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Review: New Skoda Octavia

Driven October 2013

Review: New Skoda Octavia

Not many cars in India have managed to do what the Octavia has done for Skoda. Back in 2001, when this executive sedan marked the Volkswagen Group's entry in India, it took the market by storm. And that's exactly what Skoda is planning to do with this all-new Octavia, scheduled to hit the showrooms this October.

The third generation Octavia will be the first Skoda in India that will be woven out of its highly flexible MQB platform, which will eventually form the basis for the future Skoda models to come. As for the new Octavia, the MQB platform means a world of good. Firstly, the interior space has gone up by a great margin, and feels only a shade smaller than the Superb. Okay, that's a bit of exaggeration but yes, it does feel quite roomy at the back. And that is what, we believe, will be the key to stardom for this executive sedan.

Then there is the new, refreshing exterior design. Its a typical Skoda design template with the new Skoda all-metallic logo, the typical front grille and bumper design and the power lines on the bonnet. It practically has Skoda written all over its face. The styling is now sharper than before, lending it a more mature look. From the profile though, it's as understated as before and the boot section now resembles that of the smaller Rapid sedan with the signature C-shaped tail lamps and identical slats around the number plate section. It looks like a grown up Rapid from the rear and we fear it may not go down well with the Indian car buyers. However, in terms of overall styling, its sure not to offend any sentiments.

The new design theme has been carried over into the cabin as well, with the all-new, sharper looking dashboard and the black-beige colour theme dominating in there. The quality of materials used too is a notch higher than before, giving the Octavia cabin a more premium look than before. As before, the seats are extremely comfortable and offer enough support on the go.

The new Octavia will be offered with three engine options, the staple 2.0 TDI turbo-diesel, the highly appreciated 1.8 TSI turbo-petrol and a new 1.4 TSI turbo-petrol. The diesel is available with a 6-speed manual and 6-speed DSG gearbox, the 1.8 TSI gets a 7-speed DSG, while the smaller petrol motor is teamed with a 6-speed manual only.

We sampled the new engines for shorter stints and there was very little that we didn't like out on the tarmac. The 141bhp, 2-litre diesel offers great driveability in varied conditions, and the manual gearbox feels good to use too. Even better is the DSG that is quick to shift gears and keep the motor boiling at the right rpm. The 1.4-litre turbo-petrol motor is the same as found in the VW Jetta, but the power is now up from 122bhp to 138bhp. Although it feels better than the Jetta, there is considerable turbo lag below the 1800rpm-mark, and you will need to work through the 6-speed manual gearbox to stay in the powerband. But no such issues for the 1.8-litre TSI motor that now packs 17 more horses than before, taking it to a total of 177bhp. And coupled with the 7-speed DSG gearbox, this is the best possible way to go bananas in an otherwise practical executive sedan.

Driving the Octavia up and down the mountain roads connecting Chandigarh and the hilly town of Shimla, we realised the Octavia is sure to set new standards in the ride and handling department. It's got an excellent ride, absorbing almost every pothole en route, while only the sharper bumps making themselves felt into the cabin. And the way this sedan handles can put most of the sporty hatchbacks to shame. While taking corners, there is hardly any hint of body roll, and the grip levels from the 205/55 rubber is phenomenal. The steering wheel too is precise and does exactly what you want it to. But if there was a thing to fault then it would have to be that the steering system comes across as a bit too light for our liking. It does weigh up with increase in speed, but not by a great deal. Also, it doesn't offer any sort of feedback, which is a let down.

In all, the new Octavia is sure to set a new benchmark in the executive sedan segment. Starting at Rs 13.95 lakh for the 1.4 TSI and Rs 18.25 lakh for the 1.8 TSI, it’s on par with its competition. But looking at the Indian obsession with the cheaper fuel, we reckon it’s the diesel variants that will outsell the petrol models, with the diesel range starting from Rs 15.55 lakh and going up to Rs 19.45 lakh (all prices, ex-showroom, Delhi). With a range of exciting petrol and diesel engines, an excellent chassis, spacious interiors and fresh styling, the Octavia is a well-sorted product that can give its rivals a run for their money.

The numbers
1.4 TSI turbo-petrol
1395cc, turbo-petrol, 138bhp, 250Nm, 6M, 1260kg

1.8 TSI turbo-petrol
1798cc, turbo-petrol, 177bhp, 250Nm, 7DSG, 1376kg

2.0 TDI turbo-diesel
1968cc, turbo-diesel, 141bhp, 320Nm, 6M/6A, 1340kg/1395kg, 205/55 R16

Verdict

Octavia, once again, it's a game changer from Skoda. It does lack a bit of drama, but if that is all that you want, this isn't the segment for you. Skoda has got the pricing spot on and if you are in for an executive sedan, look no further.



Devesh Shobha

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