The Numbers

103TSI: 1395cc, 4cyl petrol, FWD, 103W, 250Nm, 5.7L/100km, 0–100km/h in  8.4secs, 215km/h, 1302kg

The Topgear Verdict

Hard to fault. It's practical, comfortable and affordable - everything its target customer wants. Not massively fast, but there's an RS version coming for that.

2013 Skoda Octavia Sedan/Wagon

A Skoda family car? Bit boring for TopGear, eh?

You would say that, you badge snob. But given the Octavia has been the most sucessful car in the Skoda range since the company's beginnings, and that it's sold 6000 units since its Australian launch in 2007, the underrated Czech manufacturer must be doing something worth noticing. Plus the new Octavia may be the best looking thing to come out of Eastern Europe since Mila Kunis.

Okay, I'm listening. Is it any better than the old one?

The biggest complaints about the second-gen Octavia were about its legroom and interior quality. The new model has gotten bigger to rectify this, with a 90mm total length increase giving 26mm extra legroom. There's also more storage space and better tech inside, including radar cruise control, park assist, emergency braking, a mind-reading fatigue detection system and an 8-inch touchscreen with sat-nav on higher-spec models. A cool feature of the screen is that it hides the control buttons when not in use for maximum map display, then brings them back when it detects your hand approaching. If only Skoda made the hand dryers in public bathrooms...

What choices of engine do I have?

There's two turbo petrols - a 1.4-litre with 103kW/250Nm and a 1.8 with 132kW/250Nm. The 1.8 is just over a second quicker to 100km/h (7.4secs vs 8.5) when you go for the DSG gearbox (the 1.4 also has a manual option, but why would you bother in a car like this?). There's also a 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 110kW and 320Nm that'll saunter leisurely to 100km/h in 8.6 seconds. All of them deliver the power smoothly, albeit fairly slowly, and work well with the dual-clutch 'box. Even the diesel is nicely refined, with no clatter coming from under the bonnet.

Is there a hot one coming?

Skoda has said that, just like the previous generation Octavia, it'll be bringing an RS version here to top the range. It's just being coy about when that will be, though.

What sort of cash are we talking?

The lineup kicks off at a welfare-friendly $21,690 for the 103TSI base model with a manual gearbox and climbs through to the 110TDI range-topper at $35,390. In between there's the 132TSI at $34,590 and two other spec levels of the 103TSI. If you have a dog, or some extra children you don't like very much, you can also get a station wagon version of any spec for an extra $1350.

The final word?

It rides comfortably, has plenty of room, looks great and is both economical and sharply priced. If we had to pick one model, it'd be the 1.4-litre with an auto gearbox. Negligible fuel savings from the diesel and unnecessary extra speed from the more powerful petrol make the price premiums hard to justify. Nonetheless, all are fine machines.

Reviewed by: Tim Booth

Driven: November 27, 2013