Fleet News

Skoda Octavia 1.6 FSI Ambiente

Skoda

Review

THERE’S an ancient Chinese proverb that says ‘a cheap price is a short cut to being cheated’.

Obviously, this was a maxim born in an age when transport more often required four legs than four wheels for propulsion and certainly not in an age that Skoda existed.

It’s not a great leap back into the dark depths of motoring history to find examples of when a cheap price for a Skoda might have left some customers feeling cheated. There has been no chance of that in the last decade, though. Certainly not with the new Octavia. In fact, a cheap price is a short cut to feeling rather smug with this new car.

Clever use of Volkswagen Group parts, cheap and efficient labour and smart design and marketing are rapidly establishing Skoda as the carmaking equivalent of great budget brands in their respective markets like easyjet and Ikea.

The Ambiente 1.6 FSI tested here isn’t the cheapest Octavia money can buy. That’s the 1.4-litre Classic at a paltry £10,750 on-the-road and the most inexpensive 1.6-litre is also the Classic at £11,480, but the Ambiente is the third petrol version up from the bottom. At £13,540, it’s in the price range of the lesser lower-medium hatchbacks with equivalently-sized engines.

What the Octavia really has in its favour, though, is that it’s not a lower-medium car at all but is rather sized more like those a sector up. And for company car drivers for whom size is everything, this makes a pretty convincing argument.

You can prevaricate about which competing car handles better or which is prettier, but with the cold hard facts of internal space, the Skoda is a clear winner over virtually everything else in the segment.

There’s a big, wide spread of dashboard up at the front, decent legroom in the back and a large boot that’s a good 200 litres bigger than the new Focus or Astra hatchback and competes, and often beats, the best from the upper medium segment.

That’s a massive difference and, for a company car driver who has to lug a lot of equipment or samples about, it has a couple of advantages. Fitting more in is obviously a key one, but from a safety point of view, the increased likelihood that everything can be squirrelled away in the boot rather than being spread throughout the cabin could make a massive difference to the well-being of occupants in an impact.

But the Octavia has some weaknesses. The 1.6-litre engine matches those in the sector but it’s heaving a much bigger, heavier vehicle and is pretty slow.

According to the official figures, the 0-62mph time is 11.2 seconds, but it feels slower. For this price, you are buying a lot but you are not buying performance.

The interior also feels a bit cheap in places compared to the heady heights achieved by the new Ford Focus, but this has to be balanced against the fact that a six-CD autochanger, climate control and electric windows are standard and the car feels as though it has been put together with care.

Skoda Octavia 1.6 FSI Ambiente

Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £13,357
CO2 emissions (g/km): 168
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 19%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 40.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,025/30%
Depreciation (14.47 pence per mile x 60,000): £8,682
Maintenance (2.25 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,350
Fuel (9.90 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,940
Wholelife cost (26.62 pence per mile x 60,000): £15,972
Typical contract hire rate: £293

  • All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle

    At a glance

    Positive:

  • Great interior space
  • Frugal running costs
  • Well specced

    Against

  • It’s slow
  • RVs some way off Focus
  • Feels a bit cheap inside

    THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER:

  • Ford Focus 1.6 LX Ti-VCT 5dr
  • Rover 45 Club 5dr
  • Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Club 5dr

    P11D PRICE
    EVEN though these four cars are at the budget end of their segment, all are decently specced for the money, with at least the standards of air conditioning, CD player and electric windows included. Only the Astra comes with alloy wheels for the price, while the Rover 45 has very handy rear parking sensors. On the entertainment front, the Octavia is the only one to get a six-CD multichanger.

    Rover £12,512
    Ford £13,132
    Skoda £13,357
    Vauxhall £13,632

    SMR COSTS
    THE cars are covered by the same three-year 60,000-mile warranty while service intervals vary. The Focus, despite being the cheapest for service, maintenance and repair, has the shortest interval between visits to the dealer at 12,500 miles, while the Rover manages 15,000 miles and the Astra a lengthy 20,000-mile stint. The Octavia has variable servicing, which alters according to its needs and driving styles.

    Ford 2.12ppm
    Vauxhall 2.20ppm
    Skoda 2.25ppm
    Rover 2.50ppm

    FUEL COSTS
    THE Astra is marginally the more fuel-efficient of the four cars, with a combined economy figure of 42.8mpg, while the Ti-VCT engine in the Focus is the second most economical and returns a pence-per-mile figure of 9.47. The heavier Octavia and ageing Rover 45 are a little further behind. Still, the gap isn’t huge and after 60,000 miles a driver should have forked out about £400 more for the 45 than for the Astra.

    Vauxhall 9.34ppm
    Ford 9.47ppm
    Skoda 9.90ppm
    Rover 9.95ppm

    DEPRECIATION COSTS
    THE Astra has the highest pence-per-mile depreciation because it has the highest front-end value, but only retains 31% of its value after three-years/60,000-miles.

    The Rover manages to claw back an horrific 75% drop by being the cheapest at the front end, while the Skoda sits in the middle, retaining in percentage terms about the same as the Astra. But the Focus still reigns supreme.

    CAP estimates its worth at 36% of its value after 60,000 miles and this means it loses £1,000 less than the Astra.

    Ford 13.13ppm
    Rover 14.16ppm
    Skoda 14.47ppm
    Vauxhall 14.62ppm

    WHOLELIFE COSTS
    Ford 24.72ppm
    Vauxhall 26.16ppm
    Rover 26.61ppm
    Skoda 26.62ppm

    EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
    IN terms of tax there’s very little between the Focus, 45, Skoda and Astra, and all would cost a 22% taxpayer just over £40 per month in this tax year.

    The Skoda is marginally the most expensive but, at £46 a month, it’s not a difference that many drivers are going to lose any sleep over. All of these cars are extremely tax efficient and £40-odd a month shows just what value a company car can be.

    Ford 155/17%
    Vauxhall 158/17%
    Rover 168/19%
    Skoda 168/19%

    VERDICT
    IT’S a really easy choice to select a winner out of these four. The Focus has very low wholelife costs, costs little in tax, is decently specced and is the best of these cars to drive. The Octavia would be closer if its residual values were better, but it’s still a good option for a fleet wanting a bigger car at a very cheap price.

    WINNER: Ford Focus 1.6 LX Ti-VCT

  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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