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Car reviews - Skoda - Octavia - 110TSI Ambition sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Flexible engine, cargo and cabin space, quality feel, road manners
Room for improvement
DSG and stop-start lag, 12-volt or USB in the rear

Skoda logo3 Oct 2016

By STUART MARTIN

Price and equipment

THE Ambition Sedan in DSG dual-clutch guise is $25,290 plus on-roads – the manual is priced from $22,990 – and that buys a competent and flexible liftback masquerading as a sedan.

The driver gets a reach-and-rake adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel (not always a base-model feature) with audio, phone and trip computer controls, height adjustment for the driver’s seat, cloth seat trim, front and rear windscreen wipers, power windows, rear privacy tinted windows, 17-inch alloy wheels (although the spare is a 16-inch steel with speed-limited rubber), manual air-conditioning, power-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, halogen headlights and remote central locking.

The eight-speaker infotainment system is controlled by a 6.5-inch touchscreen and includes smartphone integration via USB cable to Apple Carplay and Android Auto (which delivers app-based sat-nav), or conventional Bluetooth phone link and music streaming.

Interior

For it’s size the Octavia offers a comfortable and spacious cabin, if not overly luxurious in terms of features or trim, but chrome additions and lined door pockets are nice touches.

Cloth seats betray the pricetag a little but it’s not an uncomfortable seating package chrome trim pieces and interior door handles break up the swathes of plastic (which is of reasonable quality), but the rear space allows a tall passenger to sit behind a similarly-sized driver.

The ‘Simply Clever’ mantra of the breed extends to useful and versatile in-cabin storage in the doors and centre console, as well as a useful interior lighting package and the presence of a 12-volt outlet in the boot, although one for the rear seat (as well as a USB perhaps) would be worth adding.

Boot space is an Octavia claim to fame, with the liftback – the bootlid has a sedan line but lifts in one piece hatchback style – boasting 568 litres of space with the rear seats holding occupants and 1558 litres when its only two on board, well ahead of the small-car segment and competitive in the medium realm.

The instrument panel has no shortage of information from the trip computer as well as a digital speed readout, with simple controls to cycle through the various screens on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, as well as audio, phone and voice control switchgear.

At 191cm your writer’s driving position is comfortable but the rear space is also good – being able to sit behind my own driving position is not something we can do in many smaller cars.

Rear passengers get vents from the air-conditioning and small storage drawer, but there’s no rear fold down armrest and charge points.

Engine and transmission

The Ambition is on test in its seven-speed DSG guise, which is a smooth-changing gearbox but still suffers from the twin-clutch tardiness at initial throttle application.

That delay conspires with a slow idle-stop fuel saver system (something we would consider getting permanently disabled) and the small amount of delay from the turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine, which runs direct injection and double overhead cams to deliver 110kW at 6000rpm but more importantly offers 250Nm of torque spread from 1500 to 3500rpm.

It is an enthusiastic little engine that is flexible when required, working well with the DSG once up and running – relaxed cruising using the torque is the default mode but if the mood strikes it isn’t averse to higher revolutions for press-ahead driving.

The fly in the latter’s ointment is fuel use, which is a claimed 5.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but the real-world number of 7.8L/100km with 95RON PULP from the 50-litre tank is closer – but still thirstier – than the laboratory-derived official number of 6.3L/100km on the urban cycle.

It tips the scales in DSG guise at 1234kg, which isn’t lardy when considering the dimensions which is closer to medium than a small car – overall length is 4659mm, wheelbase is 2686mm, it measures 1814mm in width and height is 1461mm, making it longer and a little wider than the Mazda3.

Ride and handling

Slipping through the suburbs in the Octavia means dealing with degraded roads and the little Czech hatchback copes well with the second-rate surfaces.

Sitting on a MacPherson strut front suspension with lower triangular links and torsion stabiliser bar, with a torsion-beam, coil sprung trailing arm rear set-up, the ride is firm – typical of the breed and its VW parent – but does a decent job of taking the sting out of the nastier bumps.

Slight fidgeting on smaller ripples is there but not to a level that would seriously disturb those in the cabin, as it delivers a composed package overall.

Stretching its legs on a country road with some corners, the Octavia continues to deliver – it’s not wearing an RS badge so there’s no expectation of serious corner carving, but the Ambition retains its composed demeanour in all but the tightest of corners.

Clever driveline bits help but it can push the nose wide under duress and tighter bends need throttle discipline to keep the inside wheel from waking up the electronic watchdogs.

Safety and servicing

Where the Ambition brings plenty to its showroom appeal is in the active safety systems list, whichis extensive – auto-emergency braking system, adaptive cruise control and the VW group’s multi-collision braking system are all standard.

It also has a tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors (fronts are an option), reversing camera, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, a hill holder, rear seatbelt use reminders, the electronic differential lock (but not the cleverer extended version), dual front, front-side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain airbags, although rear side airbags are not fitted to the Ambition.

Also on the list is active front head restraints, Isofix child seat anchor points for the outboard rear seats, front and rear foglights but the base model does miss out on the Passenger Protect Assist (which preps the safety systems for a possible collision) and fatigue detection systems.

Warranty coverage is three years with unlimited kilometres and roadside assistance.

Servicing prices are capped and maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 km and ranges in price from $280 to $546 depending on the interval reached.

Verdict

There’s much to like about Skoda’s entry-level small to mid-size car, which is sharply-priced into the realm of smaller hatchbacks but with a more spacious interior.

Styling is conservative but that doesn’t always work against it in the Australian marketplace which has shunned controversial looks before, although the fashionistas tend to like the prettier machinery.

But it will be the clever packaging, punchy powerplant and price that brings it some sales success and pushes the Rapid further into the shadows.

Rivals

Mazda3 Maxx auto from $24,890 plus on-road costs
Sitting in third place for sales overall (although it is probably first for private sales) the Mazda isn’t quite as spacious in cabin or cargo, but just pips the Skoda for driveability – the six-speed auto drivetrain (that runs on 91RON) is direct and the Mazda looks a little sharper than the Czech.

Toyota Corolla SX auto from $26,000 plus on-road costs
The segment sales leader knows how to put a hefty retail pricetag on its small hatch king, which doesn’t do itself any favours with a CVT automatic, lower outputs, less safety gear and shorter service intervals on the lighter but larger Skoda.

Hyundai i30 Active X auto from $24,890 plus on-road costs
Second to the Corolla in the sales race, the Hyundai offers plenty in a sharper-priced package, including a five-year warranty and a conventional auto there’s also better bootspace than the two Japanese combatants and it matches the Skoda for full smartphone integration.

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