First Driving Impressions – Skoda Octavia, European Press Launch, Faro

First deliveries of the all-new Octavia hatchback begin in March, with the estate due in May. The ever popular and great looking vRS is due in UK showrooms in June, the fuel efficient Greenline will arrive in November and the pumped-up 4x4 will be with us by early 2014.

There’s around £3,500 worth of additional equipment over the current car and the SE has more than £3,800, which is quite amazing.

Octavia Ext 1The current Octavia has been a huge success for Skoda and it has helped them stamp their mark in the fleet market. On first viewing the new car is obviously still an Octavia but closer inspection shows just how different it is to the outgoing model. There are some really nice exterior lines; the side swage lines connect and run all the way through to the boot to make it look like one complete line. They look great and really accentuate the car’s sporty style. Another nice touch is the design of the rear door which has a small body panel situated between the rear window and the door close line. A chrome strip which runs along the bottom of the side windows also follows a unique line and does add to its character; an unusual design but one which has been effectively executed. The bonnet also has some deep, sharp lines that give the impression of a bold and very muscular stance and the same applies to its deep front spoiler: another element that makes this car look wider and somewhat domineering. Another slight change to the exterior is the Skoda badge, which now sits on the edge of the bonnet as opposed to being part of the front grille.

Octavia Int 1The interior is a huge improvement on the current car in all aspects. The plastics are now soft touch and look good, plus the seats are more comfortable and the whole of the cabin looks and feels more premium. There is very little road, engine or wind noise present and it’s a very nice place to spend a lot of time. It is also roomy, with plenty of space for five adults and there’s enough room in the boot for all of their luggage as the cargo area is enormous.

All the engines available in the UK will have start/stop as standard and a good selection is offered. The following will be available: a 1.2 litre TSI 105ps petrol, 1.4 litre TSI 140ps petrol, 1.6 litre TDI CR 105ps diesel and a 2.0 litre TDI 150ps diesel. All engines will have either a manual or DSG gearbox offered.

Three trim levels will be available in the range: S, SE and Elegance. The level of standard specification is excellent with even the base car (the S) having a long list of features and too many to mention. There’s around £3,500 worth of additional equipment over the current car and the SE has more than £3,800, which is quite amazing. The new satellite navigation system with its touch screen is easy to use and very intuitive.

Octavia Ext 2The Octavia has had – and no doubt will continue to have – an identity problem as it doesn’t really sit within a defined group. Some think it’s a Golf or Focus competitor whilst others think it’s more in line with an Audi A4, or even Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia. The Octavia is deceptively large and can easily be compared to cars that are in reality slightly longer. This confusion can cost sales but the easiest way to pitch an Octavia is to say that it’s Focus money but Mondeo size; not quite an accurate statement but almost true.

We drove the new Octavia in Portugal on a variety of roads including motorways which now carry a toll, however you don’t pay on the day but 48 hours after you have driven on them. This will probably be very inconvenient for most tourists so it’s best to stick to the normal roads that are not charged for. The car drove extremely well and coped well on some of the twisty mountain roads. I sat in the back for some of the journey and there was plenty of leg and head room so you don’t feel at all cramped and it’s a very comfortable ride.

Prices for the all-new Octavia start from £15,990 for a 1.2 litre TSI S petrol but the one to go for is the 1.6 litre TDI SE diesel that has a CO2 emissions figure of just 99g/km and costs a very reasonable £19,240.

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