Skoda Octavia Review 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Skoda Octavia

£ 19,480 - £ 28,500
810
Published: 23 Mar 2021
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Skoda might just have turned things on its head. You’d now recommend an Octavia over the Golf or Leon

Good stuff

Massively practical, interior wins over the Golf and Leon, smooth petrols

Bad stuff

Looks more interesting than before, but still not the most exciting object

Overview

What is it?

What is it? It’s a turn up for the books, that’s what it is. Yep, the new Skoda Octavia might just be a better car than the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf upon which it is based.

More on that later. For now, some introductions. This is the fourth generation of the modern-day Octavias, and as is to be expected it’s the most complex and tech-filled yet, with Skoda trying to inject a bit of style to match the usual practicality.

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The Czech firm has kept with tradition in offering the Octavia as an estate (you can read about that here) and the sort of booted-hatch/liftback saloon type thing we have here – whereas VW and Seat stick with traditional shapes for the Golf and the Leon. The liftback has always allowed Skoda to score those all-important practicality points, though, and there’s no change on that front here. The new Octavia’s boot is actually 10 litres larger than before at 600 litres – a whole 120 litres more than you get in the new Golf.

But this time the Octavia hatch (Skoda still refers to it as such) is far more swoopy and interesting to look at too. You’ll no doubt have your own opinions on that slightly aggressive Audi-lite front end, but whereas the Golf’s styling might just have regressed with its new generation, the Octavia is better-looking than the one that went before. It’s larger on the outside too - 19mm longer and 15mm wider to be precise.

Now the ‘First Editions’ have gone off sale (you might still be able to bag one from stock), there are just three trim levels to choose from – SE, SE L and vRS. The latter is sufficiently different to warrant its own review, which is hidden behind these blue words.

There are no real shocks on the drivetrain front either, although there’s plenty of possible combinations to run through. Here goes – in the UK, petrol engines include a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder with a 6spd manual gearbox and 109bhp, as well as a 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder with the same gearbox and 148bhp. Both of those can be had with 7spd DSGs too, although they’re badged as e-TEC mild-hybrids thanks to an additional 48-volt system.

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The diesel is a 2.0-litre TDI that comes in 113bhp and 148bhp flavours and can be paired with a manual or DSG gearbox. There’s also a plug-in hybrid – badged Octavia iV – which combines a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a total output of 201bhp and an all-electric range of around 37 miles.

The aforementioned vRS is available with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options. Oh, and in other parts of the world there’s an Octavia G-TEC that runs on compressed natural gas. Don’t expect to see that in the UK any time soon, though.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

Skoda might just have turned things on its head. You’d now recommend an Octavia over a VW Golf or Seat Leon

As we alluded to earlier on, the Octavia is now almost certainly the car you’d recommend ahead of the Golf and Leon. Crikey, who saw that one coming?

With our most sensible hats on, it’s easily the most practical of the three, has the least annoying interior and is set up to provide a comfortable (if somewhat forgettable) driving experience. Some of the materials may be slightly scratchier than in the Golf and that 2.0-litre TDI is certainly a little louder, but it’s also the most interesting-looking hatch and doesn’t just feel like a Volkswagen Group copy and paste job. A turn up for the books indeed.

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