Skoda Octavia 1.0

TSI SE

Skoda Octavia, dynamic
Skoda Octavia, profile
Skoda Octavia, front quarter
Skoda Octavia, dashboard
Skoda Octavia, rear quarter
Skoda Octavia, front quarter 2
Skoda Octavia, front interior
Skoda Octavia, rear interior

JUST over 20 years ago the Octavia was the first all-new model to be launched by Skoda under the stewardship of the Volkswagen Group.

The rejuvenated Czech brand has gone from strength to strength in the two decades since - and the best-selling Octavia has played a pivotal role in that success story, with more than five million having rolled off the production line worldwide.

In 2016, and now in its third generation, it made up more than 40 per cent of global Skoda sales and enjoyed its best ever year in the UK as 23,000 found their way onto our driveways.

Also significant for the Octavia last year, following the trend for beneath-the-bonnet downsizing, was the addition to the range of a three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine on entry-level S and mid-range SE models.

It replaced the previous four-cylinder 1.2-litre unit in the Skoda hatchback just as it had previously done in VW Group counterparts the Golf and Audi A3 and subsequently did in the SEAT Leon.

The Octavia is a more substantial motor than its three close relatives, but fears that the smaller powerplant might leave it feeling sluggish by comparison are soon allayed when you get behind the wheel.

Having driven the A3 with the same engine just weeks before I found it to be equally as perky and responsive in the larger Skoda, where it claims the same 0-62mph sprint time of 9.9 seconds and a top speed of 126mph - just two miles per hour slower than the Audi.

With plenty of low-end grunt - peaking at 200Nm between 2,000 and 3,500 revs - it copes well with the fits and starts of urban driving while having plenty of puff to cope on the open road too.

At the top end you will be reaching for the snappy six-speed manual gearbox for an extra injection of pace, when overtaking, for instance, but that's a small price to pay for the extra fuel economy that the diminutive engine brings - with a claimed 62.8 miles per gallon on average.

There is a characteristic three-cylinder growl when you pile on the revs but it never becomes harsh or intrusive and fades into the background when travelling steadily, at whatever pace.

A slight drop in weight that comes with the smaller engine means this Octavia also feels a touch more nimble while the well-weighted steering is accurate and responsive and helps to make this an enjoyable and easy car to drive.

Inside, of course, the Octavia's advantages are enduring and well known.

It is one of the biggest cars in it's class and those expanded dimensions ensure that it scores heavily over its rivals in the practicality stakes.

There is head and legroom aplenty in the rear, where three adults should be quite comfortable, while the boot is a class-leading 590 litres, rising to a huge 1,580 litres with the split rear seats folded down.

Interior quality is what we have come to expect of a VW Group car, and not far short of the Golf's, with soft-touch plastics on many of the expansive surfaces and plenty of personal storage around the cabin.

Equipment levels are also suitably generous with all models getting alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, air conditioning, touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth, digital radio, seven airbags and an automatic stop-start system.

Stepping up to the mid-level SE spec I drove, however, gives you all the essentials and still keeps the price beneath £20,000, with the additional kit including a four-setting drive mode selector, rear parking sensors and a drop-down rear armrest.

FAST FACTS

Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI SE

Price: £19,440

Mechanical:115ps, 999cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 126mph

0-62mph: 9.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 62.8

Insurance Group: 14

C02 emissions: 105g/km

Bik rating:17%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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