Used test: Skoda Octavia vs Vauxhall Astra

The Skoda Octavia is one of our favourite family cars, but how does it stack up against the Vauxhall Astra, and which makes more sense used? We have the answer...

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What Car? team
10 February 2019

Used Skoda Octavia vs Vauxhall Astra

The Contenders

Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI 115 S

List price when new £16,660

Price today  £10,500

Available from 2013-present

The Octavia’s long been one of our favourite family cars, but can a used example still shove it to the mighty Astra?

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Vauxhall Astra 1.0 Ecoflex 105 Design

List price when new  £16,145

Price today £9500

Available from  2015-present

This generation of Astra reaches for the stars, and is such a good all-rounder it very nearly gets there

Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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There was a time when the humble three-cylinder engine was the preserve of the city car, but things have changed over the last few years as car manufacturers strive to improve fuel efficiency and drive down CO2 emissions. As the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra we’re testing here demonstrate, even family cars have been getting by very nicely with three-cylinder engines under the bonnet.

Here were pitching two used examples of these cars against each other. Both are two-years-old, and both are powered by a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. We’re testing both cars in their cheapest trim levels to see just how generous each car maker has been with space, pace and equipment. Our aim is to find out which one makes the most sense for a family as a used purchase, so read on to find out who will lift this particular triple crown.

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What are they like to drive?

Unsurprisingly, neither the Octavia nor the Astra feels outright fast on the road, but both are capable of hauling a family and their luggage. Even so, the Octavia scores points for its slightly more eager performance courtesy of its more powerful engine. It helps it leave the Astra behind in a sprint from standstill and when accelerating from low revs in the higher gears.

Skoda Octavia vs Vauxhall Astra

That said, neither car needs to be worked particularly hard to build speed quickly, and neither sends much vibration back through the controls nor sounds antisocial even when they are pushed hard. Both the Octavia and Astra have relatively slick manual gearboxes and positive clutch pedals that make town driving pleasant, too.

The way the cars handle differs, however. The Astra feels lighter on its feet and changes direction more eagerly, but its overly light, quick steering makes the car feel nervous and doesn’t inspire confidence. The Skoda, meanwhile, has heavier but far more feelsome steering that makes it feel more relaxed when turning in to a corner and also more composed as you thread from one bend to the next.

Skoda Octavia vs Vauxhall Astra

On its standard 16in alloy wheels, the Astra is the more fidgety car over scarred urban roads and it transmits the vibrations from broken road surfaces into the interior too readily. The Octavia, on its own standard wheels of the same size, isn’t perfect. Its rear suspension kicks up quite a bit of noise over potholes and ruts, although it manages to keep occupants slightly better isolated from bumps at the same time.

However, at a steady motorway cruise both three-cylinder engines settle impressively and road noise is well contained. Only the Astra’s greater wind noise, whipped up by its door mirrors, makes it marginally noisier at the legal limit.

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