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The Top Gear car review:Skoda Octavia
For:It’s a solid all-rounder, this Octavia. Maybe not Golf good, but close
Against:Is Skoda losing its identity? 1.2 petrol has its work cut out
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What we say:
Good-looking new Octavia lays claim to title of most sensible car in real world
What is it?
Handsome tyke, isn’t it? We once opined that the Skoda Octavia was one of the best cars on sale in the world, and in all honesty, not much has changed with this new version.
It’s the third generation of the Golf-based hatch, and it now sits on Volkswagen’s fancy new MQB platform; the same platform that will underpin some 10 million VW Group models in the future. This, of course, means there’s more than a whiff of Golf lingering about the place, which is a good – and bad – thing. Why bad? Because we fear Skoda could be in danger of losing what little identity it kept. Being a ‘budget Golf’ is all well and good, but shouldn’t a car be more?
Clearly, you can see there’s a bit more heft to the Octavia than the Golf, and thus the fine dynamics of the Mark VII are a tad diluted. The steering is light and accurate enough, with sufficient weight to satisfy small-to-medium sized helmsmiths, but those of a more apex-splitting persuasion will require something less docile. It bobs about on its springs a bit too, though there’s enough chassis wizardry in this MQB platform to keep you entertained, just as long as this entertainment doesn’t start with ‘N’ and end in ‘ürburgring’.
The upside of the slightly podgy suspension though, is an entirely placid ride and great motorway refinement. Cross-continent trips in one of these would be a painless experience, just so long as you spec something bigger than the 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine. It struggles a tad, and with a bit of weight on board you get the feeling you’d have to stir the gearbox regularly. Our advice would be to go diesel, and to go big. Both 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI’s are cracking motors.
On the inside
It’s ruddy lovely. Solid. Heavy. Reliable. Erm, Golf-like. All models gets the same central touchscreen as their VW cousins (with a near identical layout, too) but there’s nothing wrong with this when the ergonomics are spot on, the driving position is excellent and the ambience good. As expected, all the materials are mined from nearby asteroids, and the head, leg and boot space is exemplary. The latter is literally cavernous. Literally. It’s all just a bit too… VW. With each successive generation, the Octavia - and Skoda itself – is losing individuality.
Here’s where it gets good, because it’s a bit cheaper to buy than a Golf. Get a diesel – like the 104bhp 1.6-litre diesel – and you’ll get 74.3mpg and free tax thanks to 99g/km of CO2. And because of its VW underpinnings, it’ll quite probably outlast teen-poppers One Direction, too. It feels premium inside, but you get good value for money. Sorted.