If you’re in the market for a family estate car, then you can’t realistically strike the Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf off your shopping list – they’re at the top of their class.
Both are good looking without being overly conspicuous and offer incredibly competitive levels of space and practicality.
Both meet the demanding requirements that come with the job of having to cart around numerous children and the odd dog or two, so which do you choose? We’ve put them side-by-side to see how they compare in each major area.
Skoda continues to impress with the level of quality offered in their cars, and the interior quality of the Octavia Estate is no exception to this trend. Critics have stated that the Octavia’s interior is an incredibly pleasant place to be. The materials used are robust and simple, but not unappealing to the eye. Build quality is very good and the instruments are easy to use and well-arranged.
The comfortable seats offer a good driving position, and rear passengers will definitely not feel cramped – there’s a lot of legroom back there. The only fault that critics had with the interior of the Octavia was the fact that a great deal of the materials used did seem to be a grade below those used in other VW Group cars, but the differences are slight and it’s a cheaper car than the Golf.
The Golf estate, on the other hand, has been labelled by critics as having one of the best interiors in class. The exceptional VW build quality is ever present, and the instruments are ruthlessly logical in their layout.
Passengers are offered plenty of leg and headroom, and the seats are comfortable and supportive. Of the two cars, the Golf Estate is the nicer place to be thanks to the higher quality of materials used.
The Octavia estate is the winner when it comes to boot capacity, but only just. With the rear seats up, the Octavia offers a cavernous 610 litres of space. This can be further increased to 1,740 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
The Golf estate isn’t too far behind; with the rear seats folded up, the Golf serves up an impressive 605 litres, and with the rear seats folded flat, this can be increased to 1,620 litres.
Rest assured that both cars challenge more expensive cars from the class above – the Audi A6 Avant, for example, has 1,680 litres of space with the seats down – who’d have thought that a sub-£20,000 Skoda could mix it with a £40,000 Audi?
Commentators liked the Golf’s low loading height, and wide opening, stating that this makes the often tricky task of getting things into the boot (think shopping, suitcases, dogs) much easier.
Unless you specify the hot hatch vRS version of the Octavia estate, the Czech contender is not going to be a car that you want to take for a blast down some twisty country roads just for the sake of it. That said, the Octavia still offers handling that is both grippy and predictable, as well as a composed ride.
Road noise does become a lot more noticeable if you order larger alloy wheels, although it will never become unbearable. It should also not be forgotten that the Octavia can be specified with four-wheel drive, which does a fine job of offering a greater level of grip – especially when conditions get tricky.
Where the Octavia fails to ignite any sparks of excitement on the driving front, critics have said that the Golf will undoubtedly leave a smile on your face. And the good news doesn’t stop there – this added driving enjoyment doesn’t compromise the Golf’s comfort levels either.
Critics were very impressed by the Golf’s ability to smooth out any bumps in the road, and they had very little to complain about when it came to road noise. Steering was also complimented for being precise and responsive, whilst also being light enough to make parking easy.
As with most cars offered by the VW Group, the Golf Estate and Octavia Estate’s engine line-ups are pretty much exactly the same. Both cars offer variations of the 1.2- and 1.4-litre TSI petrol units, as well as variations of the 1.6- and 2.0-litre TDI diesel units.
Critics have stated that the 1.2-litre units are underpowered in the Golf Estate, but agree that the 1.4-litre unit in either 120hp or 138hp guise are excellent power plants. For the more economy minded buyer, the 1.6-litre TDI engine, serving up either 89hp or 104hp, offers an impressive fuel consumption figure 72.4mpg.
Seeing as these two cars share the same lineup of engines, similar themes begin to emerge when you look at how these engines fair when placed in the Skoda. Again, the 1.2 TSI unit has been identified as feeling strained under a full load, and the 1.6 TDI offers impressive economy figures of 74.3mpg.
Performance minded buyers might be swayed by the fact that the Skoda can be specified to come in vRS form. As well as a sportier ride and look, these cars come with a choice of 2.0-litre TDI, which puts out an impressive 183hp, or a 2.0-litre TSI petrol unit that produces 217hp – it’s an amusingly quick way to carry flat-pack furniture or take the family on holiday at Autobahn speeds.
Value for money
Rather unsurprisingly, of the two cars here, the Golf Estate is the priciest – thanks to its more premium brand image, but you’re also paying for all the nicer materials.
However, Skodas are no longer the cheap cars they used to be a few decades ago, and the starting price for the Octavia Estate is only £1,500 less than it is for the Golf.
If it’s out-and-out space you’re after, the Octavia – with its superior boot capacity – represents the best value for money of the two. The selection of engines are also, on whole, slightly more economical in the Octavia than they are in the Golf – meaning that the Skoda should be slightly cheaper to run.
Although the Golf may not be able to match the Octavia’s cheaper price or slightly improved economy figures, the premium Volkswagen badge should come in handy when you sell the car. Golfs historically tend to hold their value better than their rivals so you would assume that a second hand Golf would fetch more than its Skoda cousin.
Chances are, if you’re in the market for a family-sized estate car, the ability to go for an enthusiastic drive down a B Road probably won’t be too high up your priority list. For this reason, the most attractive car out of the Golf Estate and the Octavia Estate would have to be the Octavia.
It offers greater space in the back, similar economy figures to the Golf, and a cheaper buy in price. For the job of carting around the family and all of their associated bits and pieces, the Skoda has all bases covered. But the small jump in price for a Volkswagen may be too hard to resist, and you’ll still end up with a great practical car.