2014 SKODA OCTAVIA REVIEW
What’s hot: Superior handling and comfort, very sharply priced.
What’s not: No manual diesel, and no diesel below top-spec Elegance.
X-FACTOR: The ‘medium-sized small car’, Skoda’s Octavia feels as big as a Camry, but drives like a Golf.
Vehicle style: Small/medium liftback-sedan and wagon
Price: $21,690 to $35,390 plus on-roads
|103TSI petrol||103kW/250Nm||6spd Manual||5.7 l/100km||6.4 l/100km|
|103TSI petrol||103kW/250Nm||7spd Auto||5.2 l/100km||6.7 l/100km|
|132TSI petrol||132kW/250Nm||7spd Auto||5.9 l/100km||6.4 l/100km|
|110TDI diesel||110kW/320Nm||6spd Auto||4.9 l/100km||5.6 l/100km|
But you can fit a family of five in the Octavia, in comfort, plus all their holiday gear in the deep lift-up back, and whisk them swiftly and effortlessly to nearly anywhere.
And with a lively 103TSI 1.4 litre petrol turbo under the bonnet - that has real ‘go’ - you won’t be planning ahead in triplicate (and testing wind-speed and direction) when overtaking, or faced with a mountain range to cross.
Spend $2300 more, at $25,290 drive-away, and you can add a seven-speed DSG sports auto. Peel off another $1350, and you can have the wagon at $26,640 driveaway.
And the base-spec i40 petrol Tourer in auto is $33,990 PLUS on-roads.
With the new model, with aggressive new pricing and simplified range, Skoda Australia may have just landed the best buy of the year into the Australian market.
Skoda’s new Octavia adds a whole new meaning to “affordability” for family car buyers. The Octavia has never set the world on fire for style, but has always been a good steer.
We drove all engine and transmission variants at launch, in both wagon and liftback, and have good things to report.
Open the door to any of the new Octavia range and you won’t be disappointed by what you find.
The base spec Ambition, with cloth seats and a centre-stack without a screen display, comes nevertheless with a soft-touch dash and door trims, really appealing glossy metal-look highlights, and a solid-as-a-drum feel.
Some of the plastics are a bit ‘plakky’ - the door-handle grips for instance, and the dull look to the console and audio facing. And some of the ‘tucked-away’ surfaces, out of the line of sight, show where savings have been found.
But the overwhelming impression is of a well-constructed, well laid-out interior, with a European feel and sense of understated style.
Even the cloth trim seats on the base-spec Ambition are nicely shaped and comfortable. It might be just me, but I prefer cloth to leather over the longer term of ownership.
The entry model Ambition gets multi-function leather steering wheel, trip computer, Bluetooth with audio streaming, MP3, USB and aux-in, SD slot and CD/radio. No cruise control but air-con, height adjustable driver’s seat, power windows, air-conditioned glove-box , tyre pressure monitoring, ISOFIX anchorage points (for child seats), and a host more features.
Step up a grade to Ambition Plus (at $26,790 drive-away MT) and there’s a 5.8-inch touch-screen, Bolero radio and 8-speaker audio. It also adds cruise control, rear parking sensors, centre armrest, 17-inch alloys, driver fatigue detection, rear side airbags, and more.
At the top of the three-model range is the very well-equipped leather-clad Octavia Elegance beginning at 35,490 drive-away for the DSG-equipped 103TSI lift-back sedan. The larger 1.8 litre 132TSI engine adds $2500.
The key convenience feature for the Elegance is its Columbus sat-nav with 8-inch screen, integrated audio, and 64GB storage.
It gets a tad convoluted thereafter (for this tiny brain), but Skoda offers two optional packs - a $3900 TECH pack (with automatic parking, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking) and a TRAVEL pack with various dress-up and convenience features.
The Columbus sat-nav can separately be optioned into the Ambition and Ambition Plus.
All in the range score a 5-Star ANCAP rating with stability control, hill-hold control, ABS, Electronic diff-lock, front, side and curtain airbags, height-adjustable front and rear headrests, among other passive and dynamic safety features.
ON THE ROAD
Whichever model and engine configuration you choose, you have a very appealing drive underfoot.
On road, the Octavia has the panache and settled handling of a Volkswagen Golf.
It is not as ‘alert’ as the Golf; the Octavia has a little more initial compliance to the suspension - and a little more travel - which irons out jitteriness on rippled tarmac.
Also, the extended rear overhang settles the tail, providing a relaxed and more comfortable ride.
Neither is the steering quite as direct. But both latter points make the Octavia an easier and more relaxed highway tourer.
Importantly, the front-end is very good indeed. The Octavia, both wagon and sedan, sits very flat, even if ‘tipped in’ sharply at speed - only perhaps the Accord Euro and Mazda6 are comparable for front-end balance and composure.
You will feel the transfer of the extra weight in the wagon’s rear if pushing things along when cornering, but, sedan or wagon, this is a superior handling car. A driver’s bargain at the price.
The smaller 103TSI petrol turbo is a jewel. With the six-speed manual, it pulls away really quickly and will nail the 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds.
If you give it a dose away from standstill, you can have the tyres chirping through the first couple of changes. The DSG is equally quick, at 8.5 seconds.
This new-gen 1.4 litre TSI is a cracking unit, loves a rev and gives the Octavia a brisk, willing feel on the highway. Its 250Nm matches the larger 1.8 litre 132kW TSI petrol turbo available with the Elegance.
The 1.8 litre peels off the 0-100km/h dash in 7.4 seconds, but, for on-road feel, you’d be hard-pressed to pick which you were driving (save your money I reckon).
Of the transmissions, unless you actively want a manual (and it’s only available with the base spec Ambition), the seven-speed DSG with sports-shift (but no paddles) is a very satisfying and alive transmission.
It ‘zinks’ through each change and will readily down-shift pre-emptively when slowing for corners.
The 110TDI diesel, only available with the top-spec Elegance and with six-speed DSG auto, feels immediately stronger than the petrol variants, thanks to that hefty torque available from 1750-3000rpm.
But unless you’re often loaded up, the fuel-efficient petrol engines now nearly match the diesel’s 4.9 l/100km combined consumption and there’s little in it for overall performance (0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds).
It was completely empty: put a bod or two in there and it will be as quiet as the sedan. We really liked the wagon.
It looks good, has a huge load area of 588 litres with seats in place, rising to 1718litres with them down, and comes with a reversible mat with a rubberised side for stowing wet-suits and the like.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT | OVERALL
Has Skoda just delivered the best value family buy of the moment? We think so.
The new Octavia handles really well, is really enjoyable to drive, is solid as a drum and is priced like a small car.
Cubit for cubit, it’s hard to think of a competitor. Especially for the wagon: it’s smart, will swallow everything the family can throw at it, and is an effortless and comfortable cruiser.
And on the highway, it will literally run on little more than the smell of a rag.
Sure, the Octavia is conservatively styled but its lines work well in an understated European way, especially with the 17-inch alloys.
Perhaps, with this new Octavia range, Skoda has finally found its mark here.
At this pricing and configuration, it’s going to appeal to a lot of young families. It has a feel of class missing in many of nearest competitors.
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)