Skoda doesn't offer the basic 1.4-litre in the estate version, and when you drive it in the hatchback, you'll understand why. Its 75bhp isn't up to the job, certainly not with a full load on board. The Octavia had a face-lift in 2000, and the 1.6-litre petrol introduced then is a better bet than the original one, because power was increased from 75 to 100bhp.
The non-turbo, 68bhp 1.9 SDI diesel is best avoided, but both the 1.9 turbodiesels - 90bhp or 110bhp - are thoroughly recommended. The 115bhp 2.0-litre and 125bhp 1.8-litre petrol are okay, but not as lively as the later 150 and 180bhp 1.8-litre 20v petrol turbo units.
Original LXi cars come with twin airbags, but no anti-lock brakes, which are fitted to GLXi and SLXi models. A post-September '98 GLXi is a better bet because the standard sunroof was replaced with air-con. Post-2000 trims include Classic, Ambiente and Elegance, and of those we'd go for Ambiente.