The Skoda Octavia is a subtle alternative to the Volkswagen Golf that offers more space and better value

The Skoda Octavia is a brilliantly packaged variation on its Volkswagen Group bedfellows, the VW Golf and SEAT Leon. It offers more boot space than either, as well as a hugely practical interior with enough room for five. In terms of driving, the Skoda Octavia feels competent, but it isn’t as much fun behind the wheel as some of its rivals, such as the Ford Focus or even the aforementioned Golf.

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The Skoda Octavia Estate won the KinyuKinr 'Best Estate Car of 2013' award as a result of its attractive price, spacious interior and understated looks, and it should still be on any comapct estate car buyer's shortlist. You wouldn’t call the latest Octavia (updated in 2017) racy, unless you’re lucky enough to be in the market for a hot vRS version. But for solidity, reliability and all-round practicality, the Octavia is hard to beat for family or business drivers.

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Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI 115PS SE L

There's more to the Skoda Octavia than meets the eye. It used to be a sensible budget family car, but today there's plenty of variety on offer, with practical hatchback and estate body styles, a rapid vRS hot hatchback/estate, a high-riding Scout 4x4 off-road estate, and even the h L&K models. There really is something for everyone if you're looking for a car that's practical and a bit different in the family car class.

Under the skin, the Skoda Octavia shares its platform, engines and much of its on-board tech with the Volkswagen Golf. The big difference is the Octavia's size in relation to the Golf. The Octavia is longer overall and has a longer wheelbase, too, so it offers more space than the Golf and a lot of its rivals, too. Those include cars such as the Honda Civic, Kia Ceed, Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla. But that's not all, as there's also the Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Hyundai i30, SEAT Leon and Mazda 3 to consider.

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While the Octavia isn't the budget option it once was, it does offer relatively good value for money. List prices start from around £18,000, which is a little lower than for the Golf, while top-spec cars such as the vRS and L&K versions come in at around £30,000. That's similar to the Golf, but the Octavia offers more space and a bit of extra kit for the money.

The current Octavia arrived in 2013, while an update in 2017 added a new grille and headlights, although the look wasn't universally well received. Irrespective of its appearance, the update also saw Skoda's 9.2-inch touchscreen system fitted to even the most basic car in the range.

Trim levels start with the Octavia S, then progress through SE, SE L, SportLine and L&K (short for Laurin & Klement, Skoda's founders), with the vRS hot hatch at the top of the range. There's also the Octavia Scout estate, which adds a raised ride height, four-wheel drive and plastic cladding to create an off-road look.

Even the entry-level Octavia S gets alloy wheels, automatic post-collision braking and a DAB radio as standard, and SE cars come with more kit than the base model. SE L and Laurin & Klement trims are designed to compete with sister company VW on the luxury front, offering comparable comforts at a more affordable price point, while SportLine is the equivalent of VW's R-Line, as it offers sporty looks like the vRS, but without the performance or higher running costs.

At the top of the line-up is the Octavia vRS hot hatch, which is Skoda’s flagship performance car in this range. It’s a car that has a strong following, having received a high-profile launch at the World Rally Championship way back in 1999.

The engine range is impressively efficient, and the Octavia is more fun than it looks
Impressive economy is one of the Octavia diesel's strengths
Restrained and sensible styling wraps up a full house of technology options
It's pretty simple. If you need more space than the Octavia offers, buy a van...
The Skoda Octavia has an enviable reputation for reliability, and a five-star Euro NCAP rating

The vRS combines GTI-esque performance with all of the real-world practical qualities that Octavia owners have grown to love, but if this is a bit too sporty for you, the Octavia Scout 4x4 mixes off-road looks with a swanky interior, albeit only in estate form.

There's a broad range of turbocharged engines to choose from. Petrol options include a 1.0 TSI turbo three-cylinder producing 113bhp, a 1.5 TSI with 148bhp and cylinder deactivation to help fuel economy, or a 2.0 TSI with 187bhp in standard guises, or 242bhp in the vRS. The diesels comprise a 1.6 TDI producing 113bhp, or a 2.0-litre TDI, which produces 148bhp, or 181bhp in the vRS.

Most Octavias feature a six-speed manual gearbox, while a DSG auto is available as an option, although it's standard on 2.0 TDI and 2.0 TSI-powered cars, although the petrol vRS is still available with a manual box. On top of that, Skoda's 4x4 four-wheel drive is available on selected estate models, and the vRS in either body style.

Last updated: 
4 Apr, 2019