Review: Skoda Octavia 1.0

I don't know why I should have been so pleasantly surprised as I actually was with this Skoda Octavia, writes Brian Byrne.

I've always liked the current style, and am a fan of the Skoda interior compared to parent company VW's treatment of its own models. And then there's the particular affection for Skodas which the Irish have, almost in our genes now.

Still, given that my last Octavia review was the high-powered vRS version, I might be forgiven for feeling a bit ho-hum about a run in one powered by a 1.0 3-cylinder engine.

And hence the surprise. Nothing ho-hum about the car at all. Quite the opposite.

First, though, a quick recap of the style. The straight-edge design is familiar now, though it was quite a change from the rounded older Octavias. But in this model, the proportions seem to be just right, unlike the case to my eyes in the big sibling Superb, for instance. Automotive aesthetics are a funny thing, and absolutely subjective, and the tiniest things can throw people. Nothing to throw me in this one though. And subtle bits like the creased triangle of medal just inside the rear light, for instance, add interesting small textures.

There's good room inside, and the finish and detailing is very good. Maybe not as interesting as Gallic competitors, but that's as much a cultural comment as anything else. Everything here is in its place, and the places are easily found with a minimum of distracting movements while on the drive. The reassurance of proper large knobs in managing climate control is one I will continue to cherish in an era of over-dependance on touch-screens for such functions. I'm also old-school enough to continue appreciation of the simplicity of the primary instruments.

The review car was in Style specification, third from the entry level, and that brought with it a significant amount of extra goodies. They included height adjustable front seats, electric windows all around, and fully automatic aircon (which oddly enough, though I appreciate it in our modern cars, I rarely use). The reversing camera and leather multifunction wheel which are also part of the package I do very much like.

They had added an optional sports pack too, for a cost of €1,495, which provided better lights, sexier alloys, sportier seats, and a rear tailgate lip spoiler. Kind of worth it, though maybe not particularly recoverable on resale?

In the engine compartment was the aforementioned 1.0 3-pot petrol engine. And since I'm still on a pro-petrol bent for most people's driving needs, I was interested to see how it performed.

Well, first it was very quiet indeed. Might as well have been a big lazy six pulling me along. It was only when I let the revs climb towards maximum that I got any sense at all that there was a 3-cylinder engine there, and then only barely.

It was decidedly punchy, even with only a 115hp power rating, in part because the turbocharging meant maximum pulling power arrived at an early 2000rpm, and stayed there all the way up to 3500rpm. That's a very useful range, especially for a small engine, and allowed for very lazy use of the gears if that was my humour. Other times I did play with the nice neat 6-speed and enjoyed myself in the hills south of Dublin.

Which is maybe why I didn't get very close to the rated combined fuel consumption of 4.5L/100km. Skoda Ireland provided a very handy reference for this engine against a 2.0 equivalent of nearly a decade ago, and noted among the improvements a 44pc better fuel consumption in the new car. However, my average consumption in the review period was 6.7L/100km. I'm looking forward to the full adoption of real-world fuel consumption tests in these coming years.

That said, the car was a lovely drive, and because Skodas are essentially cross-segment in sizing, this can be considered a Passat competitor more than the compact Golf it is related to. Which makes the pricing very attractive for those who like their extra bit of size and space.

Prices for the Octavia start at €18,995 for a 1.2 petrol version, but nobody buys entry. With this engine, the second grade Ambition will cost €22,860, while the Style review version is €24,235 without that Sport Pack I mentioned above. Road Tax is €190. Apart from all the other good reasons to look at this one, it represents very good value.

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