But things are different at Skoda. Though its Octavia range is undoubtedly better all-round than the last, the firm continues to steer away from emotive selling and goes straight for the wallet.
Instead of trying to appeal to the heart, the Octavia uses a blend of performance, quality and reliability to win new friends.
The recipe has proved a big success, and UK fleet operators are also starting to appreciate the benefits of a revised model that offers more than might be expected for the money.
After spending 12 months behind the wheel of our 1.9 TDI Ambiente, I’m not surprised the brand is making gains in the sector.
For what it costs, the Skoda is a bigger and cheaper car than the Volkswagen Golf on which it is based.
It has a huge boot and provides an unusually generous amount of room for rear passengers. With an engine that matches the new Passat 1.9 TDI in power, performance is also well up to expectations, and though it isn’t available in six-gear format, this version pulls like a Trojan from 1,000rpm in fifth and cruises serenely at 70mph.
After more than 20,000 miles in our hands, we’ve come to view this Skoda as ticking all the right boxes – and even if it doesn’t behave like a go-kart through the bends, handling is both forgiving and competent and comes with the composure and ride comfort that allows long distances to be covered in a relaxed manner.
Given the fact that few of my journeys are of less than 10 miles and most involve motorways, I expect any car I drive to return good economy. Even so, the Octavia has proved surprisingly frugal with a 55mpg average over the total test period.
It did better still last month during a 3,000-mile trip to Spain, returning 57.7mpg despite a full load and constant use of the air conditioning to combat the Spanish heat.
With a six-CD player and electric windows all round, there’s nothing second-class about the Ambiente.
But a curious omission calls for a watchful eye to be kept on the speedo. As in most other cars, the dial is laid out in 10mph segments – but these jump to 20mph after 80, so it’s all too easy to reach 100mph without realising it.
Model: Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDI Ambiente
Price (OTR): £13,450
CO2 emissions (g/km): 143
Company car tax bill (2005): 22% tax-payer £45 a month
Insurance group: 7E
Combined mpg: 53.3
Test mpg: 55
CAP Monitor residual value: £4,625/33%
Typical contract hire rate: £290
Figures based on 3years/60,000 miles