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First drive: Skoda strikes fresh octave
Simpler, sexier Octavia range arrives as Skoda Australia’s vital new volume-seller
24 Mar 2009
SKODA has released an upgraded version of its most important model in Australia, the Octavia, with which it hopes to stimulate sales during its 50th anniversary year.
Introducing a fresher, more upbeat look across the Golf-based mid-size sedan and wagon range that relaunched Volkswagen’s Czech brand here in October 2007, the revised 2009 Octavia line-up also comes with a $3000-lower entry price.
Now comprising just three (Euro IV emissions-compliant) engines, the simplified two-bodystyle range now starts at less than $27,000 for the least expensive manual sedan and also dispenses with the previous Ambiente and Elegance variant names.
Automatic transmission versions – including Volkswagen’s new seven-speed DSG (dry) dual-clutch automated manual transmission – are $2300 extra, with wagon bodies costing a further $2000.
Updated iterations of the more recently launched RS sports and Scout crossover variants will not be available until the third quarter of 2009, following the launch of the budget European brand’s second-generation Superb flagship in June.
Opening the front-wheel drive range at $26,990 is the Series II Octavia ‘Liftback’ 1.6 manual, powered by the same 75kW/148Nm 1.6-litre SOHC four-cylinder petrol engine that motivated the least expensive version of VW’s superseded MkV Golf.
Running on recommended 95 RON premium unleaded, the (1425kg) five-speed manual 1.6 sedan lopes to 100km/h in a claimed 12.3 seconds, with the (conventional) six-speed automatic iteration even more leisurely at 14.1 seconds and the 15kg-heavier wagon one-tenth slower on both counts.
The Octavia 1.6’s top speed is a respective 190km/h and 184km/h, while ADR 81/02 fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are stated at 7.8L/100km and 185g/km respectively (auto: 8.3L/100km and 198g/km respectively) for both bodystyles.
The new 1.6 replaces the discontinued $29,990 77kW/250Nm 1.9 TDI as the Octavia range-starter and, though it falls short of its intended rivals for performance, positions the freshened Octavia range more competitively against Japanese medium rivals like the Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty.
Given Skoda attracted little more than 800 buyers in its first full year on sale in Australia this time around, the lower-price strategy is aimed directly at attracting more sales at the bottom end of the price range – to reverse an initial trend that has seen ‘early adopters’ lean towards more expensive Octavia variants.
Priced from $4500 higher at $31,490, the mid-range 1.8 TSI’s 118kW/250Nm 1.8-litre turbocharged direct-injection DOHC petrol four replaces the 110kW/200Nm direct-injection 2.0 FSI engine.
The turbo-petrol engine comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox and is the only Octavia powerplant available with (and the first front transverse application of) VW’s seven-speed DSG transmission option, but it requires more expensive 98 RON premium unleaded.
Vital 1.8 TSI sedan statistics include a 1495kg kerb weight, 0-100km/h acceleration in 7.8 seconds and a 223km/h top speed for both transmissions (7.9 seconds and 222km/h for the wagon), making it both the quickest and fastest 2009 Octavia. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are officially 7.2L/100km (6.7 for the DSG) and 168g/km (DSG: 157) for both bodystyles.
Skoda highlights no direct competitors for the Octavia 1.6 but points out the seven-speed 1.8 TSI ($33,790) is far more frugal, cleaner and quicker than the four-speed Liberty 2.5 auto ($32,990) and five-speed Mazda6 Classic 2.5 auto ($33,990), as well as offering more torque and less power at fewer revs plus Skoda Auto’s 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.
Finally, the 103kW/320Nm 2.0 TDI turbo-diesel continues to top the Octavia range, priced between $33,990 ($2500 more than the 1.8 TSI petrol) and $38,290 in DSG wagon form. It comes with either six-speed manual or six-speed DSG transmissions, both of which are claimed to accelerate the 2.0 TDI in 9.6 seconds (wagon: 9.7) and on top a top speed of at least 206km/h.
The diesel Octavia is also the most efficient in either guise, with the manual returning just 5.7L/100km and the six-speed DSG thirstier at 6.4L/100km. Respective CO2 emissions of 150 and 169g/km also apply to both body styles, with the 2.0 TDI wagon topping the weight range at 1540kg.
The 1.6’s braked and unbraked towing capacities of 1200kg and 600kg fall 100kg and 50kg short of the 1.8 TSI and 2.0 TDI’s, Skoda says the Octavia 2.0 TDI DSG sedan ($36,290) is more powerful, quicker and more fuel-efficient (but no torquier) than its pricier rivals in the Ford Mondeo TDCi ($39,990) and Peugeot 208 2.0 HDi XSE ($36,790).
As part of the mostly cosmetic midlife makeover for the third generation of a model that first appeared well before VW ownership in 1959, the MkIII Octavia Series II features more stylised headlights and a new grille, front bumper and front quarter panels.
Further aiding the more conventional and upmarket look are body-coloured door strips, larger wing mirrors, new tail-light covers, a smoother rear bumper and revised ‘Octavia’ badge lettering.
Inside, the revisions extend to a new four-spoke multi-function leather-clad steering wheel, classier white illumination for the instruments, revised air-conditioning controls, new dashboard and centre console trim, fresh seat fabrics and a rear armrest compartment. A claimed class-leading 560 litres of Liftback cargo space (580 for the wagon) remains unchanged.
Naturally, however, the 1.6’s standard equipment list is shorter than the identically specified 1.8 TSI and 2.0 TDI.
All Octavias continue to feature twin front, front-side and curtain airbags for a total of six, plus electronic stability control (ESC, or ESP in Skoda-speak), an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), active front head restraints, five three-point seatbelts, remote central locking, four power windows, cruise control, trip computer, height and lumbar-adjustable front seats and cooled front armrest storage.
However, the turbocharged 1.8 petrol and 2.0 diesel versions add standard equipment including rain-sensing wipers, front foglights, extra headlight functions and heated/folding wing mirrors.
All Octavias also come with a full-size spare wheel, with the 1.6 offering 15x6.5-inch alloy wheels with 205/60-section tyres and the turbo variants 16x6.5-inch alloys with 205/55-section tyres.
Similarly, the base Octavia has an eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system and semi-automatic air-conditioning, while the others add dual-zone climate-control and an integrated six-CD changer, SD data card reader, WMA compatibility and a 6.5-inch multi-function colour touch screen.
New 2009 Octavia options include fifth-generation parking sensors ($640 front $990 front/rear) and foglights with corner function ($240), while other key extras continue to include metallic paint ($630), a sunroof ($1730) and satellite-navigation ($2590 - $500 more for the 1.6).
TSI/TDI-only options include leather trim ($2830), sports suspension and 17-inch alloys ($1840), dynamic Xenon headlights ($1490), mobile device interface ($240) and a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel with DSG shift paddles ($190).
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