Continuing a habit of testing cars which other motoring journals have already tested ad-nauseum, here’s a LTT of my Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0L Diesel SE-L
We have had our Octavia since the middle of July 2017. In that time, it has travelled over 37,000 miles and proved to be a very capable and worthy steed. it’s painted in vibrant metallic Rio Red (in the sunshine it looks a bit like Heinz Tomato Soup – other tomato soups are available), with a very fine, tough, finish.
The Octavia arrived as part of my rejig of our car portfolio (pretentious, moi?) where a Mazda3 Fastback (also subjected to numerous LTT articles here) and Xsara Picasso (ditto) were replaced by the Skoda and a FIAT 500 (which I have, again, written about here). A C6 still lurks on the driveway. By and large, the Skoda is driven by me to get me to work and back, as well as to take us on annual holidays to Devon and also to a campsite on the Isle of Wight (no, that’s not a euphemism for a visit to one of Her Majesty’s Prisons).
Our Octavia is an early example of the facelifted version still on sale, but will soon be replaced by a whole new generation model. This facelift features the rather unconvincingly revised front fascia, with the slanting four-lamp treatment. It looks a fair bit like the schnoz on the previous generation E-Class with the pontoon rear-wheel-arches, but is also reminds me of the adjustable sloping windscreen on Concorde, which slipped downwards when the nose-cone was lowered. Either way, it’s a bit awkward (if distinctive), and undoes a lot of the nice work done on the pre-facelifted model.
Otherwise, I have grown to like the looks of the Octavia in Estate form. The facelift benefited from extra millimetres between the rear wheels, helping the car to have a nicely planted stance. The proportions are very well balanced. The panel surfacing is taught, straight-lined and simple, well short of fussiness which, I think, upsets the look of, say, the current Insignia ST. The strong and confident treatment of the front wing and wheel-arches is admirable too.
Our car came with the benefit of satin-chrome effect roof-bars and side window surrounds, which really lift it in an unexpected manner – the latter manage to be a single piece around the rear section of the car, which is a rare quality these days. The ride height is quite elevated, which means that the simple but attractive 17” alloy wheels look a little lost. Viewed as a whole, the Octavia is no Superb, but it’s much better than the Rapid or new Scala in my opinion.
Inside, one finds the Octavia’s ace card: space. And comfort. Assisted by deep windows, if anything the interior feels even more spacious than it is. Moreover, the four main seats are well-shaped and padded, with a central arm-rest for those in the rear. My teenagers, who never managed to sleep in the back of the Picasso, regularly manage to do so on longer trips in the Skoda. The seats are trimmed in a combo of alcantara for the main panels and leatherette over the side bolsters – this means they breathe but also prevent one from slipping around.
The boot is large, becomes even larger if you lower the false floor, and massive with the seats down. The latter can be released from inside the boot, or from latches on the top of the rear seats. There are four sturdy fold-down hooks for shopping bags. The roll-top luggage cover can be stored in a designated area on the boot floor and the boot lamp can be detached and used as a rechargeable torch, which is one of those nice ‘Simply Clever’ touches which Skoda wants to be one of its USPs.
The really impressive bit about all this is the combo of a large boot and generous rear space – the likes of the Pug 308 and Ceed can do the former only at the expense of the latter. No surprise then that the Octavia is one of taxi-cabbers’ top choices.
It’s not the most inviting of interiors, though. The door-cards are hard and, I think, covered in the leatherette (let’s call is vinyl, shall we?) – not what one would expect on this above-median trim level (disappointingly, it’s the same on the posh Laurent and Clement trim too). It probably does not help that the interior colour theme is charcoal. Dark, zebrano-wood-effect-plastic trim-strips across the tops of the doors do a little to lift the atmosphere (surprisingly, they look better than I have made them sound), but it’s no Granada Ghia inside.
The dash is deep and a little domineering, simply designed and, somehow, a bit old-fashioned. The quality of plastics is good overall, with nice, slightly squidgy stuff up top and along the top of the door casings. Things get a bit harder and cheaper at the bottom, meaning that the deep glove-box lid has irritating scuff-marks on it.
HVAC controls feel nice and are relatively straightforward with rotary knobs for heat control and buttons to control direction, circulation, automatic temperature control and heated rear window. Stalks for indicators and wipers, etc. are quite chunky and have a nice positive, quality action to them. Of course, everything is VW parts-bin – having had a Golf for a day, I can tell you there’s very little between them (I have written about that too!).
Equipment is sensibly specified in SE-L trim. The 8” touchscreen looks lovely and also helps to brighten the mood. It works OK, sometimes needing two or three prods to get its attention, but the resolution is high and the graphics nice. Usability is rubbish compared to the remote-rotary controller on the Mazda3, though. The sound system is good enough, but the sat-nav does not take UK postcodes, which is very irritating – my 06-plate Subaru could handle them, why can’t a 17-plate VW Group product ferhevvenssake?! It’s also rubbish at picking the best routes.
The headlamps are LEDs and wonderfully effective with bright, white light and crisp definition. The ‘auto-dipping’ main-beam function is not sensitive enough, though, and complicates the matter of switching from full to main beam, meaning that I have far too regularly blinded oncoming drivers. I’m not sure when I am going to be able to trust this kind of technology enough to allow it to replace my own instincts and judgement.
Next time, we look at how the Octavia Estate drives.