We test the 132TSI version of Skoda's most popular model that's a smart pick among sub-$40K medium cars.
The Skoda Octavia is the Czech brand’s biggest-selling model and naturally at the forefront of the company’s bid to become more established in Australia.
Since Skoda returned to our market in 2007 the Octavia has had to straddle both the small and medium car segments, but it can now focus on the latter after the recent arrival of the cheaper, Golf-sized Rapid Spaceback.
The $37,990 Skoda Octavia Elegance 132TSI is the mid-spec petrol model in the range and includes 18-inch alloy wheels with Continental tyres, foglights, full leather trim, satellite navigation integrated in a eight-inch touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, and nine airbags as standard.
About the only kit missing – and stuff standard on a $37,500 Mazda 6 Touring – is an electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seat, reverse-view camera and premium audio (by Bose in the Mazda).
For $3300 extra, though, buyers can choose a Tech pack that adds several additional features, only some of which are offered in a top-spec $46,810 6 Atenza sedan. Included are keyless auto-entry and push-button start, a premium Canton audio system, swivelling bi-xenon headlights, auto park assist technology, adaptive cruise control and a low speed auto-braking system – all very premium features
Unlike sedan-backed competitors (such as the 6), the Octavia is a liftback – with a more practical rear hatch rather than bootlid. The Octavia Wagon is also appealing, and in 132TSI Elegance guise, will set you back $39,340 but we’ll get to that shortly.
The sedan’s massive 568-litre boot not only extends to 1558L when the rear backrest is folded, but there are clever storage solutions back there, too. We know they’re clever because Skoda tells us as much – a ‘Simply clever’ pack is standard, and includes a double-sided rubber/carpet mat for the boot, boot folding hooks, storages boxes behind both rear wheel wells, and in the cabin, a rubbish bin for the driver’s door, removeable phone holder in the front cupholder, and storage bin under the passenger seat.
No medium sedan can compete with this genuinely clever array of storage solutions.
The Skoda impresses from behind the wheel – not for an overt sense of style or outlandish design, but because of its inherent quality and feeling of solidity. As a result, there’s a feeling of comfort and long wearing usability to all the major controls and touch surfaces. The large touchscreen is easy to navigate and basic functions such as connecting your phone via Bluetooth are simple and fast. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional Tech Pack and as such had the high-end Canton audio system, which may sound like a brand of stir-fry, but actually delivers stunning sound quality.
The leather trim is comfortable and there’s ample room for adults in the second row.
This third-generation Skoda Octavia is brand new in every way compared with the nine-year-old outgoing model, and is based on the Volkswagen Group’s Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform, which cuts down production costs and rationalises models across a variety of brands.
In short, homogenisation of this kind is ultimately better for the consumer, reflected in more affordable pricing and more effective servicing, too; which, by the way, is class-leading, with six-year/90,000km program of capped price servicing including roadside assistance, and the most expensive service during that time being $536.00, the cheapest $337.00.
The 2014 Skoda Octavia 132TSI Elegance gets independent rear suspension with an anti-roll bar, however, while lower-spec Octavias get a basic, single beam rear axle. It makes a big difference, particularly over dodgy, inner-city road surfaces. There’s no skipping or hopping over bumps and ruts, as happens in the entry-level 103TSI Ambition.
A quick taxi run to the airport meant the Octavia was loaded up with two extra adults (four in total) and three large suitcases. As evidence the car has been engineered with heavier loads in mind, the ride and bump absorption became even more refined. The more the merrier for Octavia owners then. We liked the steering, too, which proved to be light enough around town and when parking, but had a solid feel at speed as well, never feeling light or wafty.
If the incredible luggage space offered by the sedan still isn’t enough, that’s where the wagon comes in. With the rear seats folded down, the Octavia opens up 1718-litres of luggage space, combining the style and quality of the sedan with the flexibility of the wagon. We’re not convinced the sedan would ever be too small for most people, but the wagon is a real option if the sedan doesn’t quite stretch to your needs.
Of the three petrol engines available in the Skoda Octavia range the 132TSI sits in the middle, generating a decent 132kW of power and 250Nm of torque. (The flagship RS offers 162kW.)
Teamed with a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the jaunt from zero to 100km/h comes up in a competitive 7.4 seconds. Despite the real world punch afforded by this engine, the ADR tested fuel usage of 5.9 litres per 100 kilometres is exceptionally frugal. On test, we managed to eke out 6.6L/100km over more than 200km of mostly city driving.
What that real world figure does illustrate is the fact that you don’t need to rush to a diesel engine in this more compact segment. The petrol engines now punch well above their weight in terms of efficiency and driving flexibility, especially under the bonnets of medium and small cars.
The efficiency of the engine is no doubt assisted by the seven-speed DSG, which is quick to shift and quick to determine the most practical ratio for the road speed. There’s no hunting up and down through the ratios and shifts are smooth and precise regardless of speed or load, even when you’re crawling around town. The same can be said for the DSG when you crank things up a bit and start driving more enthusiastically. Upshifts and downshifts are executed smoothly and quickly.
As we’ve seen previously across a broad range of models, the combination of high-tech direct injection and turbocharging really brings an otherwise garden-variety, small-capacity petrol engine to life.
Around town in stop-start traffic, outright power is not the be all and end all – it’s here that torque is key. 250Nm on tap from an unbelievably broad 1250rpm all the way to 5000rpm is more than enough to get the Octavia up to speed without needing to thrash the engine or even approach redline. It’s the same story for roll on acceleration, with freeway overtaking never stressing or overworking the four-cylinder. The engine is noticeably quiet and refined at all speeds.
Understated, restrained styling means the Octavia could potentially slip under buyer’s radars. It shouldn’t, though, because the Skoda Octavia Elegance 132TSI is one of the smartest medium sized sedans currently on sale in Australia, offering intelligent space and storage solutions and luxury-grade equipment for less than $40,000.