Its biggest market is no longer the proud buying public of its homeland in the Czech Republic – German buyers now snap up more. And Germans know a thing or two about quality, so it says something about Skoda if they are turning to them.
In the UK, acceptance has now grown to such a level that the Octavia was the first Skoda ever to be shortlisted for a Fleet News Award in this year’s lower-medium category.
The Octavia actually sits between the lower-medium and upper-medium segment, aiming to offer an ‘extra bit of car’ at prices similar to those of the lower-medium sector.
The latest incarnation appeared last year in hatchback form, followed by the estate in March and now the range has expanded even further with the 4x4 estate.
It is a niche market, but one Skoda sees as important enough to recognise in its drive to increase sales from last year’s high of 35,029 – about 1.4% of the UK market. Fleets will help, and in 2004 about 10,000 Skodas found their way on to fleets.
Whether you choose the traditional front-wheel drive estate or the 4x4, the rear luggage space is the same thanks to good packaging of the extra mechanicals involved in the four-wheel drive system. This means 580 litres of space with the rear seats in place, and 1,620 litres with them folded down.
Access into the luggage bay is through an easy-to-open tailgate, complete with an extending handle to pull the hatch down when it is open. When loading items, you have to drop them over a sill, rather than slide them on to a flat load area, which may be an issue when dealing with heavy objects, but I had no problems with smaller, lighter luggage.
The 4x4 model features a Haldex clutch which works with the other electronic systems on board to quickly transfer power where it is needed.
In most driving conditions, power is delivered through the front wheels although the four-wheel drive system can distribute torque to the rear wheels if the fronts are struggling to find grip. The Octavia estate comes with a wide choice of engines, starting with the 1.6-litre FSI direct injection petrol unit, priced from £12,185 on-the-road, rising to £17,025 for the 2.0 TDI PD diesel with the excellent DSG sequential manual gearbox.
Opt for the 4x4 estate and the choice is more limited, with just the 1.9 TDI diesel offering 105bhp and the 2.0-litre FSI petrol with 150bhp to choose from. The diesel costs £16,150 on-the-road and you pay £16,750 for the petrol.
For the money, buyers get a range of electronic safety equipment designed to keep them on the road, including traction and stability control systems, ABS brakes and hydraulic brake assist. Other standard equipment includes electric windows, six-CD autochanger, height adjustable driver and passenger seats and body coloured door mirrors and handles.
The 4x4 also has raised suspension, a sump guard, dual-zone air conditioning and a Jumbo-Box – an air conditioned storage compartment between the rear seats.
Behind the wheel
THE diesel model I tested felt faster than its official figures suggest, which claim 0-62mph in 13 seconds and a top speed of 112mph, with a combined 49.6mpg. In fact, the computer suggested I was getting 53mpg without trying, but these devices are prone to exaggeration.
This economy is only about 5mpg off front-wheel drive Octavia estates, despite weight rising in the diesel by more than 100kg.
The car also handles rough road surfaces with more aplomb than the two-wheel drive estate, as the extra weight seems to smooth out bumps and reduce pitching.
ALTHOUGH we could only test one of the new versions, a simple look at the economics of fuel consumption, price and tax bills shows the diesel is the one to go for.
Furthermore, if you really do want to head off-road, the diesel unit will be better suited to its role thanks to its abundance of power low down in the rev range, rather than the higher-end power of the petrol version.
|Engines (cc)||1,984 FSI||1,896 TDI PD|
|Max power (bhp/rpm)||150/6,000||105/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm)||147/3,500||184/1,900|
|Top speed (mph)||126||112|
|Combined economy (mpg)||31.7||47.1|
|CO2 emissions (g/km)||214||162|
On sale: Now. Prices (OTR): 1.9 TDI PD £16,150, 2.0 FSI £16,750