If you’re a pragmatic and practical type who prioritises value and quality engineering over prestige and bragging rights, the Skoda Octavia should be on your shopping list. Even if the styling and badge aren’t technically all that eye-catching in and of themselves. Spacious, understated and sensible, the Octavia’s the perfect practical family car.
What do you wear when you’re slouching around the house on a Sunday? Pyjama bottoms, an old t-shirt and a dressing gown? It’s all about comfort and function, right? The Skoda Octavia has always adopted this approach, while its rivals donned their finest robes and sashayed up and down the road.
That was up until recently, anyway. Newer versions of the booted Czech hatchback are sleek and pretty. The Octavia still isn’t as flashy as the Audi A6 or Volkswagen Golf, but they cut quite the dash compared to earlier incarnations. In fact, the newer breed have something of the Audi about them.
The newer breed have something of the Audi about them.
What’s it like to drive?
While there are a few variations and choices, it’s likely the majority of Octavias you look at will have a 1.6-litre diesel engine. While that’s not a huge amount of muscle, it offers more than enough power to handle all but the most demanding of drives. The 2.0-litre engines definitely have that extra kick should you need it.
A light clutch and easy steering mean while you’re unlikely to be thrilled while behind the wheel, you will feel comfortable and in control. They may not hit 60mph as quickly as some of their rivals, but they get there smoothly and with a minimum of noise.
Newer high-spec models are pretty welcoming places to be, whether you’re driving or a passenger. They offer centrally-located touchscreen infotainment systems, which certainly cleans up the dashboard of overly fiddly and messy buttons, knobs and dials. As such, older models without the systems can look a little untidy.
Those later models that are kitted out with the screened hubs are built with driving safety fully in mind. The screens are mounted nice and high, so you needn’t avert your gaze from the asphalt for longer than is strictly necessary.
As for finish, well, Skodas aren’t known for luxury. You won’t feel short-changed, however. Many features and surfaces are technically plastic, while not feeling plasticky. Textured and padded surfaces certainly help. The improved later versions easily match up with class rivals such as the VW Golf or the Seat Leon. They comfortably outdo the likes of the Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla.
What it might lack in certain areas inside, the Octavia more than makes up for in space. With the leg and headroom at your disposal, you could probably drive the Lithuanian national basketball team to their next practice session. Should you ever need to.
Skoda Octavias offer a quite simply stunning amount of storage space. Even Peter Crouch’s cobbler would be impressed by the size of these boots. These vast areas are one of the strongest practical aspects of the model, and what gives them their distinctive semi-saloon look.
The much newer versions boast a few snazzy and unique storage options, with their special umbrella storage areas in the driver’s door and ticket holders on the driver’s side A-pillar. The basics are nicely covered and then some, with generous door pockets, a roomy glovebox and two fixed cupholders up front.
Running costs and reliability
Here’s where Skoda really come into its own. The slightly-less-than-esteemed name brings with it a trade-off. You hardly get to brag about owning one. In return, you get incredible fuel economy and class-leading reliability. All at a price that doesn’t worry your bank account too much.
The fuel costs depend on the engine size, naturally. Even the newer, beefier 2.0-litre TDIs give you 40+ miles per gallon. Get yourself the 1.0-litre and you’ll be hitting closer to 55 MPG.
In terms of how reliable the Octavia is, you needn’t worry at all. Skoda regularly features highly in user surveys, often outranking manufacturers with similar models at noticeably higher price points.
What we love
Skoda Octavias are plain and practical. Motoring fans and design enthusiasts might struggle to get too excited by them. Anyone who appreciates fuel economy, room and practicality won’t care about its average looks, middling performance or less-than-exciting name and reputation. They’ll just own and drive a very sensible and reliable compact family car.
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Town and country drivers
Even with its improved looks, the Skoda Octavia is unlikely to win any design awards It would at least be nominated for Best Economy and win all the storage and space gongs going. It could even be in with a shout of a special recognition statuette for its contribution to no-nonsense down-to-earthness.
This review was