You might imagine the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine would struggle to haul around a car as big as the Octavia, but it’s easily up to the job and is great around town and on the motorway. It’s so good, in fact, that if you rarely carry lots of passengers or luggage, you could get away without paying more for the 1.4.
However, when you are travelling with the car loaded up the 1.4 TSI 150 is the ideal option. It’s smooth and quick, while still being affordable to run, making it the best petrol in the range.
Performance from the 1.6-litre diesel is adequate, but the most recommendable diesel option is the 148bhp 2.0 TDI 150, which is strong and flexible. The sporty vRS models come with a choice of 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engines that are effortlessly quick.
A smooth and efficient dual-clutch automatic gearbox is available on all engines.
Skoda Octavia ride comfort
For the most part, the Skoda Octavia is comfortable. That’s particularly the case at higher speeds, making it an easy-going, long-distance cruiser. However, around town it fidgets over rippled or undulating surfaces, and a harsh pothole or expansion joint can send a noticeable thump through the cabin. It’s never outright uncomfortable, but it’s not as accomplished as rivals such as the Vauxhall Astra or VW Golf.
Skoda does offer adaptive suspension as an option on the Octavia (although not on the 1.0 petrol and 1.6 diesel models), which helps settle the car over edgier bumps. Yet still the impact of sizeable imperfections will breech the interior, so while the system does deliver an improvement, it’s not by enough to justify its extra cost. We’d also save money and avoid enlarging the size of the alloy wheels; the bigger they are the more fidgety the ride becomes.
The sporty vRS models ride more harshly than the standard cars. As a result of their stiffer suspension and bigger alloys, they can be quite crashy and jarring over certain surfaces.
Skoda Octavia handling
The Octavia is exactly what you’d want from a big family car, and nothing more. Even when being driven quickly it’s stable, precise and inspires confidence. Meanwhile, the steering is light enough to make town manoeuvres and parking easy.
With the exception of the 1.0 models, all versions beyond the base S trim have variable driving modes called Eco, Normal and Sport. They influence the accelerator and, where fitted, auto gear-shift responses, the weight of the steering and the power of the climate control. However, we find the Octavia’s steering and accelerative reactions feel most natural when in the Normal mode.
The Octavia vRS models offer good body control but don’t turn in to corners as keenly as some rivals, such as the VW Golf GTI and Seat Leon Cupra. So, while they’re quick, anybody yearning for the hot hatch with the purest driving dynamics should look elsewhere.
Skoda Octavia refinement
The Octavia’s petrol engines are smooth and quiet. The diesels, on the other hand, are a little noisy compared with the same engines in the VW Golf, and you feel more vibration through the pedals.
There’s also more suspension noise (noticeable inside as a deep, resonant boom in the background over town roads) than in most other cars in the class, which is one of the Octavia’s most annoying traits. There’s some wind noise on the motorway, too, but road noise is well suppressed and the gear change, clutch and brakes are slick, which aid smooth driving.
The best-value engine in the range for low-mileage drivers. Doesn’t feel strained at all, despite the car’s size. It’s refined, easy to drive smoothly, feels punchy enough around town and manages adequately on the motorway. All this and it’s cheap to
Our pick 1.4 TSI 150
This turbocharged petrol engine is smooth, quiet, relatively economical and cheap on company car tax. Unless you are covering vast miles on motorways, where the extra economy of a diesel could make more sense, it would be our pick of the range. This turbocharged petrol engine is smooth, quiet and responsive, but not worth the extra it costs over the 1.2.
2.0 TSI 230
Only available in the vRS model and provides prodigious pace. Comes with a choice of a slick six-speed manual or quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic gearbox. There are sweeter hot-hatches to drive out there, but none offer the vRS’s the blend of speed and practicality.
2.0 TSI 245
Another vRS only engine although we’re yet to try it. Essentially the same as the TSI 230 but with a little bit more poke.
A good engine if value for money is a priority, because it’s super-economical. However, the five-speed gearbox makes it a little noisy on the motorway, it’s not the most muted engine when revved hard, and neither is it that quick.
2.0 TDI 150
Worth the extra if you want good economy but also strong performance. It’s also slightly more refined than the 1.6, emitting fewer vibrations at low revs and benefiting from a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.
2.0 TDI 184
This engine is available only in the vRS and offers very strong performance. However, if you want power and economy, you’d be better off with the lower-powered 2.0-litre diesel, above.