Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The 148bhp diesel is an impressive performer. Not only can it get the Octavia Estate from 0-62mph in a very respectable 8.8sec but, more importantly, it pulls strongly from low revs. It's a great fit for the car, whether you're travelling one-up or with the family and a boot full of luggage. It certainly feels punchier than the 2.0-litre hybrid Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, despite that car officially having more power.
Still, as good as the 148bhp diesel is, it's worth considering the 1.5-litre petrol; it's similarly quick and a lot cheaper. The only caveat is that you need to work it a bit harder than you do the diesel. The 108bhp 1.0-litre feels peppy enough and is happy to slog from low revs, but is a fair bit slower than the 1.5 even without taking a hefty load into consideration. There’s also a plug-in hybrid iV model. This combines an electric motor (which is powerful enough to allow adequate acceleration to motorway speeds on its own) with a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine. When the two power sources combine, things are pretty brisk with a 0-62mph time of 7.8sec. If you want even more performance, and fuel economy is less of a priority, take a look at our separate Skoda Octavia vRS review.
We’ve not yet sampled the manual gearbox, but the optional dual-clutch automatic delivers mostly impressively swift shifts, which aid performance. It's only when you put your foot down hard or try to pull away swiftly – such as when exiting a busy junction – that it can dither and frustrate. The same is true of this gearbox when fitted to the plug-in hybrid iV, although the Octavia does switch between power sources and shift between gears more smoothly than rivals such as the Peugeot 508 SW Hybrid.
Suspension and ride comfort
The motorway feels like the Octavia Estate’s natural habitat; it can waft along on its softly sprung suspension for mile after mile. Just bear in mind that when you turn off the motorway and onto a more demanding stretch of undulating road, the car does feel a little floaty over crests.
You'll also feel slight jolts over potholes and particularly vicious expansion joints, and the Octavia's body can take a moment to settle after you've traversed a speed hump (like a small boat hitting a sizeable wave), but for the most part it’s more comfortable than direct rivals.
An adaptive suspension system that allows you to stiffen or soften the ride is an optional extra. It does a good job of reducing unwanted float whilst retaining comfort, but while effective, it’s not essential.
Despite the softness of its suspension, the Octavia Estate is perfectly capable when it comes to corners. In particular, its steering is precise and has plenty of reassuring weight, providing a good sense of connection to the front tyres.
The Octavia also grips tenaciously through bends. And while it leans more than a Ford Focus Estate or Corolla Touring Sports, so doesn't feel as agile as those cars, it's never anything less than stable and secure. The Plug-in iV model’s bulky battery packs hurt its agility a little, but there’s nevertheless plenty of grip and stability.
Noise and vibration
The petrol 1.5 TSI 150 is a smooth engine that only gets vocal when pushed and sends few vibrations through the controls. The 1.4-litre petrol engine of the iV plug-in hybrid is quiet and smooth, too; more so than the 1.0 TSI 110. The diesels are noisier and generate more noticeable vibration, but not in a way that you’d call intrusive.
Unfortunately, wind and road noise aren't as well isolated as they are in the Focus Estate, and you hear the suspension working away as it tries to smooth out broken surfaces and potholes.
Lift off the accelerator pedal and automatic Octavias can ‘coast’ out of gear to save fuel, before re-engaging drive smoothly when you put your foot down again. But the car’s stop-start system can frustrate in traffic; it sometimes cuts the engine a bit too soon and takes too long to fire it back up again. The iV’s petrol engine is snappy enough to restart, though, and cuts in swiftly when changing from electric to petrol mode.
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