2013 Skoda Octavia revealed
The new Octavia sits on the same underpinnings as the latest Audi A3, Seat Leon and VW Golf. Called MQB, this 'kit of parts' is designed to be easily modified – and Skoda's engineers have gone for the longer of the two chassis set-ups in a bid to improve cabin space and give the Octavia an advantage over its most obvious sibling rival, the Leon.
That means the new Octavia is considerably larger than the previous one, which was already one of the biggest cars in its class. The greater use of high-strength steels means that the latest generation is lighter, though – by up to 102kg, depending on the engine and trim.
The new Octavia is 90mm longer and 45mm wider than the car it replaces, and only 40mm shorter than the current Ford Mondeo. Perhaps most importantly, its wheelbase is 108mm longer. Skoda says this 'mainly benefits the interior and space for the rear seats', and the firm is claiming best-in-class figures for interior cabin length, rear headroom and rear kneeroom.
Despite its saloon-esque looks, the car is a hatchback and its boot space is an impressive 590 litres; that's a small gain on the current Octavia's capacity, and a full 270 litres more than the boot of a Ford Focus.
An estate model will be launched in summer 2013; it'll have the same wheelbase as the hatchback, but a slightly longer rear overhang. This, too, is likely to eclipse the current Octavia Estate for boot space.
The Octavia's engine line-up will look familiar to anyone who's studied the A3, Golf or Leon ranges. Four turbocharged units are expected to be available from launch; 104bhp 1.2 and 138bhp 1.4 petrols and 104bhp 1.6 and 148bhp 2.0 diesels. Skoda has yet to decide whether a 178bhp 1.8 petrol will be available in the UK. A Greenline version of the 1.6 TDI diesel that emits just 89g/km of CO2 will be launched later in 2013.
Skoda also confirmed that four-wheel-drive versions of the car are 'in the works', along with an Octavia vRS that's likely to have more than 210bhp. A Scout version of the estate - with extra body cladding and a raised ride height - will also join the range.
The front of the cabin and particularly the fascia look closer to the design of the latest Golf than the Leon, with high air vents above the centrally mounted infotainment screen. Unlike those cars, though, the Octavia's touch-screen displays with proximity sensors, while swipe controls will be available only on 'higher-level' editions.
Other new features will include keyless entry with push-button start, automatic parking assistant and adaptive cruise control.
Skoda UK is expected to announce pricing and specification details in January. Entry-level models are expected to cost 'less than £16,000', according to Skoda sources.
Octavia prices currently start at just over £14,000, but Skoda says the new model will be significantly better equipped than the current car.
By John McIlroy