variant adds 18-inch alloy wheels, steering controls, panoramic sunroof, rear view camera, keyless entry with push-start button, remote start function, auto rain sensing front and rear wipers, electric driver seat with memory function, heated power folding door mirrors with puddle lamps, front and rear parking sensors, interior front and rear footwell lighting, touchscreen infotainment system with apple connectivity and mobile device interface, 8-speaker audio system, bi-xenon headlamps with dynamic angle control and AFS, headlamp washer, humidity-sensing auto-dimming rear view mirror, and front fog lamps.
On the safety front, the basic Octavia is offered with front and side airbags, and ABS with EBD. The specced-up variant adds curtain airbags and electronic stability control.
The Octavia 1.4 TSI is offered with a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. Packing 140 hp at 4500-6000 rpm and 250 Nm of torque at 1500-3500 rpm, the powertrain may seem puny for a car this size. But our test car turned out to be nothing short of phenomenal, as the car lurched off the mark with a hint of wheelspin as turbo torque kicks in early on. In our acceleration runs, the Octavia consistently clocked the 0-100 kph dash in 8.5 seconds, which is bang on with manufacturer claims. While the cooler weather may have played its part, we were left to wonder how the sportier Octavia RS would be, with its turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder motor cranking out a whopping 220 hp and 350 Nm of torque.
Assisted by the engine start-stop system that’s included in our specced-up tester, the fuel-efficiency seems good too, with our consumption in mixed driving conditions hovering at 6.8 litres/100 km, and dropping as low as 5.9 litres/100 km on motorways, climbing up to 7.3 litres/100 km in standstill morning rush hour.
The Octavia handles extremely well for a family sedan, with fairly high limits that are not easy to reach on public roads. But step over the limit and the car understeers cleanly. There is ample grip from the 225/40 tyres on the top-spec 18-inch alloys. The body roll is moderate at most, and body motions are well-controlled. There is ample stopping power from the brakes, and the nicely-weighted steering is sharp and precise. However, there is nearly no feedback from the pedals or controls, a trend that is increasingly common in new cars these days.
The character of the car shouldn’t be a surprise to former VW owners, as this Skoda uses the same chassis and engine as the current-generation VW Golf TSI — something that even the current outdated VW Jetta doesn’t get.
Therefore the Octavia is every bit a ‘European’ car in character, with a superbly balanced chassis and well-tuned suspension setup. The ride is well-composed and slightly firm, albeit with no harshness entering the cabin. The basic Octavia with smaller wheels may have a slightly smoother ride compared to our top-spec tester with lower-profile tyres. The cabin is well-insulated, with almost no road noise, and only a bit of wind noise heard over 120 kph. The engine grunt is audible on full-throttle, although refined with an inspiring note, and not loud enough to interrupt conversations. Once the revs settle down during motorway driving, the motor goes silent with only a barely noticeable hum.
The Skoda Octavia is yet another car which, despite being highly competitive, suffers from the inevitable discrimination in this region owing to lack of knowledge about the brand. It is spacious, comfortable, powerful, fuel-efficient, and is a fun daily driver. Had it worn a certain Japanese logo on its front grille, this car may have potentially sold in greater numbers. With a starting price tag that stands cheaper than many well-known subcompacts owing to current discounts, and with industry-leading warranties covering the GCC and even Egypt, we cannot help but consider the Octavia to be true value-for-money right now.
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