I can't figure out if the 2018 Skoda Octavia looks more like an ant, an alien or a spider.
Whatever your eyes tell you about it, there’s one thing for sure: the Czech brand’s mid-size model remains an intriguing car in the market, and with the updated 2018 version (yes, 2018 already), there’s better equipment and plenty of new trinkets to choose from.
Bear with me – this is going to get pretty speccy, pretty quick.
Our car had plenty of jewellery; the Octavia 110TSI wagon with the brand’s DSG dual-clutch automatic has a list price of $27,990 plus on-road costs. It’s the most affordable auto wagon you can get. There’s an auto liftback sedan for $24,990, and if you can deal with a manual, you can lop $2000 off the price of either body-style.
Seems like pretty good value, especially when you consider the standard equipment you get in the 110TSI.
There’s adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and autonomous emergency braking, driver fatigue monitoring, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a new rear-view mirror with multi-view modes, and nine airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, curtain and driver’s knee coverage).
That’s just the safety stuff. You also get convenience items like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control with rear seat vents, a new 8.0-inch touchscreen media unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and voice control, and an umbrella under the front passenger-side seat.
Buuuuuut there are some items on our tester that make it feel more like a luxury-spec model rather than a base variant. And it has a price to reflect that.
The as tested price is $39,790 plus on-roads, with everything but the kitchen sink fitted to it as an option. The 18-inch alloys ($500) are bigger and more stylish than the standard 17s, while the panoramic sunroof ($1700) helps make things feel light and airy inside. There’s an electric boot opening system ($500) and metallic paint ($500) – then there are two gear-laden option packs.
The first is the Tech Pack ($4900) which replaces the 8.0-inch screen with a flush-fit 9.2-inch screen with in-built sat-nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, semi-automated parking, keyless entry and start (with personalised key that saves vehicle preferences), a 10-speaker Canton audio system, and selectable driving modes (economy, normal, sport and individual).
And there’s also the Luxury Pack ($4200), which adds leather-appointed seats with electric front seat adjustment and driver’s memory settings, heated front and rear seats, twin USB ports, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and auto-folding/dimming side mirrors, not to mention rear-seat side airbag protection (making a total of nine airbags – the regular model has seven).
What it all means is that it’s hard to say how good the regular entry-level Octavia model is, because this car isn’t really representative of what you can expect of the base car.
Well, at the very least the drivetrain is the same – a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and front-wheel drive.
As the model name suggests, the engine pumps out 110kW of power (from 5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm of torque (from 1500-3500rpm) – good numbers for mid-sized model and it proved itself to be a handy bit of equipment with either one, or four adults on board, offering effortless pulling power when overtaking, and cruising comfortably, too. The gearshifts are imperceptible at speed – but not so much around town, where there can be some lurching and hesitation under sudden throttle.
At lower speeds we also experienced some frustrating issues with the drivetrain getting its power to the ground: wheel-spin on hills, torque-steer (where the steering wheel tugs to the side under acceleration) around tight corners at low speeds, and some axle tramp, where the front axle bounces up and down as the tyres attempt to grip the surface underneath. All of this was more noticeable with four people on board.
The engine’s stop-start system is a bit overactive, too. We noticed the engine cut out while braking for speedhumps and while attempting to park, and that could get old really fast. It seems to work to save fuel, though. Skoda claims consumption of 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the DSG model, and we saw a respectable 6.5L/100km over our week of day-to-day testing.
A few of us in the office all reckon the Octavia would be a considerably better car if it had all-wheel drive, but even without it, the thing drives really well, and offers plenty of grip in corners too. The steering is great, offering really good response and feel in the normal drive mode, with added weight in sport mode – if that’s your thing.
The suspension offers decent body control and balance in corners, while over pockmark bumps it isn’t bouncy or clumsy, although not exactly supple, either. Once it’s moving it’s reasonably compliant. There’s a bit of float and it settles fine, but big bumps can see the Octavia double its attempts to settle at the rear, and it can be a little jittery over bumps due to the optional wheels with their slimline tyres
One thing we weren’t as keen on was the cabin noise intrusion. At 80km/h over coarse-chip road surfaces it was very loud, with loads of cabin boom and tyre roar. As one passenger put it: “it’s like a big old tin can amplifier”.
As for the interior, it’s typically Skoda in its spaciousness and pragmatism. Part of the reason for the resonance is the enormous boot cavity at the back of this wagon, which has 588 litres of space with the rear seats in place, or 1718L of capacity when the back seats are folded down. It’s huge, but if you prefer the styling of the sedan model, you doesn’t pay too high a penalty for room, with 568L and 1558L respectively.
The boot has netting to keep things in place, and side storage bins, too. There are flippers in the boot to drop the back seats, making loading big items a bit easier, and storage in-cabin is well sorted for the most part – there are dual map pockets, large door pockets with bottle holders in all four doors (flocked ones up front, and a little rubbish bin!), a pair of cupholders in between both rows of outboard seats (the middle seat doubles as a ski-port and arm-rest in the back, the front ones are a bit shallow), and there’s a small covered centre bin up front.
The back seat is roomy enough for three adults to squeeze in, though it wouldn’t want to be for too long, as the space is a tad narrow for shoulder space, while there is good leg room and adequate toe room, while headroom is a tad tight for taller adults due to the sunroof. If you have fewer or smaller passengers, there are twin ISOFIX anchor points and three top-tether points. Those twin USB ports, heated seats and vents will certainly make winter road trips more liveable.
Up front the seats are comfortable and supportive, and there’s plenty to like about the way things are set out. The controls are all logically positioned, and the media system – the same one that will soon be offered on the updated Volkswagen Golf – was excellent: a crisp display (albeit prone to finger-print smudges), easy connectivity, smart voice control technology, simple menus and clever controls. There’s a clear driver information screen with digital speed readout and other tidbits, and the steering wheel feels nice in the hand.
There are few things that make you remember the Skoda isn’t as expensive as, say, a Volkswagen. The door locks are very loud when you hit the button on the key fob or when they auto-lock, and the electric windows are quite noisy. And if you have grubby kids you’ll be forever cleaning the piano black plastic on the door pillars, as it shows up fingerprints badly.
Skoda offers a six-year/90,000km capped-price servicing plan, with maintenance due every 12 months or 15,000km. The average cost over that coverage period is $418 per annum. The brand backs its cars with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and one year of free roadside assist.
In summary, the 2018 Skoda Octavia wagon – no matter what option packs it has fitted to it, and what you think of its appearance – is a model well suited to its intended purpose. It’s roomy and reasonably comfortable, with a good list of standard equipment. We would dearly love to see what one is like without the option packs on it, but even with them, it is hugely well equipped at a decent price.
Click the Gallery tab above for more images of the 2018 Skoda Octavia by Sam Venn.