Doctor Diesel

Whining and wondering

Web01Hi Doc,
I heard from a dubious source, some time ago, that Skoda Octavia six-speed gearboxes had a longevity problem. I have now just heard from a more credible source that this is so. My brother is an expatriate living near Gibraltar and his neighbour was driving back to the UK to see family when in France the gearbox started to make a whining noise. On arrival in the west country, the noise became very noticeable, so he called in at a Skoda main dealer. The dealer explained that the gearbox was a totally sealed unit and cannot be opened. Then he added it was £3,500 for a new one! Having done his homework on that score, he then went elsewhere to a gearbox repair specialist who quoted £1,500 for repairs. On enquiry, he was told by them that the six-speed box was problematic, but that the five-speed one was bomb proof. I could not find out any other information, other than that the two owner-driver taxi drivers that I asked locally had not heard of any problem on the grapevine. Do you have any information on this, as a friend is now looking at buying an Octavia estate diesel.
Now onto another subject: My brother’s ten year old, and very much used, Yaris Verso 1.4D is well past it’s sell-by date. He is looking at both the present newish Yaris D-4D and the new Polo. My thoughts are to go for the Yaris, as it has chain drive to the camshaft, rather than the belt cam drive on the Polo, and it comes with a space saver (he needs a spare out there, as tyres sometimes get split sidewalls on the dirt roads he uses) and the Polo is new, so he would possibly wait some two years before buying a new model, as many mods are made around that time to improve the vehicle. Sorry for the long email, but I’m about to use ‘The Chunnel’ on another one of my long foreign driving trips.

Hello Bob, Regarding the VAG six-speed gearbox used in the Octavia, I can find some reports of problems, and repairs are indeed costly, if there is no warranty cover, although Skoda and other VAG brands are quite generous with ex-gratia payments when out-of-warranty cars are fully franchise serviced. You don’t mention the outcome of the original worn-out box, but I hope it had a happy ending. I don’t get the feeling that this is a big risk though, although it is quite hard to judge. I would not mind betting that thousands of owners have seen no such problems, but I’m always more than a bit suspicious regarding how previous owners may have driven any used car. If lead-footed taxi drivers aren’t having problems, then that’s surely some considerable reassurance.
Regarding a substitute for the old Yaris Verso, he could also look at various cars that use the Fiat 1.3 MultiJet engine, which is designed for a 200,000 kilometre life, and is chain camshaft drive, too. That includes some small practical Fiats, like the Qubo, which I’ve always rather liked, and also the now extinct Citroën Nemo Multispace. I’d also take a look at the Nissan Note, and he could wait and see what the new Honda Jazz diesel looks like, although it won’t be cheap, when it finally turns up. I would have thought Hyundais and Kias would be worth looking at, if the warranty out there is as good as it is here. How about an ix20 or Venga? Then again, he would be daft not to look at the Dacias, which may not be the latest in style and sophistication, but then his old Verso ain’t either! They are built for long life on roughish roads, and the 1.5 dCi engine is a long-running trouble-free and reliable gem that’s also economical, and with a 90,000 miles or six years cam belt change interval. There’s not that much that’s new about the new Polo, apart from the engines, by the way, and there will be a totally new one arriving within a couple of years. Hope these thoughts are helpful, and that you enjoy your long trip. Best regards, Doc.

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