In the final part of our ownership experience review of the Skoda Octavia Estate, we discuss service intervals, sloths and dodgy DRLs.
Living with the Skoda Octavia is a pretty pain-free affair. As mentioned previously, it’s very parsimonious with respect to fuel consumption, it’s comfortable and spacious to sit in and drive, it rides well enough (with a decent level of pliancy), and it’s reasonably quiet.
The Skoda has also been pretty reliable – but not flawless.
I’ll start with the niggles. The Tyre Pressure Monitor Sensors (TPMS) are irritatingly sensitive, and I feel like I have had an ongoing battle with them. The near-side rear, in particular, goes off every other journey, and yet every time I check it, it’s only within 1 or maximum 2 PSI of where it should be. I have had the Skoda service centre have a look at it on many occasions and they can never find a fault – in fact they always seem to suggest that the pressure was way out of line, even though I had checked before that it wasn’t.
The LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) on the near-side of the car also developed a fault in that they were permanently dimmed. This required three trips to the service centre to solve – one to diagnose, two to have a whole new headlamp fitted as the DRL is sealed within the same unit (thank goodness it was still under warranty!), and three to have the headlamp re-set as, when I drove home from collecting the car I noticed the new headlamp unit was very poorly aligned. I’ll come back to the service experience in a minute.
Thus far, nothing else has gone wrong. The paintwork seems very tough and neither chips or scratches easily (much better than the Mazda). The washer fluid reservoir seems to drain very quickly, but I suspect that’s because it sprays the headlamps at the same time as it washes the windscreen.
Tyre wear is very good – slow and even. I have had some bad luck with tyres, though. A nail ruined one in the first few weeks of owning the car. Then a bulge emerged in a front tyre after about 18,000 miles and so I felt I had to replace both front tyres rather than risk have them being uneven across the front of the car. C’est la vie … as was the damage to the rear bumper in a motorway service station car-park caused by a distracted Volvo Estate driver (they were very nice and apologetic about it, though).
I found the service support for the Skoda oddly annoying. Although we bought the car from Progress Skoda in Letchworth, I always used Listers in Banbury because it was conveniently close to the office. On the surface, this was great. It has a nice clean and pleasant reception area, the receptionists were polite, always offered a hot drink, a lift/ service car (at a modest cost), etc. One also gets a (pointless) video clip of a service engineer shining a torch on the underside of the car telling one it’s all in good shape (even though one of the tyres wasn’t on one occasion).
One can tell, though, that they are going through the motions of the ‘seven steps to customer service heaven’, or whatever, that either Listers or VW Group has indoctrinated into them. The guy I mainly seemed to deal with was sloth-like in the slow, deliberate and distracted way he went through these motions – throw him the curved-ball of a question and he’d either be flummoxed or have to start his spiel all over again.
This wouldn’t grate so much if the actual work requests were done properly. I mentioned above the new headlamp which left their workshop badly aligned – that’s just sloppy. They also forgot to put new mats in the car even though they had told me that I would find them in the boot.
And then there is the muddle of service intervals. There is a service indicator which pops up a message on the small screen between the main dials on the IP. As expected, it told me I needed an oil-change at about 12,000 miles. When my sloth-like friend noticed that the car was barely 6 months old at this first service, he suggested that the indicator could be reset to a 20,000 per interval cadence.
This struck me as odd (why not set it at that in the first place?), but I went along with it. Imagine my surprise when, about 5 months and 10,000 miles later, the indicator popped up to say the car was due an inspection. I called the service centre to query it, to be told that this was separate service required by Skoda and is standard on all VW Group cars irrespective of the oil change. What’s the point of that, and, moreover, why did sloth-guy not explain the whole picture in the first place?
I know this is small beer, first-world problem stuff, but I’d rather the fundamentals were right and bin all the service-procedure-by-numbers nonsense stuff, thanks.
So, overall, how to summarise my views of almost 30 months with a Skoda Octavia Estate? Probably the best way I can describe it is that I would (and do) unhesitatingly recommend one to anyone who’s interested (and even some who aren’t). If you are in the market for a medium (or even large) sized estate, I still think this is the one to buy.
I have had experience of Peugeot’s 308 SW, a Golf Estate, and a Focus too and none of them has the great balance of a large boot and spacious interior. I’ll say it again, fuel consumption is fantastic, the seats and ride quality are comfortable, build quality is good and, in almost every respect, fit and finish are at least as good as the Golf.
Skodas are far from being the bargains they used to be, but it still represents very good value. You pay slightly less than the equivalent Golf, but you get a car which is half a size larger. You also get the ‘Simply Clever’ brand embellishers like the brolly under the front passenger seat, the ice-scraper/ tyre depth measurer in the fuel flap, and the robust bag-hooks in the boot.
Don’t pay for more than the SE-L trim though; the Laurin & Klement version just has a load of relatively useless extra toys stuck on and ain’t worth it. Some people still can’t get beyond the image of the badge, but then there are others who prefer it to that of the still ‘yuppy’ tinged VW.
I would like a bit more warmth of character to the car. It does seem like a car built to a set of brand requirements, perspiration over inspiration, and all that. But that’s the car enthusiast talking; my wife loves it and says how much she likes it every time we go on a longer journey, and she is right to do so. It’s a very fine car, absolutely fit for purpose, and that should not really be a surprise to anyone anymore.