A 1.4-litre 16-valve petrol engine has been introduced to start off the range in Classic hatchback format at £9,800 on the road with standard specification including power steering, height adjustable driving seat, central locking and twin airbags.
All grades also have ABS, split rear seats, rear wiper, three three-point rear seatbelts, and three rear head restraints, which is where the differences between the previous entry level 1.6 LXi, priced officially at £11,499, and the new Classic 1.6 listed at £10,500, show how far Skoda has realigned Octavia. LX was only offered in hatchback and with the 1.6-litre petrol and 1.9 SDI diesel engines. Classic covers hatch and estate, 1.4 75bhp petrol, 1.6 102bhp petrol and the non-turbo SDI diesel.
The outgoing GLX has become Ambiente and the engine choice remains 1.6 petrol, 1.9 TDI 90bhp and 2.0-litre 115bhp petrol. It still has automatic air-conditioning, electric windows, electric mirrors and front fog lamps as standard equipment, but the new grade also gets a six-CD autochanger, eight-speaker audio system and remote central locking.
Ambiente prices range from £11,700 for the 1.6 hatchback to £13,300 for the 1.9 TDi 90bhp, which will be offered with automatic 'fuzzy logic' transmission (£900) from early next year along with an optional sports pack of alloy wheels, spoiler and leather trim. Auto four-speed is available now with 1.8 T and 2.0-litre petrol engines.
The previous top grade SLX added side airbags and full climate control air-conditioning to GLX. In Elegance guise standard specification includes 16-inch alloys, electric sunroof, headlamp washers, leather steering wheel and gear knob, a variable boot floor in estate and a choice of beige or black interior. Prices start at £13,200 for the Elegance 2.0 and are topped by the 150bhp 1.8 Turbo costing £15,200 as an estate. 1.8Ts and TDI 110s get electronic brake force distribution and anti-spin regulation (ASR).
Externally, what distinguishes old from new is Octavia's face - a new chrome grille, clear optic headlamps and a new bumper design. All versions now get the neon-style rear light cluster previously exclusive to estate. An extra 22m rear legroom has been achieved by redesigning the front seat backs, but the most welcome interior improvement is an upgrade of materials, which includes slush-moulded dashboard, classier upholstery and clearer graphics.
Handling and ride have been left untouched apart from the standard adoption of ABS, but on the evidence of test drives considerable attention has been paid to sound deadening and to fit and finish. Octavia is not in the Golf/Passat quality class, but it is gaining ground steadily.
Among the revisions is a CAN-Bus electronics systems which has enabled Skoda to load up on gadgetry such as air-conditioning and on board stability features - it handles everything from engine management to rolling code immobiliser without calling for miles of extra wiring.
Early next year three all-new Octavia models will be introduced - an Elegance 4x4 in estate format only, a luxury Laurin & Klement derivative, and a new RS flagship, the latter powered by a 1.8-litre 20-valve petrol engine developing 180bhp and with 0-62mph acceleration time of less than eight seconds.
Prices for the first two were also announced at the show, indicating an end to cuts and showroom sales incentives, and spelling good news for company car drivers for whom lower official prices mean lower benefit-in-kind tax bills.
Leather/Alcantara upholstery, wood trim, 16-inch chrome wheels, heated seats and cruise control are featured in the Larin & Klement (named after the 1895 founders of Skoda) £16,000 hatchback and £16,700 estate, which also use the 150bhp 1.8 Turbo. RS puts Octavia into the performance league. Priced at around £16,000 the RS will have 17-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension, stainless steel exhaust, sports seats, part leather and steel trim, on-board computer and an eight-speaker 50W sound system.