Skoda Octavia long-term test
The Octavia has always been one of our favourite family cars, and this latest one promises to be more versatile than ever. Let's see how it fares in day-to-day use...
The car Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L First Edition Run by Allan Muir, managing editor
Why it’s here To see whether the latest Octavia can be more than ‘just’ an exceptionally practical family car that offers fine value for money
Needs to Be just as practical as its predecessors, comfortable in all situations, a relaxed motorway cruiser and relatively cheap to run
Mileage 2490 List price £25,150 Target Price na Price as tested £26,950 Test economy 40.2mpg Official economy 50.1mpg Dealer price now £19,650 Private price now £17,450 Trade-in price now £17,225 Running costs (excluding depreciation) Fuel £289
7 June 2021 – End of the load
Lots of people are obsessed with the legend of Bigfoot, a large, hairy, ape-like creature that’s said to roam around the wilds of North America. Some cryptozoologists devote their lives to studying and searching for such things, and there have been thousands of alleged sightings over the years. Well, I’ve been studying a similar legend over the past few months, and it’s called Big Boot. Otherwise known as the Skoda Octavia. And it wasn’t at all difficult to find and document.
With a load capacity of 10 carry-on suitcases below its parcel shelf, the Octavia’s boot is far larger than those of any of its rivals in the family car class and even beats the capacity of quite a few large SUVs. It’s the family hatchback equivalent of the Ever Given, albeit rather less likely to get stuck in the Suez Canal.
For the money, you won’t find anything that comes close to matching the Octavia in this respect – and it’s probably the main reason why you’d choose this model over, say, the more conventional Skoda Scala or our 2021 Family Car of the Year, the Seat Leon.
That’s great if you’re a minicab driver or have a growing family, but the price you pay for this exceptional practicality is a fairly dull driving experience. With loose body control and a tendency to run wide of your chosen cornering line without much provocation, my Octavia felt decidedly uninterested whenever I pointed it down a twisty country road, and switching to the Sport driving mode made so little difference that I rarely bothered. The Octavia felt far more in its element on the motorway, where its soft suspension allowed it to waft along in comfort.
That wasn’t the case around town, though. For a car with such a relaxed set-up, my Octavia’s low-speed ride was surprisingly unsettled and noisy, crashing and thumping over sharp bumps and potholes and bouncing dramatically over sleeping policemen. To me, the Octavia’s suspension felt distinctly lacking in sophistication compared with that of something like a Ford Focus or Mazda 3, much less a BMW 3 Series (a car barely any bigger than the Octavia).
In hindsight, my decision to upgrade to 18in wheels from the standard 17s was partly to blame, and I’d seriously consider specifying the optional adaptive suspension next time around in the hope that this might improve the ride (although I can’t guarantee that).
The Octavia’s interior was also a mixed bag for me. The microsuede material that adorned the dashboard and seats of my SE L First Edition model (now discontinued in favour of regular SE L trim) added a welcome touch of class, and I had no complaints about the driving position or seat comfort, but from a user-friendliness standpoint, the interior left a lot to be desired.
In particular, I found the touchscreen infotainment system awkward to use, while the steering wheel controls for adjusting things on the digital instrument panel weren’t much better. There was also a bit of duplication of functions going on between the infotainment screen, the few physical switches and the instrument panel that I didn’t find helpful.
The Octavia’s familiar 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine was as gutsy and smooth as we’ve come to expect, although my car did prove quite jerky at low speeds until it had warmed up. I’d normally expect this engine to be fairly frugal too, and sure enough an average of just over 40mpg isn’t bad. In fact, the Octavia could easily do 45mpg on a steady motorway run, but economy dropped into the high 30s if I spent much time running around town (which I did).
In the end, I’d happily have traded some of that boot space for a better driving experience and a more user-friendly interior. Given that those things are available elsewhere in the family car class, I probably wouldn’t have an Octavia on my shopping list next time.
Having said that, I can’t deny that it remains fine value, and you do get a lot of space and equipment for your money. In those respects, the Octavia is as good as or better than it's ever been. If those are the qualities that matter most to you, you might want to consider looking into the legend of Big Boot too…
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