What Car? says...
The Skoda Octavia family car is a pivotal model in the manufacturer’s line-up. Since it first appeared as a hatchback, it's been the brand’s biggest-selling car, appealing to anybody with a keen eye on practicality and value.
Over the years, Skoda has pushed the Octavia steadily upmarket, and while that departure from its budget roots might have seemed a gamble at first, it certainly paid off.
The Skoda Octavia is now so well regarded that it counts premium family cars including the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class among its rivals. It also competes with more mainstream models such as the Ford Focus, Seat Leon, Toyota Corolla and VW Golf. You might be tempted by the larger Skoda Superb too, as it's not much more expensive.
To maintain its upwardly-mobile trajectory, the latest Octavia has an advanced suite of driver tech, as well a plusher interior and a sharper look than ever before. As ever, its underpinnings are shared with the Golf, but Skoda has increased the distance between the front and rear axles to add more passenger space.
Four petrol and diesel engines are available, with outputs ranging from 109bhp to 148bhp. There are also a couple of mild-hybrids with the DSG automatic gearbox, plus a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that uses a 201bhp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine plus an electric motor.
So, how does the Skoda Octavia stack up? Over the next few pages of this review we’ll run you through what it's like to drive, how practical it is, how much it will cost you to run, and more. We'll also compare it with those family car rivals and tell you which version we recommend.
If you're ready to buy, don't forget that we can help you find big discounts on most makes and models if you use our free What Car? New Car Deals service, which has lots of the best new family car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Skoda Octavia's 148bhp diesel engine (badged 2.0 TDI 150PS) is an impressive performer, with 0-62mph in just 8.6sec. It pulls strongly from low revs, making it a great fit when you're travelling with the whole family and a boot full of luggage. We wouldn’t rule out the cheaper TDI 116, though – it has plenty of low-down shove and we suspect it’ll prove quick enough for many.
Still, good as the 148bhp diesel engine is, our favourite engine is the 1.5-litre petrol, which is similarly quick and a lot cheaper. The only caveat is that you need to work it a bit harder than you do the diesel, although not quite as hard as the little 109bhp 1.0-litre petrol, with its slower 0-62mph time of 10.8sec. The swift-shifting optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox fractionally improves that time, although it still dithers when trying to pull away quickly.
Company car drivers should consider the brilliant plug-in hybrid (PHEV) 1.4 TSI iV 204. Its cost advantages are covered in a later section but, as performance goes, it'll rattle off 0-62mph in just 7.8sec. In electric-only mode, it can officially do up to 41 miles on a charge. That's competitive for a PHEV and should cover the majority of commutes. If you want even more performance, take a look at our separate Skoda Octavia vRS review.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Octavia’s natural habitat is the motorway: it can waft along on its softly sprung suspension for mile after mile. The consequence of the soft setup, though, is that it feels a little floaty over crests when you turn off the motorway and on to a more demanding stretch of undulating road.
Potholes and sharp expansion joints can send jolts through the Octavia’s structure, too, and its body can take a moment to settle after you've traversed a speed hump. It's rather like being in a small boat hitting a big wave. For the most part, though, it’s more comfortable than its direct rivals. If you prefer a more tightly controlled ride, try the Toyota Corolla or the firmer Seat Leon.
An adaptive suspension system that allows you to stiffen or soften the ride is available as an option on SE L trim. It's worth having because it allows you to dial out some of the float on undulating roads. Indeed, that extra composure over wavy crests and falls is something your passengers will thank you for.
Despite the softness of its suspension, the Octavia is perfectly capable when it comes to corners. Its steering is precise and has plenty of reassuring weight, providing a good sense of connection to the front tyres.
The car grips tenaciously through bends but it leans more than the Ford Focus and Seat Leon, meaning that it ultimately doesn’t feel quite as agile. That’s not to say that it’s ever anything less than stable and secure, mind.
The PHEV Octavia iV has a bulky battery pack on board, but because the Octavia's handling isn't a key strength in the first place, the fact the iV feels a bit heavier isn't the end of the world.
Noise and vibration
The 1.5-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel engines both send a slight buzz through the Octavia's steering wheel and pedals at higher revs, but it’s far from irritating. Indeed, the diesel is smoother and quieter than the engines in most direct rivals. The 1.4 TSI iV plug-in hybrid is the best, of course, as it's super-quiet in its electric mode.
Unfortunately, wind and road noise aren't as well isolated as they are in the Focus, and you can hear the suspension working away as it tries to smooth out broken surfaces and potholes.
When you lift off the accelerator pedal, automatic Octavias can ‘coast’ out of gear to save fuel, before re-engaging drive smoothly when you put your foot down again. The stop-start system can be frustrating in traffic, though, because it sometimes cuts the engine a bit too soon and takes too long to fire it back up again.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The steering wheel in the Skoda Octavia has plenty of reach and rake adjustment and the seat has a good range of movement, so finding an ideal driving position is easy. A powered driver’s seat with a memory function does make getting comfortable even easier, but it’s only available on SE L and vRS models as part of an expensive option pack. All Octavias have adjustable lumbar support to help fend off back pain on long journeys.
Another feature that's standard across the range is an easy to read digital instrument display that takes the place of conventional analogue dials. A fully configurable instrument cluster with different layout and content options is standard from SE Technology, while a head-up display that projects your speed and other information on to the windscreen is on the options list of SE L and above.
Unfortunately, the air conditioning controls are located in the central touchscreen. True, the temperature icons are always on display at the bottom, but other climate functions are hidden away in one of the menus. This can prove a distraction if you need to fine-tune the settings while driving.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The Octavia has large side windows and relatively thin windscreen pillars so looking forwards, or left and right at junctions, is easy. As with many rivals, when you look back over your shoulder, there are a couple of large pillars in your way, and these tend to obscure what's lurking behind you. We'd also point out that the long, high tail is harder to judge than more upright rivals when reversing.
To help relieve parking worries, entry-level SE trim comes with rear parking sensors, while SE Technology, and SE L get front parking sensors too. A rear-view camera is on the options list, as is a system called Park Assist that will steer the car into a space for you.
Bright LED headlights and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror are standard across the range, but they can be upgraded at a cost to clever adaptive matrix LED headlights that allow you to use the main beam more often without blinding other drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
Helpfully, Skoda has positioned the infotainment touchscreen in the Octavia high on the dashboard so you don’t have to take your eyes far from the road to see it. All models come with a 10.0in touchscreen, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, and a DAB radio. If you want built-in sat-nav, you’ll need to opt for either SE Technology or SE L trim.
The system’s graphics look sharp and sophisticated, with large virtual buttons that are relatively easy to use while you’re driving along. What’s more, when you do give them a prod, the screen is far more responsive than the one in the Toyota Corolla. That said, the infotainment systems in the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class have more logical menus, and both have physical controllers between the front seats, making them much easier to use while driving. The Octavia has to make do with two touch-sensitive home and menu icons, which are inconveniently sited at the top left corner of the screen.
You can have up to five USB-C ports in your Octavia: two in a handy cubby in front of the gearlever, another two for rear-seat passengers and another up by the rear-view mirror (to power a dashcam). Wireless phone-charging and an upgraded stereo are available as options.
Plush, squidgy plastics are present on the top and front of the Octavia's dashboard and above the armrests on the doors. There are some harder plastics lower down, but they're pleasingly textured and everything feels solidly screwed together: SE L trim gets a faux-suede surface for part of the dashboard, lifting the ambience further.
The stalks behind the steering wheel feel good to use, as do the steering wheel buttons, but the metal-effect scroll wheels on the spokes feel a little flimsy. All in all, the Octavia is as solid inside as the Corolla but a little plusher, and miles ahead of the Focus. All must bow down to the 1 Series for best in class quality, though.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s plenty of space up front in the Skoda Octavia. A very tall driver will be able to get comfortable even with a head room-robbing panoramic glass roof fitted. Storage is better than in most rivals, too: each door pocket can take a 1.5-litre bottle of water and the cooled glovebox is big enough to keep your lunch fresh.
Behind the gearlever are two fixed cupholders that will keep your coffee-to-go secure and, ingeniously, can grip drinks bottles tightly enough that you can twist off the cap with one hand. In front of the gear selector is a handy tray that’s big enough for a large mobile phone to sit next to your house keys and wallet or purse.
There’s also a large covered storage space under the front armrest for hiding electronic devices and other valuables. Like the glove box, it's cooled, so it's ideal for a second round of sandwiches.
The Octavia is pretty generous on rear-seat space. Behind a tall driver with their seat pushed back, even taller passengers will be able to lounge in comfort, and there’s loads of elbow room. Anyone regularly carrying giants, should be aware that the Ford Focus and Seat Leon are even more well endowed with rear space.
The middle rear-seat passenger has no choice but to place their feet on either side of the car’s raised central floor hump, but the big footwells mean this isn’t too restrictive. The Octavia’s rear seat is surprisingly wide, making it a very comfortable car for three back-seat passengers to sit side by side in.
A central armrest with two cupholders is standard on all models, and the rear door pockets are a decent size. Every model has a map pocket on the back of each front seat, along with a smaller smartphone pocket, plus sizeable rear door bins.
Seat folding and flexibility
In terms of its flexibility, the Octavia is pretty conventional by family car standards. The folding rear seats follow the usual 60/40 split arrangement (the Mercedes A-Class gets a more flexible 40/20/40 split).
We like the fact that they can be folded by levers in the boot, so you don’t have to open a side door before loading that bulky flat-pack furniture you’ve just bought.
Unfortunately, though, the seats don’t lie completely flat when folded, and they leave an awkward step in the extended load area.
The Octavia’s boot is not only huge compared with similarly-sized rivals, it also dwarfs most competitors from the class above. The load area is longer and taller than in most comparably priced hatchbacks, and it’s a practical, squared-off shape. The only downside is that there is quite a significant lip to negotiate when lifting heavy items in and out of it – the hatch doesn’t get the option of an adjustable boot floor (the Skoda Octavia Estate does).
With its big battery pack and other plug-in hybrid-related hardware to carry around, the iV’s boot shrinks a little bit. The floor sits higher than it does in the petrol and diesel variants, but compared with most other plug-in hybrids, it's still massive.
As standard, there’s a 12V socket, a couple of bag hooks and a couple of fenced-off areas that will stop your de-icer and other boot clutter sliding around. Options include a space-saver spare wheel that sits under the boot floor and an electric tailgate with hands-free gesture control.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Skoda Octavia’s model hierarchy is a little different to the brand’s norm. The usual SE variant is there, but it acts as the entry point here. SE Technology seems good value against the Ford Focus and Seat Leon, and even top-end SE L will set you back much less than equivalent premium models, such as the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) iV is available only in the upper trims, but is still competitively priced against other PHEVs.
Skoda is usually generous with deposit contributions, too, so expect a competitive monthly PCP finance rate unless you go for the business-oriented SE Technology model. Similarly, you'll find plenty of discounts on our New Car Deals pages for all but SE Technology trim. Insurance costs sit between the Focus and the Toyota Corolla.
Official CO2 emissions are broadly in line with those of the Focus, although the hybrid Corolla performs noticeably better. Company car drivers will be far better off trying the PHEV iV model – it's in one of the cheapest tax bands for anything other than a fully electric car. The iV will take around 6hrs to charge from a three-pin plug, and 3hrs from a 7kW home wall box (0-100%).
Equipment, options and extras
Our chosen trim is the mid-range SE Technology trim because it offers the best value for money, costing hardly any more than SE trim despite gaining front parking sensors and infotainment upgrades.
Not that SE is poorly equipped – it gives you 16in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, heated door mirrors, keyless start and even an umbrella in the door.
There’s a bit of a price jump to SE L, but you get plenty of extra luxuries and some useful kit for your money, making it a justifiable indulgence.
The Octavia performed poorly in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey finishing down near the bottom of the 15 family cars polled. It was above the Audi A3, but way behind the BMW 1 Series, the Ford Focus and the Mercedes A-Class.
In the manufacturer table, Skoda fared much better, claiming 13th place out of the 32 included brands. Toyota did far better, claiming 2nd place, but all of Skoda’s other rivals finished further down the table; Seat taking 15th, BMW 16th, Mercedes 23rd and Ford 27th.
If things do go wrong, you’ve got a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty that can be extended to five years and 100,000 miles for a fee. With the Corolla, you can extend the warranty up to 10 years or 100,000 miles if you service your car at a main dealer each year. Kia's class-leading standard warranty gives you seven years or 100,000 miles of cover.
Safety and security
The Octavia received the top five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP and was found to be better at protecting adult occupants than the Focus in the event of a crash. The Corolla scored better marks for side-impact protection than both, but that car didn't perform as well as the Octavia in some frontal crashes.
Automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and an e-call system that notifies the emergency services if you’re involved in an accident are standard on all models.
Blind-spot monitoring can be added to SE L trim for a reasonable cost to warn you of following traffic approaching. Adaptive cruise control is standard on SE L (optional on SE), which maintains a steady gap between you and the car in front, braking to match its speed where necessary.
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The entry-level SE comes with plenty of standard equipment, including 16in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control, but our favourite SE Technology trim seems the best value. It barely increases the price but adds front parking sensors, infotainment upgrades and other kit.
In short, it's massive. In fact, even when you compare it to competitors in the executive car class, it’s still huge. You won't struggle to fit in your family holiday luggage.
When tested by our team of experienced road testers, the Octavia was awarded the full five stars, which is no mean feat. Compared to its family car rivals, it's more accomplished in most areas, including practicality, quality and value for money.
Yes. In fact, thanks to the Octavia’s larger dimensions, you’ll find that it’s far more practical than the VW Golf, with a far superior boot, and more comfortable for passengers in all of the seats.
|RRP price range||£25,965 - £36,555|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||41.2 - 68.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,355 / £2,510|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,710 / £5,020|