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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The Octavia is a decent-driving, well built, practical hatch with handsome, saloon-like styling

Against The rear seats are cramped

Verdict It's a modern family car with reasonable safety levels, but it's not very roomy

Go for… 1.9-litre turbodiesel

Avoid… 1.4-litre petrol

Skoda Octavia Hatchback
  • 1. Faulty electronic control units can ruin the smooth running of the 110bhp 1.9 TDI engines
  • 2. Timing belts can snap on 1.8 20v engines
  • 3. The Octavia's boot is simply enormous
  • 4. Legroom in the rear is very limited
  • 5. Insist on a full service history - if oil isn't regularly changed, it can cause turbos to stick
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Skoda Octavia Hatchback full review with expert trade views

You can tell this Octavia apart from the later model because it has a much smaller, less prominent grille than the newer one. It’s still a handsome car, though, and practical, too, with a big boot. However, long-legged back seat passengers are severely short of sprawling space.

Because the Octavia borrows most of its switchgear from the Volkswagen Golf, quality is good. The controls are clear, the range of driving positions impressive, and the seats supportive and comfortable.

There’s a wide range of engines to choose from, beginning with a 75bhp, 1.4-litre petrol and culminating in a 180bhp Turbo vRS version. Although the ride can be firm at town speeds, it’s pretty comfortable elsewhere. The Octavia’s handling - even on the faster versions – is competent rather than exciting; okay, but not in the Ford Mondeo league.

Trade view

James Ruppert

1.6 Ambiente and any special editions good news, 1.9 TDI engine favoured

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Skoda doesn’t offer the basic 1.4-litre in the estate version, and when you drive it in the hatchback, you’ll understand why. Its 75bhp isn’t up to the job, certainly not with a full load on board. The Octavia had a face-lift in 2000, and the 1.6-litre petrol introduced then is a better bet than the original one, because power was increased from 75 to 100bhp.

The non-turbo, 68bhp 1.9 SDI diesel is best avoided, but both the 1.9 turbodiesels – 90bhp or 110bhp – are thoroughly recommended. The 115bhp 2.0-litre and 125bhp 1.8-litre petrol are okay, but not as lively as the later 150 and 180bhp 1.8-litre 20v petrol turbo units.

Original LXi cars come with twin airbags, but no anti-lock brakes, which are fitted to GLXi and SLXi models. A post-September '98 GLXi is a better bet because the standard sunroof was replaced with air-con. Post-2000 trims include Classic, Ambiente and Elegance, and of those we'd go for Ambiente.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Very low bills and failure rates result in a excellent reliability rating

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The 1.4-litre engine has a group 5 insurance rating and returns an official 42mpg. That makes it cheaper to run than the two 1.6-litre petrols, which return 36 and 39mpg, with insurance varying between groups 7 and 9.

Both the 1.9-litre turbodiesels provide excellent economy, with claimed 51 and 52mpg figures. You won’t get that in the real world, but low- to mid-40s is perfectly achievable. Not surprisingly, the turbocharged petrol vRS is the thirstiest - mpg in the mid-20s is going to be the reality - and there’s no getting around the group 16 insurance, although that’s not so bad for a performance hatch.

Skoda dealers charge within the class average, but your money will go further with an independent expert instead. Servicing is needed every 10,000 miles, and provided you don’t incur major mechanical problems, all the evidence shows that this is not an expensive car to run.

Trade view

James Ruppert

1.6 Ambiente and any special editions good news, 1.9 TDI engine favoured

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Reports from owners have been excellent, as illustrated by very strong results in the JD Power Reliability Index. But, there are still problems to look out for, of course.

Faulty electronic control units can ruin the smooth running of the 110bhp 1.9 TDI engines, resulting in a loss of power and a plunge in fuel economy. Make sure the car shows a consistent service record because if the oil isn’t changed at the correct intervals and is allowed to get dirty, it can cause the turbocharger to stick on both turbodiesel units.

If you're buying a 1.8 20v petrol engine, ensure the timing belt is changed by 70,000 miles or you could end up with a bill for a new engine.

Be very careful of high-mileage vRSs. They’ll have been driven hard, so check for any evidence of warped brake discs, slipping clutches, ill-changing gearboxes, tired suspension and inaccurate steering.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Very low bills and failure rates result in a excellent reliability rating

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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