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The Top Gear car review:Skoda Octavia Estate
For:Massive boot, comfy interior, quick vRS versions
Against:Lacks a bit of glamour, Skoda's SUVs are fancier these days
What is it?
It’s now over 20 years since Skoda’s vast image turnaround began with the launch of the original Octavia. It completely shook up the establishment by being, y’know, quite good. With a VW Golf as its base, it had some pretty strong foundations, to which it added interior and boot space while subtracting pounds from the price tag.
We’re now two generations of Octavia on, and this third-generation version has recently had an overhaul which has seen it adopt a more confident look. Gone is the inoffensive smartness of old Octavias, replaced by a quad light design up front that’s got more than a hint of old Mercedes E-Class about it. Whether that’s a compliment or not depends entirely on your tastes.
If 1990s Skoda launched a car with such bold styling, it’d have been easy to dismiss as an oddball. But it’s now a company confident and assertive enough to play around with its cars a bit, and to try and differentiate them from Audi, Seat and Volkswagen relations.
Which is pretty key, really, for under the skin it’s incredibly similar to an A3, Leon or Golf. Or any of their SUV and crossover spin-offs. That’s because it’s based on the VW Group’s much talked about MQB platform. Ignore the jargon acronyms and simply know that means it drives sharply, rides well and has the ability to accommodate all manner of engines and gearboxes, as well as your choice of front- or four-wheel drive.
The end result is far more flexibility in the range than any other Skoda, and just about any hatchback on sale, bar that pesky Golf. So joining the five-door hatchback is this estate version, and it comes with deeply sensible petrol and diesel versions, the rufty-tufty Audi Allroad-style Octavia Scout and the really quite quick Octavia vRS, a hot hatch estate that you can have with a limited-slip differential and up to 245bhp. Something for everyone, then…