2014 SKODA OCTAVIA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $28,140 (plus on-roads), $32,040 (as-tested)
Engine/trans: 103kW/250Nm 1.4 turbo petrol 4cyl | 7sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.2 l/100km | tested: 6.5 l/100km
There’s a compelling value equation to the Skoda Octavia. It straddles the gap between the small and mid-size segments, but is priced like a small car. Value for money? Absolutely.
There’s more to the Octavia though than just a value-for-money equation..
Interior quality is better than the average small car, and there’s the promise of impressive fuel economy thanks to a range of advanced and efficient powertrains borrowed from parent company Volkswagen.
Throw all of that into a package like the $28,140 Octavia 103TSI Ambition Plus, and you have a capable family wagon that drives well and won’t break the bank.
Quality: Settle into this interior and you'll find above-average fit and finish most places you look. Even with the cloth upholstery of the Ambition Plus, the Octavia’s interior feels both inviting and a little bit premium.
The styling is pretty ordinary though. There’s nothing edgy or adventurous about this interior design.
There’s also evidence of cost cutting. While the previous-gen Octavia had soft rubber pads behind each interior door handle, the new car’s handles are just hard silver-painted plastic.
Comfort: Though officially classed as a medium-size car, the Octavia is in truth somewhere between a small and a mid-size wagon.
It’s bigger in width and wheelbase than the Golf Wagon, but falls well short of a Mazda6 wagon’s dimensions. Still, there’s plenty of room inside for four adults.
The front seats are also rather comfortable. In the Ambition Plus, both front seats also gain height adjustment and variable lumbar support, and the cushioning and contouring give good support without being too “huggy”.
We do miss the old Octavia’s right-foot dead pedal though.
There’s heaps of room for a pair of adults in the back seats, with plentiful legroom and headroom. There’s also a generously-sized fold-down centre armrest, as well as face-level air vents on the back of the centre console.
Equipment: As standard, the 103TSI Ambition Plus features 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, trip computer, manual air-con, an 8-speaker audio system, reverse parking sensors, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB audio input and a 5.8 inch touchscreen interface.
Our car had the optional Tech pack, which for $3900 adds radar cruise control, city emergency brake, front parking sensors, a 10-speaker audio system, a self-parking feature, keyless entry and ignition, bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and a drive mode selector.
Storage: The previous Octavia wagon was a great load-lugger, and the new one is even better.
Seats-down capacity has swelled by 98 litres for a total of 1718 litres, and with the 60/40 split rear seats raised there’s a generous 588 litres of storage (an increase of 8 litres).
There’s also a ski-port for long items, as well as numerous tie-down points and four shopping-bag hooks.
Annoyingly though, the rear seatbacks don’t lie flush with the boot floor when folded down, and the Tech Pack’s subwoofer eats up a small amount of storage space.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With the Volkswagen Group’s new EA211 103kW/250Nm 1.4 litre turbo petrol four driving the front wheels, the Skoda Octavia 103TSI has enough mumbo to easily deal with day-to-day driving.
Torque builds early in the rev range, and by 1500rpm the Octavia’s full 250Nm is on tap. That’s a key advantage of the turbocharged Octavia when compared to naturally-aspirated competitors like the Mazda6.
Progress around town is effortless, and the engine rarely needs to rev high to deal with hills or heavy loads.
But while the engine scores high marks, the DSG twin-clutch automatic isn’t quite so sparkling.
It still suffers from jerky engagement at traffic-jam 'crawl' speeds, and spoils what is otherwise quite a refined mechanical package. Once moving though, gearchanges are lightning-quick.
Playing with the drive mode dial can make the engine more responsive or more economical, but on a car like this it’s a bit of a gimmick.
While we had fun playing with the same feature in the VW Golf GTI, we largely left it in the default mode in the more pedestrian Octavia.
Curiously, unlike many modern European cars the Octavia 103TSI doesn’t feature engine start-stop.
Despite this, fuel economy was decent at 6.5 l/100km over our week-long test. However, that’s not exactly close to Skoda’s claim of 5.2 l/100km for the 103TSI DSG.
Refinement: The engine is smooth and quiet, but, being a wagon, certain noises do get amplified a bit.
There’s quite a bit of tyre roar that reverberates through the big boxy rear portion of the cabin, and road noise is plentiful on the 17-inch alloys - especially when travelling over coarse-chip surfaces.
Ride and Handling: The 103TSI version of the Octavia wagon makes do with a simplified torsion-beam rear axle rather than the more sophisticated multi-link.
For the most part though, you'd struggle to tell a difference. It’s only when you get on a lumpy road that the not-quite-independent rear suspension’s less-settled nature becomes apparent.
On smoother roads, the Octavia wagon provides a comfortable ride, with spring-rates that aren’t Euro-firm and damping that keeps body movements in check.
Braking: No problems here. The Octavia’s all-disc brakes and Michelin tyres give good stopping performance.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: this model scored 35.87 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist round out the standard electronic safety aids, while all Octavia variants get dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags.
In the Ambition Plus, rear side airbags are added to the list of standard safety features, and those opting for the Tech package also gain a frontal collision warning and low speed auto-braking system.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Under Skoda’s capped price servicing scheme, scheduled maintenance for the Octavia 103TSI DSG can range in price from $269 to $490.
Services are scheduled for every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswage Golf Wagon 90TSI Comfortline ($29,290) - Being based on the same MQB achitecture as the Golf 7 means the Octavia shares most of its genes with its Volkswagen cousin, but the Skoda is slightly bigger and more powerful.
It’s also more affordable, though only if you resist the urge to add the $3900 tech pack on top of the 103TSI Ambition’s $28,140 retail price.
The Golf wagon is a fine car, but when the Skoda offers more for less we know where our money would be going. (see Golf reviews)
Mazda6 Sport wagon ($34,760) - While Skoda’s marketers may prefer to see the Octavia as an affordable mid-sizer, the reality is that it’s just a rather large small car.
And that’s put into perspective when you line the Octavia wagon against the Mazda6 wagon. Though the Mazda is significantly more expensive, it’s also much, much larger than the Skoda.
On the plus side, the Octavia’s 1.4 litre turbo engine has just as much torque as the Mazda’s 2.5 litre, as well as better claimed fuel economy. (see Mazda6 reviews)
Renault Megane Sportwagon GT-Line ($27,990) - The Megane undercuts the Octavia on price, and with a longer wheelbase offers similar levels of passenger space.
Overall length is shorter though, and luggage space is not as abundant as a result.
The Megane’s 103kW/195Nm 2.0 litre engine also falls well short on torque, though it’s peak power output is the same as the Octavia 103TSI. (see Megane reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Okay so it’s not really a full-fledged mid-size wagon, but Skoda's new Octavia sure comes close.
And the Ambition Plus, in particular, is the best deal in the Octavia wagon range. It’s got everything you need, plus the added security of rear side airbags - something that has yet to come to many of the Octavia’s competitors.
The only obvious exclusion from the spec list, and something we’d like to see, is a reverse parking camera.
That aside, the Octavia Ambition Plus wagon is an excellent option for those looking for a family-sized five-door, but don’t want to make the stretch to larger, dearer mid-sizers.
Those looking for an alternative to a small SUV may also find much to love in the Octavia wagon, particularly given its luggage capacity exceeds that of many SUVs in its price bracket.
Pricing (drive-away in brackets)
Ambition 103TSI manual - $21,690 ($22,990 drive-away)
Ambition 103TSI DSG - $23,990 ($25,290)
Ambition Plus 103TSI manual - $24,490 ($26,790)
Ambition Plus 103TSI DSG - $26,790 ($29,090)
Elegance 103TSI DSG - $32,190 ($35,490)
Elegance 132TSI DSG - $34,690 ($37,990)
Elegance 110TDI DSG - $35,490 ($38,790)
Ambition 103TSI manual - $23,040 ($24,340)
Ambition 103TSI DSG - $25,340 ($26,640)
Ambition Plus 103TSI manual - $25,840 ($28,140)
Ambition Plus 103TSI DSG - $28,140 ($30,440)
Elegance 103TSI DSG - $33,540 ($36,840)
Elegance 132TSI DSG - $36,040 ($39,340)
Elegance 110TDI DSG - $36,840 ($40,140)