Car reviews - Skoda - Octavia - Elegance 132 TSI
Interior quality, exclusivity on-road, load space, efficient and gutsy engine, sharp price
Room for improvement
Hyperactive park assist, counter intuitive transmission, no reverse camera
25 Apr 2014
Price and equipment
Now in its third generation, the Octavia has matured in every facet, none more so than its looks. If Audi had taken a slightly different design direction a few years ago, this could well be how the A4 wagon turned out, with clean lines and good proportions.
Getting in to an entry-level 132TSI wagon costs $36,040 before on-road costs, but our test-car had a few extra goodies thrown at it in the form of a $3300 Tech Pack and $475 special paint, which takes the price up to $39,815.
That sits on top of an already decent set of standard equipment.
All Octavias include standard features such as nine airbags (seven in the entry-level Ambition), multi-collision brake, ESC and Bluetooth phone connection.
The Ambition Plus also receives 17-inch ‘Denom’ alloy wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors, Skoda’s Passenger Protect Assist which “prepares” the seatbelts and brakes in an imminent potential accident and Fatigue Detection (displaying a coffee icon on the screen to promote rest stops during longer journeys).
Range-topping Elegance specifications receive standard inclusions such as 18-inch ‘Golus’ alloy wheels, leather trim, Columbus integrated satellite navigation unit and privacy glass.
A metallic paint-job costing $475 completed the look of our test car, nicely contrasting the 17-inch alloy wheels and silver roof rails.
As part of the optional Tech Pack, our car was fitted out with the 10-speaker Canton stereo system, which sounds great and fills the voluminous Octavia cabin.
The equipment-boosting package also adds a generous dose of electronic trickery with emergency city braking, adaptive cruise control, bi-xenon headlights, corner-following fog-lights, automatic parking-assistance, front and rear parking sensors and keyless entry/start.
Almost all the equipment added by the package was very welcome with the exception of the hyperactive parking sensors. When still a safe distance from nearby objects the warning would sound habitually and continuously.
The proximity illustration on the dash display was more helpful, but we were surprised to find the absence of a reverse camera, which would have inspired more confidence in the system.
Disappointingly, not only was the reverse camera absent, it isn't available as a cost option either.
Spending some time behind the wheel of the Octavia proves that good quality and ergonomics are not synonymous with lavish materials and theatrical aesthetics.
Throughout the interior the build quality is top-notch, but it appears not once did the designers feel tempted to sensationalise anything, and the result is understated comfort.
Some hard plastics can be found in places, but not enough to damage the sense of cabin quality.
Information and entertainment systems are easily accessed through the generous eight-inch touch screen, with many functions consolidated to remove clutter from the dash area. The lack of switches adds to the understated but logical interior design.
The firm and supportive seats are trimmed in dark leather, which continues to the excellent four-spoke steering wheel.
Rear seats are also stylishly trimmed and provided a similarly comfortable place to be with ample head room for even tall adults and just enough leg-room, while with the back row folded the full wagon capacity of 1718 litres is hangar-esque.
Not only is that space more than 100 litres bigger than the Mazda6 wagon and around 50 litres more than the Hyundai i40, the volume has not spoiled the exterior roofline and pleasing aesthetics from the outside.
Engine and transmission
When it comes to the bits that make this particular Octavia variant go we were left a little bit hot and cold.
Up front is an unassuming 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which on the face of it may seem a little under-gunned for the Octavia's 1367kg mass.
However, with the liberal application of direct-injection and a turbocharger the little four-pot turns out an impressive 132kW with 250Nm of torque.
This type of car would normally lend itself more readily to the characteristics of a diesel engine, but the wide power-range and free-revving nature of the petrol made the Skoda a real pleasure to pilot.
Diesels typically dump one big dollop of torque low down in the rev-range and run out of puff soon after, but the sprightly petrol kept on singing all the way to the redline with a gruff induction note and strong acceleration.
When carrying heavy loads the 320Nm of torque from the 110TDI (2.0-litre diesel) Octavia would certainly be useful, but for day to day driving and versatility the petrol wins hands-down.
Even with spirited driving we only managed to get our test car to use around seven litres of fuel every 100km, but with more sedate motoring Volkswagen claim the Octavia will use a litre less than that.
Unfortunately the excellent engine is occasionally let down by the DSG double-clutch automatic transmission hanging off its back.
While out and about, the self-shifter does a great job of swapping cogs rapidly and smoothly, but the unit does have a tendency to hang on to gears for too long after heavy acceleration.
But it was in stop/start traffic that the seven-speed transmission occasionally grated, with with the primary clutch slipping too aggressively to allow gentle creeping forward.
The transmission also took a few moments to respond when changing from drive to reverse and visa versa, which was frustrating when trying to maneuver in a hurry amongst busy traffic for example.
Ride and handling
A multi-link rear suspension set-up is unique to the 132TSI variants with lesser petrol and diesel versions making do with a more conventional torsion beam arrangement.
On more uneven surfaces the benefit of the more advanced suspension can really be felt, and the Octavia stubbornly stuck to the desired line through corners with a firm but not bone-shaking ride.
With a little load in the back (either people or things) the ride became even smoother, suggesting the wagon has been engineered to spend more time loaded-up.
Silky smooth steering was a pleasure to turn in every time and zealous driving produced some body-roll but not excessively so.
Traction occasionally became an problem thanks to the urgency of clutch-slip when pulling away quickly so acceleration from standstill required care, especially as the remedial traction-control intervention had a habit of turning the power taps almost completely off.
It can not touch its performance flagship RS big brother for performance, but the 132TSI certainly rewards the driver in a variety of driving environments.
Safety and servicing
All new Skodas come with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty which covers paint defects, while corrosion is guaranteed to stay away for a minimum of 12 years. For $1650 the Octavia's warranty can be extended to five years.
Skoda has recently introduced capped-price servicing.
The Octavia scored a maximum five-star safety rating when tested by both European and Australian independent safety organisations NCAP and ANCAP.
With nine airbags (Ambition Plus and Elegance only), the Octavia scored particularly well at front occupant protection as well as a good result in side impact and the so-called side pole test.
With a combination of understated but sharp European styling inside and out, the Skoda Octavia wagon offers a little more exclusivity on the road for those who care about the way their car looks but don't want to pay a premium for it.
But more than skin deep beauty makes the Skoda worth a second look, and if you can get used to the character of the DSG transmission, the forced-induction four-pot is a real delight contributing to an all-round rewarding drive.
A voluminous boot, classy but comfy interior and top-notch ergonomics cap it off. Is that every box ticked?Styling, comfort, performance, practicality, price, safety, efficiency and space. That's eight reasons to give the Skoda Octavia 132TSI wagon serious consideration.
Hyundai i40 wagon (from $33,990 to $44,990 before on-road costs).
Mazda6 wagon (from $34,760 to $48,110 before on-road costs).
Subaru Liberty wagon (from $34,990 to $54,990 before on-road costs).
SpecsMAKE/MODEL: Skoda Octavia Elegance 132TSI Wagon
ENGINE: 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
LAYOUT: Transverse, front engined
POWER: 132kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 250Nm between1250-5000rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed double-clutch automatic
0-100km/h: 7.4 seconds
TOP SPEED: 231 km/h
EMISSIONS: 142g/km CO2
WEIGHT: 1350 kg
SUSPENSION: McPherson strut(f)/Independent multi-link(r)
STEERING: Electric rack and pinion PAS
BRAKES: Vented disc(f)/disc(r)
PRICE: From $36,040 before on-roads ($39,815 tested)
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