IN these days of mega competitive car design this doesn't often happen ...stumbling across a model that stands head and shoulders above its rivals.
Sure, it's true that there are no really bad cars produced today. But that doesn't mean all those rolling off the production lines are jewels in their own right.
One stand-out family car that earlier this year replaced an already accomplished model is the latest Skoda Octavia - better in every way than its predecessor with more room, improved economy and a generally nicer more refined car to drive.
What's just as important is that it looks the business with tidy styling and a purposeful shape.
There's the usual wide choice of diesel or petrol models, estates and hatches. For this review we tried one of the less powerful versions - the 113bhp, 2.0 litre diesel Hatch, priced at a shade more than Â£26,000 in First Edition form.
The Octavia has always been a real family car with a clear focus on space, value and economy rather than driving dynamics and performance. But over its various incantations has acquired improved ride, better handling and a recognised character.
Though built on the same platform with a similar wheelbase to the last version, it's slightly longer allowing a better use of space which has boosted front and rear legroom and given it a 600 litre boot - bigger than many much larger saloons.
It is also slightly wider and a bit taller, yet its sharply drawn lines make it appear more imposing with greater visual presence.
The less powerful of the two two-litre diesels available focuses on economy and most owners will easily squeeze out more than 50mpg, maybe even 60mpg. Despite its frugality and a relatively low power output, this version has decent pace with excellent mid-range pick up for overtaking.
Ride on 17-inch alloys is among the best in class as pock-marked roads and irregularities are ironed out with ease and there's little cornering roll to disturb its composure. Road noise is much better suppressed than the previous model.
Better installation of the diesel engine has also played a part in cutting vibration and vanquishing harshness. A good result all round.
In keeping with its family image the steering, though accurate enough and decently weighted, doesn't offer a great deal of feedback. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard issue with a light action and an easy clutch.
The cabin, as well as being spacious, is neatly appointed with flashes of micro-suede and heavy duty plastics. A 10.25-inch virtual cockpit is shared with other members of the VW Group and looks classy and works well.
Plenty of legroom front and back, and an abundance of places to store everyday clutter. There's even an umbrella in the door for wet days.
Standard features in the First Edition model include heated front seats, rear wiper, climate control and Apple CarPlay plus two USB ports in the centre console.