Offering more metal for the money has long been the purchasing pitch of local large sedans, and more recently SUVs, but it’s also been a catchcry for Volkswagen’s underrated budget brand, Skoda.
And the Skoda Octavia 110TSI Ambition is a perfect example.
In terms of body size, the Octavia is firmly a medium car, but one that now sells for small car prices. The performance of this entry-level Ambition model grade is beyond that of a similarly-priced entry Volkswagen Golf hatchback with which it largely shares its engines, and yet this Skoda is roomier and more affordable.
So, is there a catch? Or is this buy-by-the-kilo offering simply an example of the Czech Republican niche brand attempting to thrust itself into the mainstream?
Vehicle Style: Medium car
Price: $25,290 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 110kW/250Nm 1.4 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.3 l/100km | Tested: 6.9 l/100km
A recent specification boost has significantly increased the value proposition of the Skoda Octavia range. Previously the entry automatic version asked $26,790 (plus on-road costs) compared with just $25,290 (plus orc) today.
Despite the price cut, the 110TSI Ambition is also better equipped than the outgoing 103TSI Ambition Plus model grade, adding a reverse camera, larger 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology (versus 5.8 inches previously without the mirroring), low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and even adaptive cruise control.
Continuing as standard equipment are 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, rear parking sensors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
- Standard Equipment: power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, air-conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel, full cloth trim, adaptive cruise control, auto-off headlights and remote keyless entry
- Infotainment: 6.5-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, USB inputs and eight-speakers
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 568 to 1558 litres
Skoda arguably needed to chop the pricing of its latest Octavia generation, because in some ways its cabin takes a step backwards from the previous, 2008-era model.
Some soft-touch plastics remain, however previously the dashboard more obviously felt Volkswagen (and even Audi) derived. From the driver’s seat the 110TSI Ambition can struggle to make a decent showroom first impression despite the convincing equipment equation.
The entry Octavia lacks auto on/off headlights and digital climate control, for example, where other small cars for around this pricetag include these as standard. What it leaves is a sparse-looking dash with basic manual air-con dials.
It’s also a sizeable jump to the $35,490 (plus orc) Octavia 110TSI Style before scoring climate and auto lights. The latter at least comes bundled in a Sports Pack option for the 110TSI Ambition, but it costs a hefty $3400 and includes sports suspension and larger wheels.
Note that the marginally more expensive $26,990 (plus orc) Hyundai Elantra Elite offers climate and auto lights, in addition to leather trim, rain sensing wipers and auto-dimming rear-view mirror all unavailable here.
Additionally, the Elantra’s keyless auto-entry and sat-nav are only available in the Octavia if a $1300 Comfort Pack is ticked. Skoda responds, however, with adaptive cruise control and AEB highlights, which are absolutely impressive technologies at this price point.
The intuitive touchscreen is another big-ticket item up front, and the driver and passenger seats are supportive, although the cloth trim design is reminiscent of a fleet-spec Holden Commodore Evoke and doesn’t extend onto the all-plastic doors.
What is somewhat lost with interior ambience, however, is made up for in space. Even the Toyota Corolla – the roomiest small sedan around – can’t match the Octavia for back-seat room and boot volume.
So large is the Skoda’s 568-litre boot that it beats most medium SUVs and, thanks to a liftback design rather than a sedan bootlid, loading and unloading larger objects such as prams is ideal. For families, this could be a boon beyond touchy-feely trim.
Rear headroom is lacking thanks to the sloping roofline, but legroom is firmly in the realms of medium sedans and airvents are included as standard. For families with babies and small children, the hard door plastics could even be seen as a positive – easy to wash off, easy to clean.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 110kW/250Nm 1.4 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
A base Volkswagen Golf only gets a 92kW/200Nm version of the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine featured here. But this Octavia 110TSI Ambition produces a healthier 110kW of power at 6000rpm and 250Nm of torque between 1500rpm and 3500rpm.
Although a six-speed manual is standard, priced from $22,990 (plus orc), the more popular seven-speed dual-clutch automatic option is tested here, bringing with it a $2300 premium.
Best of all, the larger Octavia barely weighs more than the smaller Golf, with a kerb mass only 25kg heavier at 1234kg. Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 8.2 seconds is spritely for the segment – and that’s either the small or medium class – and this Skoda feels willing yet refined in all situations.
Perhaps the Volkswagen Group automatic, dubbed DSG, could be a little less jerky when responding to light throttle applications when parking, for example, but there’s no mistaking its swift response on the move.
There’s no arguing with its economy, either. Although we couldn’t reach the combined cycle fuel consumption claim of 5.3 litres per 100 kilometres. Our recorded 6.9l/100km remains deeply impressive given the performance on offer.
Even more surprising is this entry Octavia’s dynamic ability.
With mid-weighted and consistent steering, teamed with a sharp and responsive front-end, the 110TSI Ambition handles better than most entry model grades. It resists roll through corners admirably well, always feeling firmer and more focused compared with its near-twin, the smooth and lush Golf.
The downside to this chassis tune is ordinary ride comfort in most conditions. The Octavia uses a simpler torsion-beam rear suspension design compared with the Golf’s multi-link setup, but the design doesn’t seem the inherent issue. Rather the damper rates feel too stiff, causing this Skoda to rarely settle around town and jitter on country roads.
A family car should arguably be more soothing. Likewise, road noise is an issue with the Octavia particularly over coarse-chip surfaces. It leaves the 110TSI Ambition feeling like a spritely and dynamic, but also a less-than-refined medium car.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Skoda Octavia range scored 36.84 out of 37 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2016.
Safety Features: Dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, collision warning alert with low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Skoda’s capped price servicing program covers the first six years or 90,000km, with checks annually or every 15,000km at a higher-than-average cost of $419 each.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
An Elantra is a decently roomy inbetweener, squeezed between the more cramped Mazda3 and the more spacious Toyota Corolla sedans. Given the latter brand’s fondness for $26,990 driveaway deals on the base Camry Altise, it’s up for worthy consideration. At the other end of the spectrum, the Golf drives superbly, but it’s a smaller hatchback after all.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
From its standard technology, to its gigantic cabin and boot, and its excellent performance and economy, there is a lot to like about the Skoda Octavia 110TSI Ambition when accompanied by its newfound entry pricetag.
Its value is ultimately dependent on your priorities, though. For ride comfort, refinement, cabin presentation and convenience features, ‘proper’ small cars such as the Elantra and Golf remain more convincing propositions for the money.
Where the Skoda most appeals is with space and practicality that positions the Octavia not only as a cheaper medium sedan, but also an ultra-pragmatic and efficient alternative to a medium SUV. The base models of that segment start at almost $30K – or about where this $25K model grade was previously positioned.
Alternative-thinking families best take note of that equation.
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