When you’re renovating your house, a roomy estate car is pretty much ideal. That’s why I had mixed feelings when I handed over the keys to the enormous Skoda Superb and replaced it with the slightly smaller Octavia. Still, with a 640-litre boot to play with, it isn’t like I’ve replaced an aircraft carrier with a midget submarine. In fact, with the rear seats in place, the Octavia’s boot is only 20 litres smaller than that of the Superb.
All of which has already proved useful as I shuttle between my house (which now looks as though it has been hit by a meteorite), the recycling centre (which now looks like my house used to) and B&Q (which looks empty). It’s a good test for a car that has a lot to live up to.
Last month I wrote that the Superb was one of the few cars I would buy with my own money, but I could have said much the same of the old Octavia. I spent many an hour working out my ideal specification for the previous-generation vRS 4×4 and even longer trying to find a way to afford such a thing. So when the opportunity to live with the new Octavia came up, I jumped at it. We’ve already sampled it in small doses, but now I get a chance to find out whether all the strengths it displays on a quick drive are backed up when it’s parked on your driveway.
But first, a whistle-stop tour of the car we’re sampling. It’s an SE-L First Edition estate, which means it comes with LED headlights, electrically folding mirrors and chrome touches around the windows, roof rails and grille. As standard, it also gets 17-inch alloy wheels, but ‘our’ car comes with optional 18-inch wheels. Inside, we’ve got a huge boot, part-leather upholstery and dual-zone climate control, as well as a 10-inch touchscreen and heated seats, which have come in very useful since the weather turned. Other natty features include the digital instrument cluster, which is very clear and concise, and the keyless entry.
We’ve gone for the most frugal diesel engine on offer – the 2.0-litre TDI with 114bhp and a six-speed manual gearbox. These days, that sounds pretty meek for a 2.0-litre engine, and the 10.4-second 0-62mph time is nothing to write home about. The promise of between 55.4 and 62.8mpg, however, is more tempting.
To be honest, though, I’m more struck by things the Skoda doesn’t come with. For the time being, at least, this is the highest rung of the Octavia ladder, yet there’s no reversing camera. It doesn’t even come with full leather upholstery, which seems a bit mean, especially when you consider the price of this car. Anyway, all of this means that the Skoda has a lot to live up to, and the early signs are mixed. The good news is the cabin still feels just as solid as before, and the interior space has been most welcome when the car is being used as a builder’s van. The bad news, however, comes mainly from the gearbox, which seems to offer some very long, very strange ratios. It works perfectly well, but the point at which you want to change from third to fourth is around 30mph, and the point at which you want to change from fifth to sixth is approximately 50mph. As they’re common speeds in this country, I find myself with the unpleasant choice of staying in a lower gear at a slightly noisy, but very responsive 2,000rpm, or changing up to a gutless 1,100rpm.
On the other hand, the economy has been mightily impressive on a long run, and the trip computer suggested an average of about 66mpg, and brim-to-brim statistics largely back up those figures.
Date arrived 10th September 2020
Economy (WLTP combined) 55.4-62.8mpg
Economy (On test) 65.3mpg