Skoda's third generation Octavia estate has gone large. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
The Skoda Octavia's got a lot bigger in its third generation guise and you net the biggest payoff when choosing the estate version. It's still great value for money, equipment levels are strong and it now holds up to 610-litres without having to fold the back seats. That's more than a Ford Mondeo estate.
The old Skoda Octavia Estate was always a fine car when put into the context of its peers, but raised a nagging question about its overall appeal. Do you really need a small estate car? The whole purpose of an estate car is its easy load lugging ability and to choose a small one is a bit like choosing a slow supercar or an ugly coupe; it pretty much defeats the initial point. Instead of a compact estate car, it always seemed to make more sense to buy a bigger car that was maybe a year or two old. They rode better, were often better equipped and offered all the space you needed. It seems Skoda has come round to this way of thinking with its MK3 model Octavia range. The belt has been loosened quite markedly and the key beneficiary of this is the estate model which is now a genuinely useful tool. Now into its third generation, the mainstay of Skoda's range now looks better than ever.
As ever, the Octavia estate is furnished with a bunch of engines that look vaguely familiar to anyone who's run their eye down a Volkswagen or a SEAT price list. In the mainstream range, four turbocharged powerplants are offered; 115PS 1.0 and 150PS 1.4-litre petrols, a 105PS 1.6 and 150 or 184PS 2.0-litre diesels. The 1.6 TDI can come with super-frugal Greenline trim. Further up the range, there's the option of 4WD - and 4WD with SUV attitude in the form of 'Scout' models that can be ordered with either 150 or 184PS 2.0 TDI diesel units. The 184PS diesel also makes an appearance in the sport vRS model which most will want in 2.0 TSI turbo petrol form. Like the rest of its sibling vehicles in the Volkswagen empire, this Octavia rides on the modular MQB chassis, which means that it'll ride well, handle competently and won't cost the earth to develop. The MQB chassis is also key in understanding how Skoda has been able to offer this 'stretched' long wheelbase chassis at only a modest incremental cost. The old family of platforms would never have allowed this to be commercially viable. The modular nature of MQB means that making it longer, shorter or even wider is comparatively easy, giving Skoda real flexibility in product planning.
Design and Build
At first the fact that the Octavia estate is now 90mm longer and 45mm wider thanthe previous generation version might seem rather small beer. That wouldn't appear to buy you a whole lot of extra carrying capacity, but it pays to scrutinise exactly what Skoda did in 2013 to transform this car. While the length increased a bit, the wheelbase increased by 108mm, offering a lot of extra rear seat space. In fact Skoda claims it to be the best in its segment although it's rather coy about how it defines that segment. There can be no arguments about the 610-litres of space you get in the boot when all the seats are in place. By contrast, if you opted for a really big car like a Mondeo estate, you'd get a mere 537-litres and a car from the class the Octavia just vacated, such as a Focus estate yields a mere 476-litres. Now you get an idea of the sheer utility of this car. By folding the rear backrests down, the boot space increases to an impressive 1,740-litres. Skoda prides itself on its 'Simply Clever' philosophy and the Octavia estate lives up to the billing with a double-sided boot floor mat, a net restraint system, multiple bag hooks, a waste bin and numerous bottle holders, multimedia device holders, an ice scraper in the fuel tank opening and a warning-vest holder under the driver's seat. On top of that, there's a coat rack and a remote fold-down function for the rear-seat backrest. The folding passenger seat makes transporting long objects easy. There's even space for the retractable parcel shelf and roof bars under the adjustable variable boot floor.
Market and Model
If you're anything like most, you'll probably be shocked at the prices of new cars. This is a time when Honda can charge you over £27,000 for a diesel Civic and still keep a straight face and as such, the fact that you can buy a Skoda Octavia estate for less than £18,000 seems extremely reasonable. Positively generous in fact. Okay, so that'll mean the entry level engine and trim, but even that includes alloy wheels, an eight speaker stereo with a digital radio and Bluetooth compatibility, roof rails, leather trim for the reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, climate control, and a touchscreen infotainment controller. Safety gear includes stability control, hill hold, automatic post collision braking, front, side, knee and curtain airbags. Paying £1,800 more for that Mondeo estate that holds less, seems less well built inside and comes with nothing like as much gear suddenly doesn't seem the smartest choice. Ascend up the range and you can start fitting features like the DSG twin-clutch gearbox which adds about £1,250 to the asking price. There are also some worthwhile extras such as alcantara and leather trim, 'Amundsen' satellite navigation, cruise control, intelligent light assistant, bigger alloys and a remote rear seat fold down facility. An electric panoramic sliding/tilting sunroof is also available for the Octavia estate. Comprising two parts - the front part can be tilted and shifted electrically, while the rear section is fixed - the entire roof module is made of tinted, heat-insulated glass.
Cost of Ownership
The engines on offer are much more frugal than they used to be and a fuel-efficient GreenLine version offers CO2 emissions of only 87g/km. Even if you don't fancy the hair shirt image of the GreenLine, there's plenty to like. Skoda's engineers have achieved significant improvements in the Octavia's consumption and emission figures thanks to advanced petrol and diesel engines, a low drag coefficient and reduced vehicle weight. Despite its increased size and better quality interior, this third generation Octavia is up to 102kg lighter than its predecessor. It sounds impossible but this has been achieved thanks to resolute lightweight engineering, a progressive body design, utilisation of high and ultra-tensile steel and a careful selection of materials. The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine emits just 105g/km of carbon dioxide and if you opt for the 1.6 TDI diesel, it'll get 99g/km. The GreenLine is billed as returning 83.1mpg, which is amazing for a car of this size, but even the 2.0-litre diesel can return over 60mpg on the combined cycle. Residuals? It's hard to imagine there won't be a long queue of ready buyers who want a smart, cost-effective, reliable and practical car.
There aren't too many cars that have improved their appeal quite as markedly as the third generation Skoda Octavia estate. Yes, it's more efficient, better built and better equipped which are all decisively good things. But the key to this car's big draw is simple. It's much bigger than before but the prices haven't taken a sharp climb. The Octavia was already one of the best value cars in its sector. It's no longer in that sector but now gives cars like the estate versions of the Peugeot 508 and the Ford Mondeo a real headache. The best value is to be had at the entry-level end of the Octavia estate range. At the top end of the line-up, it's easy to see many trading equipment for badge equity and defecting to Volkswagen or Audi products, but given that they're all built by the same group, that might not be such a bad thing. Not so much if the money was going to BMW or Mercedes though. As it stands, this is a solid eight out of ten car. You'll love it.