Refined design, spacious, comfortable, good tech
Not many models to choose from at launch, no physical climate controls
What is it?
The vehicular embodiment of sensibleness, and Skoda’s best-seller. Yep, it’s the Octavia Estate, the family car you really ought to buy instead of that spangly crossover you’ve had your eye on.
Based on the latest version of VW’s MQB platform, as used by the Volkswagen Golf, Seat Leon and Audi A3, It’s bigger than the old one and better-looking, with a more modern-feeling interior, cleverer tech and cleaner engines.
The last-gen Octavia was a brilliant car. Really, it was. Slightly less good than the Mk7 Golf on which it was based, but just as recommendable because it was slightly cheaper and more practical. But it wasn’t half boring. Boring to look at, be in or around, and drive. The latest car promises more style as well as more substance. And now that the Golf is no longer the indisputable class-leader, has the Octavia leapfrogged the very car to which it owes so much, and become the small(ish) VW to buy?
Let’s start with the looks. The outside is sharper and more sophisticated than before, but it’s the inside where things start to get interesting. Mainly because Skoda has done away with most of the push buttons. There’s a strip of them under the nice, wide infotainment screen (which is more than you get in the new Golf and Leon), but the climate controls have vanished into the touchscreen. Oh dear.
Boot space is up to 640 litres in the Estate we’re testing here. That’s best in class, and of course there are lots of those little clever touches scattered about the cabin, as is Skoda’s USP nowadays. We’re talking umbrellas in the front doors, the ice scraper hidden behind the fuel filler cap, a USB port conveniently located for plugging in a dashcam and the smartphone storage pockets in the backs of the front seats.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
You don’t need a crossover. You just don’t. An estate like the Octavia is cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, better to drive, more economical and just as practical as most of them. And it happens to be very good indeed – not as much fun to drive as a Focus Estate, perhaps, but more comfortable and more practical. There really isn’t much wrong with it, with the exception of the lack of climate controls.