- The Car: Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI SE
- Run by: John Bradshaw, chief photographer
- Why it's here: To see if the Octavia offers all the practicality, comfort and efficiency you could want
- Needs to: Cope with all of my photography gear, provide smooth transport on long journeys, return reasonable fuel economy and be an effortless commuter car
Price £19,530 Price as tested £20,700 Miles covered 7121 Official Economy 54.3mpg Test economy 45.7mpg Options fitted Amundsen touchscreen satellite navigation system with WiFi (£800), Special paint (£195), Temporary steel spare wheel (£100), Textile floor mats (£75)
21 September 2017 – Early driving impressions
I have to admit, when I first got word that I would be running a Skoda Octavia, I wasn’t all that excited. I mean, it has always done well in What Car? group tests and I’ve shot countless examples for our Car of the Year Awards. And yet, Skoda’s middle of the road hatchback lacks a certain joue de vivre; something the long-term Scenic on our fleet has by the bucketful.
In fact, if I had to describe the car using one word, it would be inoffensive – certainly in our specification. On tiny 16-inch wheels and painted in Corrida Red paint, details like the bisecting front headlights and sharply styled bootlid simply fade into the background. It’s a shame, because the hotter vRS models with their Audi-RS-esque wheels and less subdued hues are genuinely attractive hatchbacks.
In short, the Octavia is not the kind of car that has you reaching for the keys – especially with the eclectic mix of machinery often on offer at What Car? Towers. However, to ignore a car based purely on aesthetics would be foolish, an old lesson that has been reinforced during my first few weeks with the Skoda.
With numerous shoots scheduled in South Wales, I’ve spent a great deal of time on both fast flowing motorways and tight and snickity country roads. The Octavia has dealt with them both brilliantly. In fact, as a pure driving proposition, I’d argue that the Skoda is head and shoulders above both the Hyundai i30 and Mazda 3 – two cars I’ve spent plenty of time in over the years.
The steering is light but direct, the six-speed gearbox is slick and accurate and with a 50mm longer wheelbase than a Volkswagen Golf, the Skoda is stable through quick direction changes. And if you’re worried that the 1.4-litre petrol engine isn’t big enough for such a large hatchback, don’t be. With 148bhp and 185lb ft of torque, the Octavia feels genuinely sprightly when the road opens up. Economy in the mid-45s is nothing to be ashamed of either.
Ultimately, the Octavia is exactly what you’d want from a big family car, and I suspect it will continue to grow on me the more time I spend behind the wheel.