2009 Skoda Octavia 1.6 MPI and 1.8 TSI Review & Road Test
1.8 TSI and 1.6 MPI – Beauty and the Beast
CarAdvice Rating (1.8 TSI):
CarAdvice Rating (1.6 MPI):
– by Paul Maric
You know when somebody does something just because they can? Well, Skoda is now guilty of one of my pet hates.
It has released a variant of the new Skoda Octavia that would have been better off left undone – out of sight and out of mind. The model that has yours truly so riled up is the Skoda Octavia 1.6, with badges dubbing it the ‘MPI’.
The 1.6 designation refers to the engine size, a 1.6-litre, naturally aspirated, four-cylinder is normally found happily nestled within the chassis of a Ford Fiesta or Holden Barina, not a 1.43-tonne family station wagon.
Producing just 75kW and 148Nm of torque, the biggest insult arrives when you refuel. The minimum fuel requirement is 95RON. Until recently, Mazda had a similar issue with regards to minimum fuel requirements, but has acted to resolve the issue, now working with 91RON petrol.
Skoda announced at the launch that it had decided to bring the naturally aspirated petrol model in because it allows it to offer the Octavia with a Manufacturers List Price* of less than $30,000.
The $26,990* price tag for the Liftback, five-speed manual and $28,990* for the Wagon, five-speed manual offer a competitive pricing point, but that’s where the advantages end.
Jump behind the wheel and it’s reminiscent of all other Skoda models on offer. Turn the key and again, similar story. It’s only when you set off and begin driving the 1.6 that you notice how dire have become the consequences of such a small engine.
Coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission, our test vehicle struggled to keep up with traffic – that’s just with one person on board.
Moving off from the traffic lights pushes the engine beyond 4000rpm on a regular basis. The engine note is nothing to write home about either; the noise vibrates throughout the cabin, making passengers think you’re attempting a land speed record.
Overtaking is only taken care of with a big run up and foot firmly planted on the accelerator. Although it’s barely relevant, the 0-100km/h sprint takes a small eternity at 14.1-seconds for the six-speed automatic being tested.
This model really needed a 2.0-litre or at least a 1.8-litre to uphold the image the Octavia current commands, instead of being laughed off the field, with this inappropriate engine.
The fuel economy figure of 8.3-litres/100km is also nothing to write home about. It ends up using more than that due to the amount of revs the engine needs to keep up with traffic.
Our 1.6 test car also had a couple of build quality issues. The first of which was rather frustrating, the driver and front passenger electric window buttons sticking when pushed. They would only release when lifted from underneath. In addition, one of the door trim panels was loose, causing it to constantly rattle when hitting bumps in the road.
BUT, luckily that’s where the problems ceased. In addition to the 1.6 Octavia, I also tested the 1.8-TSI, which at a $4500 premium over the 1.6 is infinitely better. It starts at $31,490* for the Liftback and $33,490* for the Wagon. The premium for the seven-speed DSG is $2300 for both the Liftback and Wagon.
Where the 1.6 lacks torque and is a handful to deal with, the 1.8TSI shines using its turbocharger to up the power to 118kW, likewise with the torque, increasing to 250Nm.
The 1.8-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine in the 1.8TSI requires 98RON petrol, but rewards the driver with realistic fuel consumption figures of 6.7-litres/100km and 7.2-litres/100km respectively for the seven-speed DSG and six-speed manual respectively.
More about the drive later though, let’s take a look at the interior and exterior.
Aside from the new front end, the rest of the Octavia’s exterior is much the same. That’s certainly not a bad thing. The styling is discreet and non-offensive, enough to keep even Grandma happy.
Halogen projector headlights are standard fitment across the range, but do a relatively dismal job on country roads at night, even with high beams on. Bi-xenon headlights with washers are available as an option though.
Fifteen-inch alloy wheels come as standard fitment on the 1.6, while 16-inch alloy wheels are fitted to the 1.8TSI and 2.0TDI. Although the entire range is fitted with heated external mirrors (they work a charm on freezing Melbourne nights!), the 1.8TSI and 2.0TDI come with a folding function that helps with tight car parks.
Parking sensors are optional across the range though, certainly a missing option from both test vhicles.
The interior is cosy with enough room to seat five passengers in reasonable comfort. The tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel is comfortable to hold and offers enough adjustment to keep everyone happy.
The stereo is, for lack of a better word, insane. For a sound system sans a brand name, it flogs the pants off any other standard car audio system south of $100,000. The eight-speaker sound system is bass central, with crystal clear treble complementing the entire affair.
A big boot in the wagon offers versatile side storage sections, along with an easy to use retractable cargo blind. The rubber grab handle for the boot door is a bit cheap though and resembles a child’s toy.
The Octavia is known for offering a great set of features for a very reasonable price. Standard features in the 1.8TSI include: dual zone climate control; electric windows; auto-dimming rear vision mirror; electric mirrors; auto headlights and auto windscreen wipers are all included.
Although the 1.8TSI handles much the same as the 1.6, it’s under acceleration and day-to-day driving where it really starts making sense.
It doesn’t need a bucket load of revs to keep up with traffic like the 1.6 and once it starts moving, with the turbo spooling, there’s no real need to rev out the engine.
In typical VW fashion, the DSG does stutter moving off the line though, which became quite a nuisance over time. It was either a gentle take off or a full force tyre-frying take off.
It was hard to land it in between these two extremes, which is only a dire issue on uphill starts in the wet though, where the front-wheel-drive characteristics really shone through – axle tramp and all.
Steering and braking feel is exceptional. The revised Octavia steering wheel is easier to hold onto and provides uniform feel throughout its rotation. You constantly have a feel for what is going on through the front wheels and never lack confidence when powering through corners.
The steering weight is also great in city traffic and parking. It’s light enough to flick the wheel around when moving slowly, while not being overly light. Braking is also uniform throughout the entire application. The pedal grabs right away, so there’s no need to fuss about with pedal position.
The price difference with the two models, the 1.6 and the 1.8TSI, offers a massive step up in terms of driveability and fuel economy as mentioned earlier.
While I couldn’t sing the praises of the 1.8TSI any higher, the 1.6 lacks what the Octavia is all about, value for money and carefree, seamless motoring.
I can now see why there was only one 1.6 available at the launch I attended earlier in the year. The 1.6 really lets the Octavia range down, delete it and it would be hard to complain about Skoda’s offerings in Australia.
Stay tuned for the release of the Octavia RS later in the year, which follows the Superb that CarAdvice first drove last week.
*Manufacturer List Price excludes dealer charges, stamp duty, statutory charges and on-road charges, which are additional and vary between dealers and States/Territories. Customers are advised to contact a Skoda dealer for all pricing inquiries.
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CarAdvice Rating (1.6 MPI):
How does it Drive (1.8 TSI):
How does it Drive (1.6 MPI):
How does it Look (1.8 TSI):
How does it Look (1.6 MPI):
How does it Go (1.8 TSI):
How does it Go (1.6 MPI):