That's some achievement for so maligned a make and suggests that those who forget their prejudices always have the last laugh. With the Octavia, Skoda enters a whole new market sector. Never before has a Skoda cost so much, and never before have items such as ABS and air conditioning appeared in standard specifications.
In fact, never before has a Skoda garnered so much outside interest. Under the skin the Octavia is a Volkswagen. Furthermore, it uses the Golf Mk IV's floorpan and running gear to prove its point as a thoroughly modern car. The initial UK line-up consists of five models using four engines and three trim levels. Prices start at ú11,499 on the road for the LXi 1.6 - the same as the most expensive Felicia - and rise to a heady ú16,499 for the top of the range SLX TDi, powered by Volkswagen's acclaimed 1.9-litre TDi engine with 90bhp.
Mid-range models use the four-cylinder, five-valve 1.8 with 125bhp that first saw the light of day in the Audi A4, while two 1.6s comprise a 75bhp engine in the 1.6 LXi and a 100bhp unit that also powers 1.6-litre versions of the new Golf. Later, a 1.4 will debut and the diesel range is enhanced with VW's acclaimed 110bhp TDi engine. Just one body style is available, a five-door hatch, though later this year a pretty five-door estate will join the range.
Conceived and designed in Czechoslovakia, the Octavia has been on sale in mainland Europe for some time, though right-hand-drive cars went on sale in Britain in late June.
Just 3,000 are earmarked for Britain for the remainder of 1998, but next year sales are expected to top 9,000. The volume model is expected to be the GLXi 1.6 tested here, powered by the 1.6-litre 100bhp engine as fitted in the new Golf, and costing ú13,199 on the road.