Feature

Used test – efficient estates: Ford Focus vs Skoda Octavia

If you're in need of a bit more space but don't want to spend a fortune on fuel, these two have got you covered

Words ByWhat Car? team

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What are they like inside?

The Focus is actually quite small as estate cars go. It should still have enough space for almost anything your family can throw at it, but the boot’s capacity isn’t exactly vast – in fact, it’s less than some of the best family hatchbacks can offer. At least its flat sides make it a usefully square shape.

As you might expect, then, the Skoda Octavia has the Focus comprehensively beaten for outright capacity, giving you enough extra space with the rear seats in place to fit a whole additional large suitcase in, and even more when the seats are folded down.

The bad news is that the Skoda’s extra space has been found by lowering the boot floor, and as a result, there’s a huge load lip that you’ll need to muscle heavy items over. That also of course means that extricating them from the boot will then require you to lean into the boot to heft them out.

By contrast, the Ford’s boot floor is higher, so it sits flush to the boot opening. That means you can simply slide heavy items in and back out again, which is easier on your back.

Another symptom of the Octavia’s lower boot floor is that, when you drop the rear seats in both cars (in both cases, by lifting up the seat squab and folding down the backrest behind it), the area created by the backs of the Skoda’s seats is higher, resulting in a stepped load area. By contrast, the Ford’s is perfectly level.

Both cars offer much the same passenger space, with loads of head and leg room up front, and enough in the back for two tall adults to sit comfortably. The Skoda is better suited to carrying three in the back, though, because it has more shoulder room.

Each car also gives excellent all-round visibility, a wide range of seat and steering wheel adjustments and simple dashboard controls.

The Focus’s dash is more stylish than the Octavia’s, with swooping curves and angles all over the place, but it’s also a little jarring. What’s more, the myriad buttons jammed into the radio section are quite confusing, and the deeply recessed screen atop the dash is rather small and can be tricky to read.

The Octavia’s more conventional design looks more dated, but it’s also easier on the eye. What’s more, most of the controls feel more logically laid out, and the switches are generally easier to understand. The exception is the air conditioning control panel, which features rather a lot of buttons clustered together. You get the hang of it eventually, but at first it can be distracting.

Unfortunately, though, the plastics on offer in the Skoda aren’t so appealing. While the top part of the dash is finished in pleasing, soft-touch materials, lower down there are some decidedly dodgy-feeling areas. That neat storage bin on top of the dash also suffers from a flimsy-feeling cover.

By contrast, the plastics inside the Ford feel more upmarket. Buttons click and switches flick smoothly, too, which adds to the higher-quality feel.

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