SKODA OCTAVIA WAGON REVIEW
Given the intimacy between Skoda and Volkswagen, it was only a matter of time before Golf MkVI’s entry level turbocharged 1.4 litre engine made its way into the Skoda line-up.
In August this year, this is exactly what happened.
Can this new engine bring the necessary sparkle to the entry-level Octavia, and give the Octavia’s sales the kick-start that Skoda must be yearning for?
- Click to read all of TMR's reviews of the Skoda Octavia
- Click here to learn more about the 2010 Skoda Octavia range
Style-wise, the Octavia 90TSI is unchanged from the 2009 facelift. While the engine/transmission has been seen in the Golf for the past 12 months, it’s new for Octavia.
A sharper price is also new; the 90TSI now sits elbow to elbow with mid-priced Japanese and Korean competitors.
What’s the appeal?
The manual liftback variant carries a list price of $24,990, which is within negotiating range of a similarly equipped Mazda 3 Maxx hatch.
But, fitted with a tech-laden turbocharged engine and Euro appeal, it is not simply another Japanese or Korean small-mid option.
The wagon version, as tested with the DSG transmission, lists at $29,290, but has few direct peers.
It should appeal to those consciously resisting the SUV ‘crossover options’ in favour of something lighter, equally versatile (it’s a roomy wagon) and more dynamic.
What features does it have?
The Octavia 90TSI comes standard with 15-inch alloys, power windows, mirrors, power steer, leather wrapped steering wheel, air-conditioning, and full instrumentation and trip computer.
The wagon bodystyle adds $2000, and the DSG transmission a further $2300.
There is an in-dash single CD with MP3 capability and an auxiliary audio connection, with sound transmitted through eight speakers.
What’s under the bonnet?
The engine is the most newsworthy element of the 90TSI. Measuring just 1.4 litres, it first saw duty in the MkV Golf GT, with its highly unconventional combination of supercharging and turbocharging.
The 90 (and many other VW Group products) use this engine in turbocharged-only form, where it produces 90kW from 5000rpm, and 200Nm from 1500-4000rpm.
It all adds up to six percent more power and 30 percent more torque than the previous 1.6 litre naturally-aspirated petrol motor.
How does it drive?
The Octavia 90TSI is no Golf GTI, but the DNA of so much shared componentry is hard to disguise.
More fairly compared with the basic Golf TSI, the Octavia boasts a superior ride, which does an excellent job of handling sealed rural roads.
The standard 205/60 R15 Dunlop SP Sport 01 tyres produce more noise on coarse surfaces than ideal, but this is likely due to their performance-biased tread pattern.
These tyres are standard fitment on several performance-oriented models.
The electronically assisted steering through the thick leather-rimmed wheel offers good feedback and weighting despite the 60-profile tyres. Assistance is fluid and offers none of the electronic buzzing of many other systems.
When cruising in seventh at 110km/h, the engine runs at a relatively low 2500rpm, but in this guise, is sitting right in the middle of its torque band.
The DSG is still clumsy off the line and often when downshifting in Drive, but is an absolute marvel when in S (for Sport mode).
This mode quickens upshifts and holds gears longer, and is nothing short of extra-sensory when downshifting under brakes. It really is brilliantly intuitive when downshifting.
The stability control is quick to intervene, but it does so in a gentle and effective fashion, even on loose surfaces.
The tractability the small turbocharged four-pot affords is brilliant. The sensation of power that it delivers would confound most drivers – few would believe it is 18kW short of the 2.0 litre used in Mazda’s 3 (for instance).
It is a lesson in how maximum output figures can matter little when defining the capabilities of a car.
When revved to the 6000rpm redline, the 90TSI’s engine has more Mazda thrash than Honda zing, but is acceptably smooth when operating within its power band.
Skoda’s acceleration claim of 9.8 seconds 0-100km/h is realistic.
At highway speeds though, there is noticeable wind noise from the A-pillars despite no integration of windscreen rain channels. The NVH is otherwise exemplary, despite the larger interior volume of the wagon bodystyle.
Braking is taken care of by four-wheel discs and are very effective with good feel and resistance to fade.
What did our passengers think?
Seat fabric is family-friendly dark cloth at this price point, which is likely to hold up well to child-seat chafing and banana stains.
One 6’2” rear seat passenger considered the back seat smaller overall than expected, as he perceived the 90 to be a Camry-sized model.
It may be Camry-sized in overall length, but the width is inherited from the category-smaller Golf.
The rear seat features a three-stage centre armrest, which includes a storage cavity, with an additional flap that can be folded forward to reveal a ski port.
Notably, this armrest does not feature cupholders (along with the rest of the rear seat area), but the apparently interchangeable armrest unit on the Superb Wagon does, so watch for this as a running update.
Front seat occupants can choose from bottle holders in each door, or two cupholders in the centre console.
Cruise control, audio, and trip computer functions can all be controlled via the steering wheel and stalk toggles. These adhere to VW group doctrine, and therefore more logical than most Japanese interfaces.
In-dash audio and HVAC controls are also typically Teutonic aside from the a/c indicator light, which is near impossible to distinguish when wearing sunglasses.
Interior quality and feel?
Interior quality has become one of parent-company Volkswagen’s trademark qualities, and the Octavia is no exception.
The plastics are generally lower density than that typically used on Japanese and Korean competition, and therefore softer to the touch and more creak resistant over time.
Fit of interior panels is excellent, with all opening orifices defined with rubber stoppers to help with NVH.
The Octavia Wagon’s Golf origins contribute greatly to its cavernous load capacity. The original hatch platform balances interior packaging carefully to maximise capacity, whilst maintaining a stubby hatch tail.
When Skoda extended the rear overhang for the wagon, the result is a capacity of 580 litres (seats in place) and 1620 litres with the rear seats folded.
The load area is littered with tie down points, takeaway hooks and restraining net.
The seats fold more flat than in the Golf wagon relative, but there is a prominent step behind the seat base that is interestingly absent in the Golf.
A full-sized steel spare wheel is mounted beneath the cargo area floor.
How safe is it?
The Octavia sedan (which is structurally very similar to the wagon) has been awarded a 4-Star safety rating by Euro NCAP.
Standard safety equipment includes ABS, traction control, stability control, cruise control, emergency brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, plus front, side, and curtain airbags.
Fuel consumption and green rating
The Octavia 90TSI Hatch with SMG transmission is rated at 6.5 l/100km combined, down from 8.3l/100km for the previous equivalent spec 1.6 litre model.
Average CO2 emissions are a claimed 152g/km, down from 198g/km in the 1.6 litre.
Over the 1127km of TMR real-world testing, the 90 averaged 8.74 l/100km. This admittedly included nearly 600km of enthusiastic driving over rural mountain roads, proving that if the turbo thrust is utilised, the economy falters a little.
The wagon’s 0.30 coefficient of drag is equal to the liftback variant, belying its three-box silhouette.
The Federal Government's Green Vehicle Guide rates the Skoda Octavia 90TSI 7.5 stars out of 10 for greenhouse gas emissions, and 7.5 stars out of ten for particulate emissions.
How does it compare?
Octavia 90’s closest rival is the 2010-launched Golf wagon, and shares its chassis and nearly all mechanical componentry.
The Golf is so close in specification to the Octavia, it is somewhat of an ‘own-goal’ for Volkswagen in introducing the model while working to generate Octavia sales momentum.
VW’s entry model is priced to within $200 (at $29,490) and near mirrors the spec sheet of the Octavia.
The greatest differences are that the Golf does not feature a ski port, but does come equipped with rear cupholders. As of recently, all MY11 VW Golfs also come with an unlimited kilometre warranty.
The Peugeot exceeds the Skoda’s load carrying capacity and mechanical sophistication with its base auto coming in 2 litre HDi guise, but carrying a $6,000 premium over the Skoda.
Mazda’s 6 is really a size category above the Skoda and carries a similar premium.
Hyundai’s base i30cw lacks the mechanical panache of the Skoda but is nearly $6,000 less, albeit with reduced load carrying capacity.
The Ford Mondeo LX wagon is also worth a look-in, offering more power than the Octavia 90TSI and an automatic as standard for around $2000 more than the similarly-specced Skoda.
How expensive is it to maintain?
Service intervals are set for every 15,000km/12 months with the cost of the first three services averaging out at $450 each. The first major service occurs at 60,000km/48 months, and costs roughly $750.
The 90TSI carries Skoda’s standard passenger vehicle 3 yr/Unlimited km warranty.
The current Octavia’s colour chart features 12 options, with metallic options carrying a premium.
The Skoda Octavia 90TSI DSG Wagon as tested has a current list price of $29,290, but can be had with a traditional H-pattern 6 speed manual for $26,990.
Some may consider the Octavia Wagon a little bland in appearance, but it functions very well as a family hauler, and offers great value next to Japanese, French, and Korean competitors.
Its greatest hurdle may lie with the near identical Golf wagon, with the only deciding factors between the pair being aesthetic and comfort preferences.