The Skoda Octavia, very strategically, is positioned at an in-between spot of the market straddling the small car and medium car segments and playing the more-for-less value card when it comes to features and equipment.
Thanks to an update earlier in 2017 the Octavia range picks up a more striking front end, along with a few tweaks to equipment, and a model range that’s simpler than before.
Crucially though for buyers looking to carry more without the bulk of an SUV, the Octavia is one of the few medium wagons available in a shrinking field that’s still supported by Ford, Hyundai, Mazda, Subaru and parent-company, Volkswagen.
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $27,490 plus on-road costs, $39,290 as tested
Engine/trans:110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.2 l/100km | Tested: 8.2 l/100km
The refreshed Octavia range opens with an entry-level model simply called the Octavia 110TSI (previously called the Octavia Ambition) and priced at a very competitive $23,490 plus on-road costs for the cheapest manual hatch version. Choosing an automatic wagon as tested here brings that baseline up to a still-reasonable $27,490.
That buys you a 110kW turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and touches you may not expect like an 8.0-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, and 17-inch alloy wheels - all standard.
If that’s not enough, there’s a more sportily-styled Octavia Sport, or the genuinely hot Octavia RS range. There’s also options packages - quite a few in fact - that are responsible for this otherwise base model car costing almost $12,000 more than a base model.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth seat trim, leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, LED torch in boot, under-seat storage with umbrella, multi-function trip computer, rear armrest with cupholders, rear cargo blind, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, Bluetooth connectivity, Aux, USB, and SD card inputs, AM/FM radio, eight-speaker audio
- Options Fitted: Luxury pack (heated front and rear seats, electric front seats, rear seat side airbags, lane departure mitigation, blind spot monitoring, leather trim) $4200, Tech pack (9.2-inch touchscreen, 10-speaker audio, LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, sat nav, keyless entry and start, semi-automated parking, keyless entry and start, selectable drive modes) $4900, panoramic sunroof $1700, powered tailgate $500, metallic paint $500
- Cargo Volume: 588 litres to rear seat, 1718 litres to front seats
Let’s investigate that segment-splitting a little further. Some may tell you that the Octavia is based on a Volkswagen Golf but this isn’t just a rebadged or rebodied version.
Dimensionally the Octavia is 92mm longer from nose to tail than a Golf wagon, and the wheelbase is also 51mm longer to the benefit of passenger space. That still makes it a little shorter than something like a Volkswagen Passat or Skoda’s own Superb though.
Skoda’s use of interior space in impressive, particularly in the rear where there’s plenty of legroom to stretch out in, making it far more useful than an average small wagon might be.
The interior is also well finished, with obvious tight tolerances and precise construction factored in, although to meet its sharp price point the materials perhaps aren’t quite as plush as you might find in a more expensive Volkswagen product, but certainly still lead most of the competitors in its class.
An optional Luxury pack for $4200 adds leather trim, heated front and rear seats, and powered seat adjustment (plus extra safety kit) which makes for a far more upscale presentation than the standard fabric trim does.
There’s also a Tech pack for $4900 that brings a massive specification boost with a larger 9.2-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, proximity key with push-button start, premium audio, LED headlights, self-parking assistance and more.
With both packs added, the Octavia feels like a semi-premium car and while they do push the price up, there’s still a lot of features for under $40,000.
Skoda also takes small and often overlooked practical touches very seriously which is why you’ll find a clip-in bin for the door pockets, an umbrella, a tablet holder on the rear seats, and an LED torch mounted in the side of the boot, all of which will come in very handy when you least expect it.
Amongst the Octavia’s standard features are dual-zone climate control, self-dimming rearview mirror, leather-trimmed steering wheel, cooled glovebox, adaptive cruise control, and connectivity including Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Swing open the tailgate (for $500 that can be power-operated too) to reveal 588 litres of cargo space and more of Skoda’s well-judged touches like seat release handles, bag hooks, and load restraining nets all included.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 110kW @5000-6000rpm, 250Nm @1500-3500rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering,
- Towing Capacity: 1500kg braked, 640kg unbraked, 75kg towball load
With 110kW to work with the turbocharged 1.4-litre engine in the Octavia has one of the lowest outputs in its segment, but a healthy 250Nm of torque is available from low in the rev range helping with the heavy lifting.
It’s because of this the Octavia manages to return decent acceleration, with Skoda claiming a 0-100 km/h time of 8.3 seconds for the wagon - more than fast enough for a life of service as a family wagon.
Once again the component set that makes up the Octavia is from Volkswagen’s MQB group, similar to what makes up the Golf, but to reduce cost and complexity the Octavia makes use of a torsion beam rear suspension system compared to the Golf’s independent rear suspension.
The difference isn’t as marked as you might expect though, and only the most demanding of drivers would be likely to pick any flaws with the Octavia’s handling. The Tech pack adds adaptive dampers, though even in their softest setting some may find the Octavia’s ride quite firm.
In general urban driving the Octavia does a fine job of keeping pace with other traffic, while causing a minimal amount of stress to occupants thanks to decent noise insulation that keeps most road and wind noise at bay.
Pick up the pace on the open road and Octavia inspires confidence through secure handling, and as the pace rises the suspension becomes a little more forgiving.
The steering isn’t exactly involving though, giving only a vague sense of what the front wheels are up to, but the light steering feel and eager assistance really come into their own in the confines of a tight carpark.
The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic can exhibit the jitters in very low-speed maneuvers, and the brake-hold system can let-go before the transmission takes up meaning the potential to gracelessly roll into kerbs when parked nose first on steeply cambered roads.
That quirk aside, the rest of the time the transmission is quick-shifting and very smooth, eager to kickdown when more pace is required, but well judged enough so as not to hunt for the right gear.
ANCAP Rating: 5/5 Stars - the Skoda Octavia scored 36.84 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2016 based on data obtained by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: All Octavia variants come with seven airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee) autonomous emergency braking, electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and multi-collision brake, rear view camera, tyre pressure monitoring, and driver fatigue detection.
Adding the optional Luxury pack adds additional rear seat side airbags, lane departure mitigation, and blind spot monitoring.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals occur every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first), with capped price servicing for the first five visits priced at $280, $354, $451, $555, and $451 respectively. Skoda service includes items like pollen filters and brake fluid (which some manufacturer’s exclude) but other terms and conditions apply - your Skoda dealer can provide more info.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Though usually famed for its value, Hyundai doesn’t quite match the Skoda with its i40 Active. Although slightly larger, the i40 lacks climate control and autonomous emergency braking though does get multi-link suspension tuned to Australian conditions.
The Mazda6 wagon is (unusually) a slightly more compact vehicle compared to the sedan, with a shorter wheelbase and less room in the rear seat. It’s still larger than the Octavia though not as cleverly packaged and while equipment is decent, base pricing isn’t as generous.
Subaru tries the same segment-straddling approach as Skoda with the Levorg wagon, but a more premium position means there’s no real ‘base model’ of the Levorg meaning a well-stocked equipment list and a zesty 1.6-litre turbo and CVT automatic that work well for a vehicle the size of the Levorg.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Though it may be unassuming and understated on the outside, the Octavia 110TSI wagon really gets to the core of what makes a family wagon great, packing in lots of space and lots of tech for a very budget price.
As tested this particular vehicle isn’t as fiscally friendly, but the added features bundled together in Skoda’s option packages ensure the Octavia still maintains its value edge against more expensive rivals. It may not be premium but you could be easily convinced otherwise.
If interior space takes precedence over exterior flair then the Octavia is sure to hold plenty of appeal thanks to a compact and easy to handle footprint that makes the most of the space inside, both in terms of physical space and day-to-day practicality.
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