2013 Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDi S (GB)

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I will make no secret of the fact that I am big fan of the Skoda Octavia. If you look at the sales figures, it is clear that I am not alone. In 2012, over 409,000 new examples found buyers making it not just Skoda’s best selling model, but also the 35th most popular new car in the world. In its first generation, Octavia is credited with being the model that transformed the Czech marque’s reputation from being a producer of cheap and not very agreeable cars into a serious contender, offering a credible alternative to established players at bargain prices. The second generation model appeared in 2004, and continued all the good work, and although there was a minor facelift applied in 2009 and quite a lot of mechanical changes that took advantage of the latest engines available from the VW Group parent, the fact that 8 years after launch it was still selling so strongly is ample evidence that the design itself was so right. The third generation car was launched at the very end of 2012, hitting markets around the world from the first few weeks of 2013. From a distance, little appears to have changed, as the family look and indeed the Octavia look is still there, but inspect from closer quarters and you will readily spot the differences from the outside, from the new headlights and grille design at the front to the tail panel at the back. Now based on the MQB platform, like the VW Golf and so many other cars in the Group, it has grown 4 inches in length and is 2 inches wider, the sort of change that happens to almost every new model these days, but in Skoda’s case also because the Rapid was added to the range to fit between the Octavia and the Fabia. Unsurprisingly, prices have risen, so while still cheaper than the competition, it is no longer quite the conspicuous bargain that it once represented. Even so, I have asserted that this could well be the “best” car in the “real world”, so was delighted when Mr Hertz produced one for me to sample for a weekend.

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Skoda currently offer the Octavia with a choice of 2 petrol and 2 diesel engines, with more in the offing. Of these, the soon to go on sale vRS model is of course the most appealing, but as that has yet to hit British roads, a test of that version will have to wait. Instead, what I received what is predicted to be the biggest selling engine, the familiar 1.6 TDi, which puts out what might now seem to be a fairly modest 105 bhp. This engine has been around for a few years, but every time I encounter it, I am pleasantly surprised to discover that it seems to have been further refined from my previous experiences. That applies yet again, and this is now a diesel engine which only the most ardent derv-phobe would find real fault with this engine. There is just discernible diesel noise when you start up when the unit is cold, but once warm and most certainly once underway, this is a quiet and refined unit. You will realise it is a diesel because of the available torque, so despite an output which is on the low side for a car of this size and weight (even with the reduction in this latter in the third generation model), there are no issues in keeping up well with the flow of traffic and finding burst of acceleration when called for. The engine is very tractable and can pull from very low revs indeed, as I found out when experimenting and noted that I could accelerate (albeit slowly) having been driving at 1500rpm in 4th gear. You will make more progress if you use the gears, of course. There are five of them, and they are well spaced. The gearchange quality is very good. You do need quite a firm hand as you move the lever between the ratios, but there is no baulkiness and no vagueness. A stop/start system is fitted and this operated both discretely and speedily. One feature I really appreciated on the infotainment screen was not just details of current fuel consumption, but also one which shows how many miles had been driven since last refuelling. This showed me that the car had done 21 miles between refuelling and being handed over to me. At a declared average consumption of just over 50 mpg that means about the tank was at least half a gallon less than full, which by rental car standards is probably not bad. During my tenure, the average did not deviate much from this. It came down a bit when I was doing a lot of stopping and starting to take photos, but once the elapsed running time extended beyond a few minutes and speed become steadier, the figure went back over 50 mpg. This was quite a contrast to the supposedly nearly as economical Focus (petrol) I had been driving the previous weekend.

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When comparing with the Ford, it is its excellence in steering and handling which invites inevitable comparison. The Ford is better in both respects, but not by very much. The steering in the Skoda is nicely weighted and has decent feel whether you are holding a straight line or turning the wheel lots on twisty roads, not something that you can say of all family cars these days. I did not go into hooligan mode to test the handling in extremis, but I can report that I was happy to hustle the car down some twisty roads without any feelings of concern, and there is negligible body roll evident on even quite tight bends. All this is achieved without any penalty in the ride, which seemed particularly composed, with the Octavia doing its best to smooth over most of the ridges and bumps on Britain’s roads. The brakes worked well, and unlike the latest Golf and A3, the Octavia retains a traditional pull-up handbrake between the seats. Plusher versions of the Octavia get various sensors and parking aids, but there were none on this version, and to be honest, none were really needed. The Skoda is easy to manoeuvre, and although you cannot actually see either end of the car when parking, it is easy to judge where they are. There is a good field of vision from the door mirrors.

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There are those who will open the door of the Octavia and bemoan that it lacks design flair. If they are fans of the current over-stylised dashboards that put form over function, see more buttons as more goodness and think that what looks like an iPad stuck on some surface, then, yes, they will be disappointed by the Skoda. That is not me, though, and I really appreciated the clean, unfussy and utterly intuitive design. Materials are of universal high quality, showing that Audi and VW have had a beneficial impact here as well as under the skin of the Octavia. Indeed, much of what you find is unashamedly out of the Group parts bin, with the familiar column stalks (indicators on the left, wipers on the right) looking identical to any other current VW Group product, as does the rotary light dial on the right of the wheel. The main instruments are unique to the Skoda, though. Presented under a simple cowl are two large dials, for speedometer and rev counter, with smaller fuel and water temperature gauges set into the bottom of the large ones. The markings are clear and easy to read, and just as in my Audi, you can set the information display between the dials to show your current speed. The centre of the dash contains the standard touch sensitive infotainment screen, which has a series of function selection buttons on either side of the screen, allowing you to select between radio, other audio functions, and vehicle information. It all proved very easy to use. Three rotary dials for the manual air conditioning system are below this. It was over 30 degrees C during my test and I found I needed the fan set on at least the 4th of 6 speeds to get a decent flow of cold air into the car. Unusually these days, there were absolutely no repeater buttons for anything on the steering wheel boss.

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If you were to pick out one feature above all others where the Octavia scores highly, it would have to be its roominess. Indeed, such is the space inside it that Hertz classify it as a Group D car, so a Group higher than all the C-Segment machines like Focus, Astra, Golf, Cee’d and the like. That would seem fair, as when you open the rear doors and gaze at the amount of leg room there, you will be pleasantly surprised if you are used to the barely roomy enough cabins of all the rivals. Even with the front seats set well back, there is a lot of leg room, and if they are set well forward to suit my driving position, then the rear seat occupants are in for a real treat. With only a small rise in the floor in the centre of the car, an occupant in the middle of the Skoda will not struggle for somewhere to put their legs, as can so often happen even on front wheel drive machines that don’t need somewhere for the prop shaft to go. Headroom is in plentiful supply, too, and with ample width for three adult passengers, it will surprise no-one if as this car ages, it appears in the taxi ranks of the land just as its predecessors have done. The roominess extends to the boot which is gigantic in comparison to all its rivals, quoted at 590 litres with the rear seats erect, larger than a Passat, and nearly double that of the Focus. The tailgate is large, and it rises well out of the way, so you do need to grab the strap which dangles down when you are trying to close it. Not only is the floor area close to twice that which you find in a Focus, but it is a nice regular and flat shape, and behind the rear wheel arches extending the complete width of the car. There is just about room under the boot floor to squeeze a few odds and ends around the full sized spare. More space can be created by dropping the asymmetrically split rear seat backrests onto the cushions, though the resulting load area is not completely flat. Inside the cabin, there is a decent sized glovebox which has its own air conditioning switch so the contents can be cooled (useful for cold drinks as my test coincided with some very hot summer weather). There is a useful cubby area in front of the gearlever, as well as various moulded stowage areas in the centre console, one of which constitutes the cup holders. You can tell that the Octavia is not aimed at the US market, as these are moulded for small bottles and cans only! A small lidded cubby is on the lower right of the dash, just above the driver’s knee. There are door pockets on all four doors, so passengers should not lack places to store those odds and ends needed on a journey.

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The test car was in S spec, which is the entry level model, only available with the 1.2 TSI petrol and 1.6 TDi diesel engines. Gone are the days of the really bargain prices, with the 1.2 TSi listing at £15,990 and the 1.6 TDI at £18,040. Despite being the bottom of the range, S trim does not come across as unduly stripped out, with some nice features appearing on the list of what comes as standard. Notable items include  16″ alloy wheels, a  4 spoke leather steering wheel, that cooled glovebox, electric front windows, a height adjustable driver seat, height adjustable front and three rear head restraints, height and reach adjustable steering wheel and lashing eyelets in the luggage compartment. the “Bolero” touchscreen infotainment system with SD card slot, bluetooth, a CD player (located in the glove box) and DAB digital radio with 8 speakers, manual air conditioning, heated door mirrors and a trip computer. The SE model is available with a wider range of engines, and for the extra £1200, you also get as standard different 16″ alloy wheel designs, front fog lights and body coloured door mirrors and door handles, a chrome finish to the inner door handles, a driver’s vanity mirror, height adjustable driver and passenger seats with lumbar support, and rear electric windows with child safety switch, acoustic rear parking sensors, the driver activity assistant (a fatigue detection system), “driving mode” selection, dual-zone air conditioning with humidity sensor and control, maxi-dot trip computer and a tyre pressure monitoring system. The top spec Elegance is not available with the 1.2 TSi petrol engine. It adds 17″ ‘Teron’ alloy wheels with anti-theft bolts, telescopic front headlight washers, Alcantara and leather upholstery, auto dimming rear view mirror, floor mats, front armrest with Jumbo box (A/C storage compartment), multi-function steering wheel (radio and telephone control), rear centre armrest, a storage box under passenger seat, an “Amundsen” satellite navigation unit (with proximity sensor) and European maps, colour Maxi-dot trip computer, cruise control, intelligent light assistant (high beam assistant) and a rain sensor. The vRS spec builds on the SE, and adds 18″ Gemini/Pictoris alloys, sports suspension, bi-xenon lights with dynamic angle control, LED rear lights, a 3 spoke multi-function steering wheel for radio and telephone with DSG paddles if appropriate, a release for the rear seat backrests from the boot, front armrest with storage box, rear armrest with load-through boot access and textile floor mats.

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The old model Octavia was a very capable car, so it was not reasonable to expect a dramatic improvement with this new car, and indeed you don’t get one. There was not that much that needed improvement on that scale anyway. What you do get is a bit more space inside, efficiency gains from the latest engines, and some additional standard and optional equipment. I enjoyed my time with this Octavia. Like its predecessor, it is not exactly exciting, but then that’s not really the point. What it is, though, is universally competent, with no significant weakness at all. With a reputation for reliability and excellent service from the dealers, no wonder the Octavia does so well in consumer surveys such as JD Power. Ignoring for moment the fact that Hertz, and the other rental car agencies do not include it in the same category as the Focus and other C-Segment hatches, it was inevitable that I would compare it with the latest Focus that I had driven a week before. Although I did not like the interior of the Ford, it was all in other respects a very competent car, and one that is easy to recommend. But then along comes the Skoda, and the question that nagged at the back of my mind all weekend was if I were in the market for a car of this type, which one would I choose. The Ford is marginally the better car to drive, but in all other respects the Skoda has it beat. If it were my money, I think I’d join the ever increasing band of purchasers who pick the Octavia as their family car of choice. Now, how do I get hold of a vRS model?

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Home Forums 2013 Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDi S (GB)

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Piers 3 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #7968

    Colin
    Member

                         I will make no secret of the fact that I am big fan of the Skoda Octavia. If you look at the sales figures, it is clear that I am
    [See the full post at: 2013 Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDi S (GB)]

    #7970

    Nick
    Member

    Octavia or Ghibli, then? A difficult choice …

    #8021

    Andrew
    Member

    vRS, estate, in blue looks the absolute bollocks.

    #8027

    Piers
    Member

    Yep, the new vRS is a tasty looking machine. A pokier version in the mould of a Golf R or S3 would be interesting.

    Anyway,it sounds like the basic car is as accomplished as you’d expect.

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