First impressions are important, and the new Skoda Octavia left me tallying up a whole lot of positives for the new model at the car’s international launch in Portugal. That was a few months ago, and I was looking forward to being reacquainted with the motor for a week-long road test on behalf of Flush Magazine, after that first taste behind the wheel in the Algarve.
The Octavia was launched in 1996 and the car has become the manufacturer’s biggest seller by some distance. The family-sized hatchback accounted for 44 per cent of the maker’s total deliveries in 2012, and this is the third generation car.
It is the most advanced Skoda ever and went on sale in March with prices starting at £15,990.
Compared to its predecessor, the Octavia has grown significantly in length and width. The new model is 90mm longer and 45mm wider than the second generation car. The wheelbase has grown by 108mm, allowing the designers to increase interior space.
Back in January, after the launch, I wrote: ‘The car is certainly a looker, with lines that are dynamic, but also elegant and refined. The new Octavia looks distinctive and assured.’
And so it does. The design is clear, precise and timeless, and the interior Is equally stylish. My thoughts at launch time were: ‘Inside, the feeling is one of space and delightfully clean, well-thought-out design. With high quality, pleasingly tactile surfaces and first class ergonomics, meaning that all controls fall easily to hand and foot, the cabin is a welcoming place to be. Fit and finish is top class throughout’.
Those first impressions hold good, and were fully confirmed during my week with the car. My road test model, an Elegance 1.4 TSI, with leather and alcantara-trimmed seats, boasted a host of great equipment, including four-spoke multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, driver fatigue sensor, dual zone climate control air conditioning, gear change recommendation, hill hold control, electrically-foldable door mirrors, rain sensitive wipers, cruise control, intelligent light assistant, telescopic headlight washers and an infotainment system including satellite navigation, in this case a touch screen satnav as an option. There is voice control for phone and navigation.
Other options on the car included electrically adjustable front seats and a winter pack of heated washer nozzles, windscreen and front seats.
There are new and advanced safety systems, including the aforementioned driver fatigue sensor, which monitors steering behaviour and alerts the driver by an audible tone and a visual message in the instrument cluster, advising a break from the road if fatigue is detected.
The driving experience is engaging and confidence inspiring, with assured handling, and smooth power from the four-cylinder petrol engine which is mated to an excellent six-speed manual gearbox.
The engine really is a gem… a 1.4-litre, it feels more like a 1.8- or even a 2-litre in its ready supply of power. Responsive and nimble, it also ate up the motorway miles with ease.
On the practicality front, there is boot-space aplenty, with a load capacity of 590litres, extending to 1580litres with the 60/40 split rear seats folded down.
A positive introduction in Portugal was borne out by a great week on roads closer to home.
Make/model: Skoda Octavia Elegance 1.4 TSI
Technical: 1.4-litre, 140bhp, four-cylinder petrol engine with six speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph, 8.1 seconds; top speed, 134mph
Fuel: 53.3mpg (combined)
Price: inc options and VAT, £22,945
For more info visit www.skoda.co.uk