The Skoda Octavia Estate and VW Golf Estate are two of the most practical estates on the market; both have vast loadbays with plenty of clever touches to help take the strain out of family life. Both cars are based on the same basic platform and are available with much the same range of engines and gearboxes. Read on to find out what the differences are and which car you should choose.
What are the Skoda Octavia Estate and VW Golf Estate like inside?
The Octavia has the edge for outright space; with the rear seats up there’s 610 litres of room (compared with the Golf’s 605 litres). The Skoda’s advantage grows with the rear seats folded down; it offers 1740 litres of space compared with the VW’s 1620 litres.
The reality is, though, you’ll fit virtually the same amount of luggage in either car, which means several suitcase or boxes of flat-pack furniture will be no problem at all. Folding the rear seats is a doddle in the Golf because you simply pull handles in the boot and the spring-loaded seatbacks drop virtually flat.
This handy feature is only available on the more expensive versions of the Octavia, and it’s only range-topping Elegance trim that gets an adjustable boot floor to avoid having a step up to the folded seats (this can be added to lesser models for £150), whereas all Golf Estates have this feature as standard.
The fact that you can raise the Golf’s floor also comes in handy when loading heavy items, because it means you don’t have to negotiate a large lip at the entrance of the boot.
The Octavia counters by offering a lot more rear legroom than the Golf, although both cars are spacious enough to seat four six-footers in comfort. Both also give the driver a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustment, although the Skoda offers slightly better all-round vision.
The Skoda and the VW have similarly classy cabins, with lots of dense, soft-touch plastics and a user-friendly dashboard layout. The same touch-screen infotainment system also features on both cars. This has well-ordered menus and is flanked by shortcut keys that allow you to switch quickly between different functions.
What are the Skoda Octavia Estate and VW Golf Estate like to drive?
There’s a huge range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines to choose from, many of which feature in identical forms in both cars. Petrol Octavia buyers are best off with the 103bhp 1.2 TSI; it’s just about nippy enough for family chores and is much cheaper the 138bhp 1.4 TSI. It’s a pity the Octavia isn’t available with the 120bhp 1.4 TSI that’s offered in the VW, because this is easily the pick of the Golf’s petrol engines. It’s smooth, quiet and easily up to the job of hauling around a family of four.
If you’re after a diesel – which most estate buyers are – go for the 1.6 TDI. It’s not quick, but there’s plenty of pull above 1500rpm, and CO2 emissions are kept as low as possible (99g/km in the Skoda and 102g/km in the Golf).
The Golf is the more refined car; occupants are better isolated from engine rumble and there’s slightly less road and wind noise at a steady motorway cruise, too.
More significantly, the Octavia’s suspension gives a fidgety low-speed ride, whereas the Golf makes rough surfaces feel super-smooth. True, the Skoda does settle down at higher speeds, but the VW is still the more comfortable car.
Even more impressive is the way the Golf manages to combine this cushy ride with excellent handling. In fact, both estates feel very safe and secure through bends, with plenty of grip and accurate, consistently weighted steering.
Can I get an automatic?
Both cars are available with VW’s twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox. In the Golf, this is an option on all engines – apart from the 87g/km 1.6 TDI Bluemotion and entry-level 84bhp 1.2 petrol – and adds £1415 to the price.
The same gearbox is available on all Octavia Estates (excluding 4x4 models) and costs £1250 (or £1390 in the range-topping petrol vRS model). The DSG gearbox doesn’t harm CO2 emissions and fuel economy by too much – in fact, in some cases it actually improves them – although it can be rather jerky in stop-start traffic.
Which one should I buy?
You won’t be disappointed with either of these estates; both are practical, good to drive and decent value for money. However, the Golf makes more sense for private buyers. Yes, it’s more expensive to buy, but its stronger resale values go a long way to making up for that, and its smoother ride and more functional boot layout are also big bonuses.
As a company car, the Octavia looks more appealing (especially if you’re looking at the 1.6 TDI engine) because its lower CO2 emissions and list price will result in cheaper company car tax bills.
Whichever car you choose, SE trim makes the most sense, because this gets you alloys, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and adjustable lumbar support.
SE trimmed Octavia’s also get climate control and rear parking sensors, which you have to pay extra for on the Golf. However, the VW counters with automatic lights and wipers, a multi-function steering wheel and adaptive cruise control – all optional on the Skoda.