When the new Škoda Octavia launched, was it some sort of prodigy come true, a miracle on earth, the greatest thing since sliced bread…
Such was the media flurry of excited journalists enthusing about the new staple family car from Škoda. With 5 million of this popular car sold in two decades, it’s important. So, when I got the rather fancy-looking key to the new Octavia (Ock-taR-vee-ah by the way, not Ock-tay-vee-ah, as I was corrected) I had suitably lofty expectations of the new generation family estate.
With the motoring cliche “all the car you could ever need” being bandied around like it was the only words anyone could say on Twitter, I looked forward to finding out if a few months after its launch the new Škoda Octavia stood up to the hype, or if everyone was just getting very excited about nothing. Well, thankfully it lived up to my expectations, and then some.
While I usually start these reviews talking about how the car looks, there’s not much to discuss there, so let’s focus on the interior. After all, this is where you’ll be spending most of your time!
It’s typically Škoda in its nature, with liberal use of tactile, dark materials and leather, but they’ve definitely ‘upped’ their game for this new-generation Octavia. The two-spoke steering wheel design is the first noticeable upgrade, which is both practical and also gives the illusion of more space within the already impressively large cabin. Next, the seats are supportive and comfortable, with plenty of space for those with wider frames, without making everyone else feel ‘lost’ in the seat.
In the back is the expected impressive legroom, which is all-important in a car that is traditionally pitched at families and, down the line, taxi drivers. Safe to say whatever the reason for people being in the back of the Octavia, they’ll be more than satisfied with the space on offer.
The panoramic glass roof is a lovely touch too, on the ‘SE L First Edition’ car tested. So far so good right? Well, the boot doesn’t disappoint either, with a whopping 640 litres of space in estate form (and an equally impressive 600 litres in hatch form) meaning on a practical level, the Octavia is as brilliant as ever.
But, the Octavia has one major flaw. Now, in fairness to Škoda, they are far from the only ones doing it, that flaw is the switches. Or rather, the lack of them.
As part of their major interior upgrades, it seems that Škoda accidentally made the Octavia less- intuitive. Instead of sticking to their trademark ‘simply clever’ motto, it would appear that Škoda instead made the Octavia clever, simply for the sake of saying it’s clever.
In my opinion, it does tidy the dashboard up, but it’s actually frustrating, bordering on infuriating. Remember that lovely panoramic roof I mentioned? Gone are the traditional switches and buttons, replaced by feedback-less touch controls, meaning that it’s all-too-easy to accidentally open the sunroof fully rather than popping it.
While I’d be able to overlook this minor issue, the same change is sadly true of the HVAC system controls – they’re gone!
Yes, Škoda has given a shortcut button, but what’s wrong with dials? With the heater system controls buried in the infotainment system, adjusting the A/C while driving goes from being a mundane task to downright dangerous, as they can no longer be adjusted by muscle memory alone. Instead, all aspects of the A/C from the temp, to the direction and strength, are all controlled through the infotainment system. Thankfully, that’s just about the only real issue the Octavia has.
The external design has been updated for the new generation, and in my opinion, it’s a pleasing change. Gone are the unusual split headlights, replaced by a more traditional-looking affair. The rear is also aesthetically pleasing, if a little bland, but no one buys the Octavia on looks alone.
The only minor issue I have with the way the SE L First Edition looks is that I feel the wheels look a little ‘retro’ as if they resemble hubcaps from the early ’00s, but other wheel options are available to solve this problem.
On the road, the Octavia is wonderfully compliant, easygoing and pleasant. In true Octavia style, mile upon mile can be gobbled up with ease by the 150ps 2.0-litre TDi engine, with a solid economy figure of around 55-60mpg. The DSG gearbox makes driving easy, though I did find it had a slight tendency to ‘hang’ when pulling away from a stop or suddenly accelerating. Ride quality is excellent, with no issues to report in terms of cabin sound or vibration, other than a slight clatter from the engine at low revs as you’d expect from a diesel.
So, is the Škoda Octavia estate “all the car you’ll ever need?”
Well, so long as you don’t need seven seats, a pickup bed or impressive performance credentials, I’d say it is – but it’s worth noting Škoda has that last point covered, thanks to a vRS version being available.
Once again, the Škoda Octavia proves why it’s a ‘benchmark car’ in the family estate/hatch market. Here’s to the next 5 million, Top work Škoda!
Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.
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