What is it?
The Skoda Octavia, probably the Czech marque’s strongest all-round product, right up until the Kodiaq SUV arrived. The Octavia has been around for more than 20 years now and is into its third generation, which has duly been facelifted to keep it fresh for a few more years.
Sundry changes to interior trim and the addition of a fantastic new 9.2-inch touchscreen satnav/infotainment system as part of the top Columbus package might not be much to talk about, but the car’s exterior styling is certainly noticeable.
Gone are the old roughly rectangular headlight units, replaced by unusual ‘quad’ headlamps that are vaguely reminiscent of the old Mercedes E-Class that was built from 2009-2016.
Why are you driving it?
The Octavia has always been one of our very favourite cars, for any price, from any manufacturer. It just does so many things so very, very well and we wanted to see whether the Skoda still felt relevant after its largely modest midlife updates, or whether it now feels as if it is being left behind by newer, sharper rivals like the Peugeot 308 and Vauxhall Astra.
What do you like about it?
Like its Kodiaq cousin, almost everything. The Octavia’s USP has always been the fact it is a physically big car, feeling like a D-segment machine of the ilk of a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia, yet it is based on the underpinnings of the Volkswagen Golf.
That means it is priced accordingly and technically classed as a rival to something like a Ford Focus. Yet it feels a considerable cut above anything of similar money and also better than most of the vehicles in the class above it.
The interior on this estate model is huge, both for passengers and luggage, and it’s beautifully made, classily restrained and fitted with plenty of gadgets to keep those with a short attention span satisfied. It drives like a far larger, more expensive executive machine, with lovely ride comfort and minimal noise intrusion into the cabin.
The handling is crisp too, maybe not hugely exciting but tidy, composed and blessed with remarkably good steering that’s a pleasure to use. The final cherry on the cake is that the 150hp/340Nm 2.0-litre TDI engine in this car is an utter peach, one of the very best derv-drinkers in the business; it marries epic refinement and frugality with enough mid-range punch and overall performance to make it the ideal blend for an everyday road car.
The only thing we don’t like are the split headlights.
Kudos to Skoda for being daring with the facelift, rather than simply changing the bulbs within the clusters from Xenons to LEDs (as is the way with most other updated cars in 2017), but we just don’t like the fussy face this one detail gives the Octavia as a result. The pre-facelift cars were better looking than this.
What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?
Most people choose the manual 150hp TDI in SE L trim because it’s a specification that makes for a very sensible business car.
It’ll turn in a supposed 65.7mpg (we actually saw 62.1mpg on a fairly brisk long-haul motorway-and-A-roads trip to Sussex for business) while emitting just 113g/km of CO2 in the process, resulting in low taxation for both VED and Benefit-in-Kind.
Skodas have stronger residual values these days and some decent finance deals as a result, meaning that getting into a high-specification Octavia like this SE L makes perfect sense whether you’re using it for business or for pleasure.
Where does it rank in class right now?
The Skoda Octavia would be the clear and unequivocal class leader, in our eyes, if not for the company’s rather heavy-handed work on the car’s nose.
But if you don’t mind the looks of the front end, then there’s really nothing to fault about the Octavia Estate, slightly high price as tested and slightly inert chassis aside. As a means of getting from A-to-B in the minimum of fuss, yet never feeling boring while doing so, the Octavia is impossible to beat.
- Model: Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 150 SE L
- Price: Octavia Estate range starts from £18,395; TDI 150 SE L from £24,565, car as tested £28,085
- Drivetrain: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive
- Economy: 65.7mpg
- CO2 emissions: 113g/km – £160 VED first 12 months, £140 annually thereafter; 24% benefit in kind
- Top speed: 134mph
- 0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
- Power: 150hp at 3,500- to 4,000rpm
- Torque: 340Nm at 1,750- to 3,000rpm