Skoda Octavia turns

60 - and no sign of

slowing

Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge, 2019, front
Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge, 2019, interior
Skoda Octavia, 60th anniversary
Skoda Octavia Mk 1, front
Skoda Octavia Mk 1, interior
Skoda Octavia Mk 1, side
Skoda Octavia Mk 1, rear
Skoda Octavia Mk 1, engine
Skoda Octavia vRS, 2011, Bonneville record car
Skoda Octavia vRS, 2011, Bonneville record run

THE Octavia is the car that transformed Skoda's fortunes in Britain.

With more than half a million sales it has become the Czech car makers top selling model in this country.

And that shows no sign of slowing, with the Octavia accounting for almost a quarter of Skoda sales here last year.

Now the Octavia is celebrating its 60 birthday and since the first one arrived in 1959 almost seven million have been sold around the world.

That's some record and the latest version to arrive is the Octavia Challenge vRS priced from £30,085 as a hatch or £31,285 for an estate - a far cry from the £640 it would have cost to get a new Octavia back in 1959.

We have just had the chance to drive both back to back at a special event staged to mark the diamond anniversary.

A way apart in almost every way the two have a common bond both being built at the same factory at Mlada Boleslav not far from the Czech capital of Prague.

It was given its name as the eighth model to be conceived by the brand after the Second World War and its moniker has gone on to become the longest serving in Skoda's history.

Today the Octavia is known across all sectors of the market - from private drivers to the emergency services - as an above-size car that is not only reliable but also very capable.

Some nine variants are currently available with 14 different powertrain combinations and they come in both hatch and cavernous estate body styles.

While the original had a 1.2-litre petrol engine developing just 47ps - and that was after improvements from a 40ps block - the latest Octavia packs a mean punch with its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine pumping out 245ps.

That gives it a 0 to 60 acceleration time of just 6.7 seconds and a maximum of 152mpg - more than twice that of the car of 1959.

However, the original Octavia had commendable economy of 35.3 mpg and that's not far from the 37.2 to the gallon the new one is rated at with emissions of 141g/km.

Where the Challenge model differs from the regular vRS range topper is with its running gear which includes a dynamic handling pack and a limited slip differential for even more performance.

There are also some cosmetic changes such as 19-inch alloys, sports exhaust and auto-dimming door mirrors - all finished in black as are the vRS badges.

It costs £2,460 more than the standard vRS but Skoda says it has some £4,500 worth of extra equipment on board.

As family sports models go it is up with the best and pound for pound is terrific value for money - almost half as much as it would cost to get behind a similarly potent car from Audi, BMW or Mercedes.

Back in 1959 few would have put the Eastern Bloc manufacturer in the same league as the German big hitters but since the early 1990s Skoda has been part of the Volkswagen Group which has pumped millions into its development.

Production of the original Octavia lasted only for five years in which time some 350,000 were produced and the name was put on hold until 1996.

Since then three generations of the new Octavia have been made and as well as the performance-oriented vRS models the car is also produced in luxurious Laurin and Klement specification - named after Skoda's founders of 1895 - as well as regular models and in rugged Scout 4x4 trim.

Some 2.3 million versions of the current Octavia have been produced and that makes it the most popular of all.

And while everyone of them has remained true to Skoda's value for money approach the Octavia has also notched up its own piece of motoring history.

In 2011 a specially prepared 600ps version hit 227mph on the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States making it the fastest 2.0-litre supercharged car in the world.

That is some pedigree and one any auto maker would be proud of.

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