- 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 8389 Official Economy 54.3mpg Test economy 46.2mpg Options fitted Amundsen touchscreen satellite navigation system with WiFi (£800), Special paint (£195), Temporary steel spare wheel (£100), Textile floor mats (£75)
I have to admit, when I first got word that I would be running a Skoda Octavia, wondered whether it would really meet my rather unique requirements – namely, it has to return good fuel economy, provide adequate space for my camera gear and have enough poke to keep up with quicker test cars. And unsurprisingly, the Skoda meets those requirements perfectly.
So why the initial worry? Well, it might sound like the ultimate first world problem, but the Octavia is almost too perfect. Bare with me.
Where my previous test car, the Renault Scenic, threw up problem after problem, the Skoda simply fits into my life so seamlessly, that it can be hard to come up with original material for my long-term reviews. Yes it looks a little dull in Corrida Red paint, and the 16-inch wheels certainly don’t add to its sex appeal, but that’s where the complaints begin and end, so far at least.
With the number of car shoots ramping up due to our annual Car of the Year Awards, I’ve been spending more and more time on fast and flowing motorways – an environment where the Octavia feels completely at home. The 1.4-litre petrol unit is smooth and quiet and there is very little wind or road noise. Our test car came without adaptive suspension, but even on passive springs, body control is seriously impressive, with the Skoda inspiring confidence on even the roughest of roads.
And despite rivals such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series coming with more intuitive rotary dial-controlled infotainment systems, the Skoda’s system is still deeply impressive. The glossy one-piece touchscreen is slick and easy to use, and it does without the Golf’s new gesture control software – which is no loss in my opinion. I’ve found VW’s system to be at best a hit-and-miss affair, and at worst a distraction. Better to just make do with clear, easy to hit icons.
So far so good, then, but I’m now determined to find some sort of weakness. Thankfully, with my schedule becoming increasingly hectic, I’m hoping to push the Octavia to its limits – think frequent long distance trips, unforgiving inner city commutes and the heavy handed use of the wider test team. It’s going to be an experience.