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Skoda Octavia

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8/10

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Road Test

Skoda Octavia Estate driven

Driven August 2013

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You know how Skodas are so wholesome that criticism seems churlish, like you're having a pop at something blameless? Well, I'm going to compound that by speaking ill of a dead one. Because there were two criticisms that were easy to level at the last-generation Skoda Octavia Estate. The cabin fixtures were a tad brittle and, compared to the ginormous boot, rear legroom was rather constricted.

Both applied to the hatch as well, but the estate... well, in the estate you noticed them more. You were more likely to have people in the back, leading to more complaints, and the estate's scratchy plastics seemed a bit below Skoda's middle-class aspirations.

The cheap mouldings issue was an easy fix, but rear legroom was always hampered because the Octavia was a wannabe family estate sitting on a Golf platform. The switch to the new, much-vaunted MQB underpinnings has allowed more flexibility, so the new Octavia estate has a wheelbase some 50mm longer than the Golf's (and 108mm up on its predecessor's) and as a result has oodles of rear wriggle room for passengers.

Skoda must have wanted to rectify this imbalance because, while rear knee clearance has been boosted by a third, boot volume has increased by less than a single per cent. But why would you want more? Its 610 litres is massive. You can have an electric tailgate too, but the Octavia isn't a pretentious car, so I wouldn't bother.

There are also four engines, two small turbo petrols and a pair of diesels. All are good, but the Octavia is a workhorse and works best with diesel. The new 1.6 TDI is much smoother than it used to be and the five-speed manual is so slick that it's all you really need. You could have a 2.0-litre DSG, but you'll pay at least £3,350 more for it.

For £1,450, you could also have 4wd - a Haldex system that works unobtrusively but hits economy and emissions pretty hard (economy is down 14.2mpg, CO2 up 23g/km). I suspect anyone needing the extra traction will hold fire for the high-rise Scout version that Skoda has confirmed is coming.

It's rewarding to drive in its own way, too - you can't help but admire the comfort here or the effort that's gone into reducing weight by around 100kg - 1,247kg is only a couple of bags of compost more than a RenaultSport Clio.

Ollie Marriage

The numbers
1598cc, 4cyl diesel, 104bhp, 184lb ft, 70.6mpg, 104g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 11.1secs, 119mph, 1247kg

The verdict
Well thought out, versatile and thoroughly decent family estate. Perilously difficult to criticise on any rational level.

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