Car reviews - Skoda - Octavia - range
Value, safety, comfort, dynamics, friendly feel, quality fittings
Room for improvement
Some cabin rattles, some road noise issues, ride is firm with optional sports suspension, brand resale uncertainly
11 Oct 2007
SKODA has enjoyed unprecedented success in Europe since it started producing the Volkswagen Golf-based Octavia more than 10 years ago.
And why not – since the Czech car provides the same high standards of engineering and driving qualities as the German car, but at a lower price and/or with significantly more features attached.
It sounds awfully familiar if you have ever followed the rise and rise of the Japanese car industry.
Never mind that the styling leans on the conservative side that the brand Skoda was synonymous in the Cold War years with cheap, crude Eastern Block austerity or that the sheer number of competent competitors in the $30,000 to $40,000 bracket is simply mind-boggling… the Octavia has the goods to succeed.
We can see the same sort of people attracted to Volvos turning on to the Skoda’s sober functionality, spacious interior, sound safety specification (including standard stability control and six airbags) and solid – if somewhat conservative – stylistic language.
At a stretch, there is vague Audi feel to the Octavia’s personality, but without the hard ride that has blighted most models (RS4 excepted) or high-tech design integrity of the very latest versions.
The interior is comfortable and accommodating, with plenty of European flair and lots of space for people and their belongings.
In a nutshell, it feels like a quality German product, but with a softer, more conservative undertone.
The same can be said for the driving experience, which – some road noise issues aside – is bang up-to-date and up for a fun challenge if you are.
Direct steering, high levels of body control, and a supple ride mark the Octavia out as a well-sorted European family car.
And the 1.8TFSI petrol engine is a fantastic new powerplant, offering silky smooth and spirited performance across the wide rev range. Combined with a slick six-speed manual gearbox, this is definitely a candidate for an engine-of-the-year finalist.
As you would expect, the VW Group 2.0-litre TDI works terrifically too, being a quiet and refined installation in the Octavia. We sampled it with the six-speed DSG transmission, and it certainly feels like a viable alternative to the outgoing Audi A4 that costs significantly more money. We certainly prefer it to the VW Jetta.
Meanwhile, the Golf GTI-engined Octavia RS is a quick and sporty package, although it really isn’t a GTI alternative since the steering and suspension qualities – though high on composure and comfort – are not tuned to be in the hot-hatch league. View this more as a rapid grand tourer – especially in the attractive wagon version.
Unfortunately we did not drive the base 1.9 TDI models, nor any of the 4X4 wagons.
And the only foibles we found were some cabin rattling on one of the cars.
So how do we rate the Octavia overall after a brief spell during the model’s national car launch?
Volkswagen may not like to hear this, but we think it is a better looking, somewhat roomier, seemingly better made and more dynamic Jetta alternative and it makes some Audis seem somewhat ambitious in their pricing.
We think that if Australians look past the unfamiliarity or outdated reputation of the brand, and they like the idea of driving a modern and extremely competent German car at the price of a quality Japanese car, then they will love the new Skoda Octavia.
It’s a very good thing.
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