ALMOST one in every three Skodas sold in the UK is an Octavia so it comes as little surprise that the Czech car company wants to keep the appeal of its best-selling model as high as possible.
With that in mind, the Skoda has just given its latest third generation model quite a mid-life facelift.
The Octavia gets its name because it was the eighth model launched by Skoda after the Second World War back in 1959 and since then more than five million have been sold globally.
The latest version is available in hatchback or estate body styles with a choice of six powertrains - three diesel and three petrol.
At launch, trim options will be S, SE, SE Technology, SE L and Laurin and Klement. A rugged Scout version and sporty vRS model will be introduced later with a vRS 245ps model in the wings and that will be the most powerful vRS model Skoda has put into production.
Prices for the models available now range from £17,195 to £30,245.
Despite being a make-over there are a number of notable changes to the Octavia.
As far as design is concerned, Skoda wanted to ensure the car has more of a presence on the road so introduced a new radiator grille with vertically split headlights that certainly give the vehicle a fresh and easily recognisable face.
There is new chrome trim, full LED technology, new fog lights, revised rear deflectors and a reshaped rear bumper which help to create a more athletic stance.
The design enhancements mean the dimensions of the car have increased with the hatchback stretching an extra 11mm in length and the estate by 8mm.
The car's generous dimensions certainly pay dividends inside too where occupants all enjoy one of the most comfortable and roomy interiors in this class of family car.
Luggage limitations will never be needed as the hatchback can hold 590 litres increased to 1,580 litres with the rear seats dropped flat and the estate can accommodate 610 litres with the seats upright, increasing to 1,740 with them lowered.
The build quality within the cabin has also been improved with lots of soft-touch materials and revised infotainment displays. Even the air conditioning and ventilation controls are more premium in their appearance.
And dependant upon the model chosen there are features such as a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, heated seats, park assist, dynamic chassis control and a whole host of other goodies.
But even the entry level Octavia has plenty of kit as standard, including an 8-inch touchscreen, DAB radio with eight speakers, SmartLink+ to connect to mobile devices via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink plus lots more.
And as has become tradition with Skoda these days, there are lots of Skoda's ‘Simply Clever' features scattered throughout the car such as umbrellas in the front doors or under the passenger seat, an ice scraper hidden inside the fuel filler cap and, making its debut in the Octavia, a new centre bottle holder - the base of the holder has been designed in such a way that twisting the bottle tightens the grip so one-handed bottle opening is easily achieved on the move.
We were given the opportunity to really put the Octavia through its paces by covering more than 420 miles of mainly country roads over two days and it didn't disappoint.
With the fleet market generally accounting for about 70 per cent of Octavia sales, it was the diesel model that instantly caught our eye for the longest section of the trip.
This SE hatchback model, powered by a 1.6-litre 115ps engine mated to a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, was priced at £21,840 (increased to £23,370 with options fitted). It could reach from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds, maxed out at 126mph and according to official figures could deliver combined fuel economy of 72.4mpg with carbon emissions of 103g/km.
The first thing to say is how striking the latest Octavia looks and those split lights up front will certainly help it stand out in a crowd. the interior is exceptionally spacious and even back seat passengers can stretch out in comfort.
All the controls and dials are simple to operate and the seat and steering wheel were very easily and quickly adjusted which was a bonus as my co-driver preferred her seat much higher, closer to the steering wheel and with the wheel itself much lower, so that meant we were regularly moving the seats etc.
The automatic gearbox is super-slick and whizzes through the gears and, despite being the smaller of the diesel powertrains, this car delivered excellent driving dynamics with all the gusto needed to overtake at short notice and maintain higher motorway speeds with ease.
The road-holding was ultra-assured meaning long, sweeping bends posed no problems and the all-round visibility is also first rate.
The car has a premium feel to it and is well insulated against any road surface or engine noise. That said; at higher speeds there is a little wind sound from the mirrors, but I am being quite picky here.
The Octavia is also available with a three-cylinder 1.0-litre 115ps petrol engine and it was that powertrain fitted to an SE hatchback model that was next on our agenda.
It cost £18,500 (£20,030 with options) and could complete the 0-62mph sprint in 9.9 seconds with a top speed of 126mph. Combined fuel efficiency is 58.9mpg with carbon emissions of 110g/km.
Despite the tiny engine this Octavia coped with sweeping mountain roads and steep inclines. Some three pot engines scream and whine when pushed hard, but that's not so of this set-up. It proved great fun as it whizzed through the six-speed manual gearbox. It's the Octavia to make you smile and good value too.
Further models included the bigger engines - the 2.0-litre 150ps TDI diesel SE Estate was first with six-speed manual transmission.
At Â£22,530 (Â£24,290) this car is outstanding value for anyone clocking up the motorway miles who needs all the versatility of an estate car. It's deceptively agile for its size and can return an impressive 65.7mpg on a combined run.
Finally, the 1.4 TSI 150ps petrol model in SE trim and hatchback styling costing £19,530 - increased to £20,700 with options.
This model boasted plenty of fizz and was the ideal car to catch up a bit of lost time in. It cruised along at motorway speeds, boasted excellent acceleration away from the traps (0-62mph in 8.1 seconds) and seemed the most dynamic of all the cars tested.
It may not be quite so impressive on the economy front with combined fuel efficiency down to 54.3mpg but it will score highly with the private buyer.
All in all, the latest Octavia is a winner all round.
Skoda has taken a great car and somehow made it better. And there is little doubt the car will continue to attract buyers around the globe as it offers premium styling and upmarket features, along with innovative safety systems at a price that doesn't break the bank.