The Skoda Octavia has light controls that make it easy to drive around town and an interior that is for the most part very comfortable, although some alternatives are even more relaxing
If you regularly drive on a variety of roads, choosing an engine is easy – go for the brilliant 150hp 1.5-litre petrol, which is both cheap to run and pretty quick when you need it.
It manages this thanks to some clever tech that can rest half the engine when its extra power isn’t need – to allow for official fuel economy of 57.6mpg, although 45mpg is more likely in normal driving. Put your foot down to accelerate, though, and the other half of the engine bursts into life to provide a decent slug of performance – it can get from 0-62mph in just 8.2 seconds.
Strong brakes and accurate steering give you a lot of confidence behind the wheel
That mix of speed and frugality – combined with its relative smoothness – means you’ll have to do a serious mileage before choosing one of the diesels makes sense.
If that sounds like you, though, the 110hp 1.6-litre diesel has cheapest running costs in the range owing to its official fuel economy of 74.3mpg – meaning 60mpg should be easily achievable in the real world.
However, the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel has a better balance of power and economy – it’ll return fuel economy of up to 70.6mpg and dispatches 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds compared to the 1.6-litre model’s 10.8-second time. Both diesels can tow up to 1,800kgs; the 1.5-litre petrol manages 1,700kg.
The Octavia gives a really good account of itself on a variety of roads. Other models are a little bit quieter and have suspension that’s a touch less bumpy in town, but neither of these complaints get close to being deal breakers.
Aside from jiggling a little over bumps, you’ll not find much to grumble about if you have to drive the Octavia through the city. Its light controls make it easy to drive smoothly at slow speeds – unless you choose the optional £1,250 DSG automatic gearbox that can be jerky.
The only sizable blind spot can be found around the left and right edges of the windscreen. It’s a little trickier to park than, say, a Volkswagen Golf but then that spacious interior can’t come from free. Anyway, rear parking sensors are fitted to all but the entry-level S model and you can have a rearview camera for an extra £375.
Get on the motorway and the Skoda smooths out bumps better than it does in town and is a relaxing way to rack up loads of miles, even if the wind noise coming from the wing mirrors means it isn’t quite as hushed as the VW.
The Golf’s also a little bit safer because it comes with automatic emergency brakes as standard – in the Octavia you’ll have to pay an extra £315 or go for an SE L model or above that gets them as standard. It’s also worth noting that, while the Octavia got a five-star Euro NCAP rating for safety in 2013, cars subjected to the later, tougher tests are likely to stand up to a collision even better.
With a bit of luck though, the Octavia’s safe and predictable handling should lessen the chance of you ever being involved in an accident. Down country roads it’ll never be as fun as a Ford Focus but there’s no excessive body roll to worry about and the steering is accurate and responsive enough to make the Octavia extremely easy to place on the road.
The £850 adjustable dampers allow you to switch between soft and firm suspension settings, but the standard setup is so well judged it seems like a needless expense.