The Skoda Octavia
is the flagship
car of the Skoda company, as it is the most mainstream of the three basic models - compact supermini Fabia
and large, luxury Superb
- offered at the time of this writing (and heaven help us if the Roomster
actually comes out).
The Octavia is based off of the same basic chassis as the Volkswagen Golf, with its closest VAG relative being the Bora. Assembled in a brand new, purpose-built factory in Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Republic, the Octavia is built to the same stringent quality control guidelines that have made Volkswagen and other German manufacturers famous. The Octavia was introduced in 1998, and on average about 15,000 have been sold a year.
The Octavia comes in both five-door hatchback and estate versions. Both petrol and diesel engines are available, and a variety of trim packages added features. The Classic trim is the most basic, but as you progress up through Ambiente and Elegance to the special edition Laurin & Klement cars, a huge range of interior and exterior extras are added, including metallic paint, heated seats, CD changer, alloy wheels and more. There are also special 4x4 and performance vRS models available.
A Mk2 edition of the Octavia has just been made available for the 2005 model year, with the styling made slightly sleeker. However, the existing model will continue to be manufacturered, as it is still very popular. I have heard, as an amusing bit of trivia, that Mk2 Octavias are being sold in India as the Skoda 'Laura'.
Comfort and ride
Probably the first comment everyone makes when getting into an Octavia is how firm the seats are! However, while they are firm, they are not uncomfortable - I would prefer to call them supportive. You are not bent or twisted in any way, and after a long journey you will not be suffering from back ache.
Everything is adjustable in the car... the seats are height adjustable as well as sliding back and forth and the actual back pivoting up and down. The steering wheel is also adjustable, so there is no problem finding a comfortable driving position.
The gearshift is comfortably mounted with an average amount of travel, so you won't have to strain to get it into gear. There are armrests effectively placed on either side of the wheel for a long cruise, if so desired. I'm fairly tall (6'2") but found more than adequate space on all sides, particularly for my head, even with the power sunroof! The pedals are well-placed and comfortable, although the footrest is far too small to be of any use. (not that it matters, the floor behind the pedals is angled such to be a perfectly good place to rest your boot)
The one complaint about the design of the interior, on my car at least, is the placement of the radio and Climatronic ventilation controls. The climate controls are at the very bottom of the console, meaning you not only have to take your eyes off the road but practically look at the floor to ensure you're pushing the right buttons (which is a bit scary at 70mph when your windows need to be demisted). The radio's six function buttons, at least, are positioned perfectly to be pushed if your hand is resting on the gearshift, but the control to change tracks is unresponsive. I miss both the high-mounted radio and ergonomic climate controls of my Volvo 440, and the steering wheel-mounted audio controls which are becoming increasingly popular.
Road noise is reasonable - better than many cars I've been in, but not perfect. I've heard this can be a consequence of both the alloy wheels and your choice of tire, and some road surfaces (particularly the intentionally rough surfaces used to catch your attention) are extremely noisy and may even prompt worries that something has just broken!
Performance, in the 110bhp 1.9 TDi, is amazing. The loud, ponderous, slow diesel engines of old are rapidly becoming but a fading memory, as this car has so far all but matched my 110bhp 2.0i Volvo. Acceleration is smooth and firm, the torque and power when driving up a hill feels very confident, and there's plenty of oomph for accelerating to overtake. With the window down as well, hearing the turbo start sucking in air is entertaining! Don't keep the window down forever, though - science hasn't *quite* cured the diesel of its characteristic rumble when idling.
The Octavia has been called the car that finally silenced all the jokes and negative thoughts about the Skoda brand which had haunted it for decades. It would not have succeeded without being an excellent car.
The overall volume capacity of the estate is only slightly more than the absolutely cavernous trunk of the hatchback, but it is boosted by the added height that comes naturally from the estate body shape, and a removable floor. The floor, if you leave it in, makes the load bay's floor the same level as the rear bumper, meaning large loads can just be slid right in. The rear seats in both models can be folded down to further increase capacity. A retractable fabric cover allows you to conceal the contents of the load bay from unwanted attention.
The car can come fitted with ASR anti-spin regulation, although I have never triggered it. It also features a full-size spare wheel which is very welcome, and a full set of fog lights.
My Octavia (and issues
My Octavia is a 51 (2002) reg 1.9 TDi estate, Elegance trim. It has 16" alloy wheels, CD changer, front and rear fog lights, an electric sunroof, air conditioning, and more. It is a variable service model, which means the car's computer evaluates how it's been driven and alerts when it needs a service based on that. I bought it with just over 60,000 miles, from a gentleman who had owned it from new.
Aside from a few of the expected superficial scratches to the paintwork, the car was completely sound and very well looked after. It had a special custom handsfree kit (with a handheld receiver, if you wanted to be retro) fitted, in addition to a cargo net for the load bay. The only issues with the car at the present time are: the windshield wipers - they squeal horribly unless it's a downpour. My mother owns a VW Golf Mk4 and had the same problem with her wipers. The other issue is that it takes an awfully long time to defog the windshield on a cold day - it took me over five minutes the other night, and even then I had to drive off peering through a circle of clearness with mist all around it. People say, "just wipe it with your arm", but that might leave streaks with turn opaque in the face of oncoming headlights.
The Octavia is an extremely good value, well put together car. It feels extremely robust and solid, which gives a lot of confidence both driving and simply owning it. So far I have seen myself getting 50-60mpg on both the motorway and in the city, and it has carried me confidently both to London and back, and over the Brecon Beacons in adverse weather.
Sadly, the stigma of the Skoda brand still lingers, but people are increasingly receptive to the cars now as being quality machines instead of a source of derision. Besides, anyone who laughs at your car isn't allowed to ride in it.
my car, sitting outside