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All-new Skoda Octavia gets a well-deserved fanfare

Skoda Octavia Estate

EXPECTATION can play you false. It’s nice to have your eye on the future, but if something that is long-awaited proves a let-down, the feeling of disappointment can be more all the more keenly felt.

So how would the all-new Skoda Octavia shape up in the expectation stakes? Would those high hopes be realised … or dashed?

I have driven every iteration of the Czech Republic manufacturer’s big-selling family motor and enjoyed them all – the hot vRS version is one of my favourite cars – so I was really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the latest model.

I had been to the ‘reveal’ in Prague, when the fourth-generation Octavia took its world bow late last year, and you know that the unveiling of a new car is a momentous event when the Prime Minister pops along to hail its arrival.

Premier Andrej Babis was among the hundreds of guests, assembled at the republic’s National Gallery for a glittering ceremony.

Was the fanfare merited? I have to say that yes, it was. For, I thoroughly enjoyed my test-drive week, for The Best Life Project, in the new Octavia, an SE L First Edition estate model.

I liked the new looks. There’s a noticeable evolution, rather than a revolution, in the style stakes – such is Skoda’s way – and the introduction of a wealth of features for the car.

The new front apron, narrower headlights and newly-designed, shallow roof rails emphasise the elongated silhouette of the estate version. All in all, the new car radiates self-confidence and quality. It’s a motor with considerable presence.

The inside story is also one of quality, with a spacious and comfortable cabin that is an ergonomic plus – all minor controls fall easily to hand in an intuitive fashion, while the driving position feels like slipping-on a glove.

Surfaces are pleasantly tactile, with aluminium highlights to the soft-touch plastics, and leather trim for the steering wheel and gearshift gaiter, while the seat fabric is ‘smooth microsuede’.

The cabin also has new LED ambient lighting, indirectly illuminating the front doors and dashboard. The driver can choose from a total of ten different colours and can even assign differing colours to the dashboard and footwell.

There is a clever 10in touchscreen display for satnav, radio, phone and many other functions – just one of a wealth of features. Our car’s tasty kit included: adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, blind spot detection, dual-zone air con, power-adjust driver’s seat with memory function, heated power-folding door mirrors, puddle lights, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors with manoeuvre-assist, wireless connectivity and rear privacy glass.

Perhaps the most exciting of the new technologies on board is the shift-by-wire set-up for operating the DSG (automatic gearbox). It electronically transmits the driver’s gear selection to the transmission. There is a new control module located in the centre console with a small rocker switch for selecting drive modes as well as a button for the parking mode.

And amid all the high-tech, Skoda’s attention to detail shines through with a humbler, but often very necessary, regular feature – an umbrella housed in one of the doors. One feature I would have liked to see as standard (it was an £180 optional extra) was the steel space-saver spare wheel. Still, it was available – something that can’t be said for many manufacturers.

The driving experience is a welcoming one, with assured handling, pleasing ride and a real turn of pace from the 148bhp diesel engine mated to the seven-speed transmission. The car is confidence-inspiring in all conditions, from tootling around town to taking on the motorway haul.

Performance figures are 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds and a top speed of 137mph, with 60-52mpg (combined range) and 97g/km of CO2 (all manufacturer’s data).

As for practicality (it was the estate version after-all), with the rear seat-backs down, the car swallowed an adult’s mountain bike with aplomb. I dropped the front wheel of the bicycle for ease of loading but it would have gone in with it in place without having to move the front passenger seat forward.

Good looks, top tech and bags of space – the new Octavia exceeds expectations as it goes from strength to strength.

Price: £32,120 (inc options).

Frank Turner
Frank is a respected journalist who has specialised for many years in writing car reviews and motoring industry news for national and regional newspapers.

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