Skoda Octavia Hatchback (2017 - ) review
Skoda's practical and well-priced hatchback takes the battle to rivals like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic.
Interested in buying Skoda Octavia?
This version of the Skoda Octavia is a facelifted version of the 2013 car that trades that car’s conservative looks for rather more radical ones. The most notable change lies at the front, with a new split headlight design and wider grille. Full LED headlights are included on SE L models and above, and LED taillights are standard across the range. All models also get alloy wheels. Although technically a hatchback, its saloon-like shape means it’s a legitimate alternative to the likes of the larger Volkswagen Passat or Ford Mondeo, as well as traditional hatches like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic, both of which are shorter. The performance-focused vRS model can be spotted by its more aggressive bodykit, lowered suspension and standout 18-inch alloys housing red brake callipers.
The Octavia’s interior is comfortable, with a driving position that leaves plenty of headroom for six-footers and a steering wheel that’s adjustable for both height and reach. There’s a real swishness to the quality of the materials and an impressive sense of solidity to the assembly. The touch-screen infotainment system – available in different sizes across the range – uses touch-sensitive black panels rather than traditional buttons to navigate between different menus. While it looks sleek, it’s a little fiddly to use and is also a magnet for fingerprints. Trying to pinch and swipe, smartphone-style, is no substitute for dials and buttons, especially while driving.
One of the Octavia’s most attractive features is the space it provides for both passengers and luggage. Rear leg- and head-room is super-generous and the 590-litre boot rivals much larger (and more expensive) cars. Fold the seats down with a couple of tugs on levers, and that space expands to 1580 litres. Features on all cars include an ice scraper inside the fuel flap, two USB ports, a bottle holder that lets you open the bottle with just one hand, and a removable, magnetic LED light in the boot.
Ride and handling
So far, we’ve only had the chance to try Octavias fitted with the optional DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control), which stiffens or softens the suspension according to which driving mode you select. It’s impressive, with a ride that’s comfortable – if ever so slightly firm – and enough body control to make the car feel stable and assured in the bends. The steering is good, too, with a nice weighting with plenty of feel to let you know what the front wheels are doing. The net result is a predictable, confident drive. Here’s hoping that cars on standard suspension behave as admirably; we’ll let you know as soon as we’ve tried one. The same goes for the four-wheel drive versions, because so far, we’ve only tried front-drive cars. We’re also yet to try the vRS model, which has a sportier, stiffer suspension set up for improved handling.
The regular Octavia range is available with a choice of two petrol engines and two diesels, all of which are available with either a manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The diesels will suit those doing regular high mileage; the 1.6-litre is sufficient for everyday motoring, with enough grunt to mean you won’t have to stir the gearbox too much to achieve decent progress. But, if you’re regularly carrying loads or passengers, the extra power and torque of the 2.0-litre diesel might be more up your street. For petrol models, the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged unit is surprisingly perky, with more than enough performance and flexibility for an easy life. A turbocharged 1.4-litre unit is also available, which we’ve yet to try. On the move, none of the engines are noisy to a bothersome level, although the 1.0-litre petrol and smaller diesel can chug a bit if you work them hard. Road and wind noise is also impressive, even at motorway speeds. High-performance vRS models come in both diesel and petrol flavour, with 181bhp and 227bhp, respectively.
The Octavia is well priced against rivals, especially considering how much car you get for the money. The engines are economical and have low CO2 figures, particularly in the smaller petrol and diesel units, which means lower Benefit-in-Kind bills for company car drivers and low fuel bills.
Skoda fares well in the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, sitting towards the top of the manufacturer rankings. The Octavia isn’t quite as well regarded, however, with engine, electrical and suspension problems accounting for a sizable chunk of warranty claims in the past. Having said that, our owner reviews for the pre-facelift Octavia show a largely positive experience with the car. As standard, Skoda offers a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty and will also cover new cars for a third year up to 60,000 miles. It also includes a 12-year body protection warranty.
The pre-facelift Octavia was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2013 and scored a maximum five stars. All cars include a tyre-pressure monitoring system, front and knee airbags, as well as front side airbags. A driver alert system – which warns of fatigue – is included in SE models and above, but features like lane assist and blind spot monitoring are options. Automatic emergency braking is only included on models from SE Technology upwards, which is a shame at a time when manufacturers are increasingly including it as standard across many model ranges.
All Octavias have a decent level of equipment as standard, including an infotainment system with DAB radio and smartphone connectivity, controlled through an 8.0-inch touch-screen. SE models add cruise control and dual-zone air conditioning, while SE Technology cars have an upgraded infotainment system, adaptive cruise control and parking sensors both front and back. SE L models give you 17-inch alloy wheels, leather and Alcantara upholstery and full LED headlights, while the L&K variant includes a larger 9.2-inch infotainment screen, an upgraded sound system and 18-inch alloys. The vRS model has 18-inch wheels and red seams on the upholstery.
You want a practical and economical car at a competitive price. The Octavia may not set pulses racing, but it’s a very sensible choice that gives you a lot of car and kit for your money, and comes in enough varieties to suit most tastes and needs. An exceptional all-rounder.