Even though more than one million examples have already made the previous model a familiar sight across most European markets, the company has mapped out a wider, more ambitious route for a replacement that is bigger, more luxurious and better equipped.
Designers at the Volkswagen Group’s outpost in the Czech Republic have gone all-out to give their mid-range car the extra appeal it needs to make its mark in Britain’s fiercely-competitive business sector.
The results of their labours are being put to the test as we assess the 1.9 TDI Ambiente version over the next six months, but after only a few days’ duty on our long term fleet, the signs are looking good. Positioned to appeal in the upper-medium class as well as the lower-medium segment, the Octavia faces a wide range of rivals.
That’s nothing new, of course: like its predecessor, the company’s key product is a handily-sized hatchback that is almost as big as the Mondeo yet carries pricing firmly rooted in the sector below.
With the latest model, however, Skoda seems to have take a significant step further to up the ante with still higher reserves of safety – anti-lock braking with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution and four airbags are standard across the range – along with upgrades in equipment and comfort.
Yet the ambition for sales lying behind the latest packaging is best seen in the Ambiente. As well as being a lot of car for the money, the inclusion of niceties like air conditioning, a CD autochanger and power windows all round mean it is also well endowed in the comfort department.
Significantly, Skoda is now backed by the VW Group’s latest technology, which means the Octavia is available with the new two-litre turbodiesel engine and pacesetting DSG automatic transmission. But we’ve opted for the car with the ubiquitous 1.9-litre motor under its bonnet in five-speed manual form.
This is the combination likely to satisfy most fleet needs, and after only a few hundred miles in our hands, the car’s blend of performance and economy seems spot on. Maurice Glover
What we expect
THE latest Octavia can compete with mainstream cars on its own merit, and we have been provided with a run-in example for the next six months. With an official combined cycle figure of 53.3mpg, 50mpg in everyday driving should be a realistic proposition and it should provide relaxed, roomy and comfortable transport. Although our version only has the Euro III version of the 1.9 TDI, the monthly BIK tax bill starts at £45.
Model: Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDI Ambiente
Price (OTR): £13,800
CO2 emissions (g/km): 143
Company car tax bill (2004/5): 22% taxpayer: £45 per month
Insurance group 7
Combined mpg: 53.3
Test mpg: n/a
Power (bhp/rpm): 105/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 184/1,900
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,450/33%
HSBC contract hire rate: £287
Expenditure to date: Nil
SKODA has already built a bridgehead in the fleet market and the new Octavia strengthens this position still further by offering an interesting sales proposition to those who appreciate the concept of ‘an extra bit of car.’
John Rooney, head of business sales, said: ‘For the price of a lower-medium car, the Octavia offers the space of an upper-medium car, with all the technological advancements people have come to expect from Skoda.
‘In short, fantastic product quality with class-leading whole life costs, all backed up by excellent aftercare from our retailer network.
‘The 2.0 TDI PD140bhp models in particular offer amazing performance coupled with Euro IV-compliant engines for low personal taxation. Also on stream now is the Euro IV 1.9 TDI PD 105bhp.’