I can only think of one mainstream car in the past year that genuinely has fallen below the standards of the rest of the pack in terms of quality and that’s the Rover CityRover. Everything else has – at the very least – been acceptable.
So you end up picking at the seams of cars to find small differences. I picked and picked at this new Skoda Octavia and came to the conclusion that the glovebox lid is made of horribly cheap plastic. Stop the presses.
When you put the car into the context that its on-the-road price is £13,800 there really is very little the Octavia 1.9 TDI PD Ambiente does wrong.
It’s only £300 more than the bottom-of-the-range Vauxhall Astra 1.7 CDTi, £400 more than the bog standard Ford Focus TDCi and you can’t buy any sort of diesel Golf for the price. As for upper medium cars, only the cheapest Mazda6 gets even close and it is £900 dearer with less kit, although slightly bigger.
For the money, you get a decent-sized hatchback, with a big boot and lots of space for rear passengers, even with a tall person in the driver’s seat. Relative to the amount of money spent, very few cars deliver as much.
The Octavia does without six forward gears, unlike many of the other new diesel-powered cars and has a rather unfashionable five. It reminded me of how much better diesels are with one less gear.
You can just use the torque to heave you along, and you don’t spend half your time throwing the gearstick. With 105bhp, it is punchy, although has that noisy drone of most of the medium and small VW Group diesel cars.
Equipment levels are verging on charity. It has a six CD autochanger in the boot, air conditioning with an air conditioned glovebox, electric windows front and rear, driver and passenger airbags and remote central locking.
So consulting CAP Monitor should bring out the downside of this car, with all those secondhand buyers still shying away from the Skoda brand. Not so. Its value is predicted at a healthy 32%/£4,400.
With regard to tax, it is still Euro III and rated at 143g/kms, but what you lose with the 3% surcharge, you gain with its low front-end price. Its combined fuel economy figure is 53.3mpg.
All this means there’s no reason for not considering the new Octavia alongside lower medium hatches with a similar price and for drivers who want an upper-medium saloon but want more for their money while keeping tax low, it’s well worth a look.
Skoda has well and truly arrived in the fleet market with this car, and it’s about time more people took notice.
Model: Octavia 1.9 TDI Ambiente
Engine (cc): 1,896
Max power (bhp/rpm): 105/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 184/1,900
Max speed (mph): 119
0-62mph (sec): 11.8
Comb fuel consumption (mpg): 53.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 143
Transmission: 5sp man
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 55
On sale: now
Price (OTR): £13,800