Before SUVs, before urban-focussed crossovers, before utes-as-lifestyle vehicles, the humble station wagon was the go-to for buyers needing the comfort of a family car, with the added space afforded by its boxy dimensions. Every carmaker offered a wagon as part of its wider range, and they moved out of dealerships and onto our roads in pretty decent numbers.
Sadly, the wagon has become something of a niche in an ever-expanding and more diverse marketplace, where buyers today have more choice than can be crammed into the back of a, well, station wagon.
Skoda, already a niche player in Australia, fills this niche with its Octavia Wagon range that kicks off with the 110TSI manual priced at $25,390 plus on-road costs. For an extra $2500, you can get your bum into the car we have on test here, the 2019 Skoda Octavia Wagon 110TSI DSG, with a sticker price of $29,890. That’s almost 20-grand less than the range-topping – and mildly manic – Octavia RS245 wagon ($46,990).
Sure, Skoda’s hero hot wagon has impressed us – many times – in the CarAdvice garage, but how does the Czech brand’s entry-level Octavia Wagon stack up? Let’s find out.
Well, before we dig too deep into our entry-level family hauler, it’s worth noting the $10K worth of options fitted to our test car. There’s the $4900 Tech pack that brings adaptive LED headlights, parking assist, adaptive chassis control, a premium 10-speaker Canton sound system, a 9.2-inch touchscreen (8.0-inch is standard) with satellite navigation, drive modes, and wireless charging.
The Luxury pack, at $4200, adds leather-appointed seats (electrically adjustable and heated with memory function for driver and front passenger), lane-keep assist, blind-spot detection, two extra airbags (for a total of nine) for rear-seat passengers, and auto-folding door mirrors. There’s also an automatic tailgate for $500 and Skoda’s take on Virtual Cockpit, a snip at $700. Total price as tested? Try $40,190 plus on-roads.
Despite this generation launching way back in 2013, the Octavia range received a facelift – and equipment boost – in 2018. There’s an all-new Octavia coming, but it won’t lob here until 2021.
That 2018 facelift saw the Octavia gain a dual-headlight design that has polarised opinion. Personally, I like the look, although some prefer the older-style single-headlight design. But, as a package, the Octavia works, although for added aesthetic appeal we’d probably add some optional 18-inch alloys (an extra $500) over the standard 17s.
On the road, the Octavia feels pretty spritely, despite the relatively modest 1.4-litre turbo, four-cylinder petrol engine lurking behind the distinctive Skoda signature grille. There’s 110kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 250Nm of torque available at a meaty 1500–3500rpm. When mated to Skoda’s seven-speed DSG transmission sending drive to the front wheels, the Octavia wagon can complete the dash to triple figures in a claimed 8.3 seconds. Feels about right, too, by the seat of the pants. For reference, the RS245 completes the same sprint in a claimed 6.7 seconds, so around 1.6 seconds faster.
Also for reference, the Golf 110TSI Wagon, which shares not only the same platform as the Octavia, but also the same engine with the same tune, is 0.3 seconds slower to 100km/h and tips the scales at a heftier 1324kg against the Octavia’s 1266kg. They’re clever, those people in Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic, as Skoda keeps reminding us.
On the road, there’s just an inherent friendliness to the way the Octavia gets moving: quick off the line without being stupid, and eager to respond to sudden demands for a surge of speed for an overtake, for instance.
The seven-speed DSG – Volkswagen Group parts bin, of course – is adept, although it does offer the merest hint of lag when moving from standstill. It’s not overly obtrusive, but you are aware of it. Switching to ‘Sport’ mode alleviates that slight hesitancy, although the extra revs – whether at idle or on the move – come at a cost at the bowser. On that, Skoda claims a miserly 5.2L/100km on the combined cycle. We saw an indicated 8.3L. And the Octavia needs to drink at least 95RON to be totally happy.
Once on the move, though, any lag is consigned to memory, the transmission effortlessly plying its trade.
The steering is nice and direct, with decent weighting, too. Could use more feedback, but really, you don’t notice that lack of tactility unless you’re having a ‘bit of a go’ – something we’d venture buyers of this wagon in this specification are unlikely to do on a regular basis. Leave that to the racy RS types.
The good news, if you are wont to have a ‘bit of a go’, the Octavia Wagon offers enough, not exactly thrills, but certainly smiley-face moments. Despite sporting a torsion beam set-up at the rear (only the RS models wear independent set-ups out back), the Octavia remains solid on the road.
Bump absorption is decent, too, no doubt aided by the chubby rubber mated to 17-inch standard alloys in this trim. That fat rubber – and the not-overly-soft-but-neither-too-hard ride – does a good job of minimising road noise in the cabin, as well. In short, the ride is fine, supple without being too hard on occupants, and nor is it too soft.
Inside, the Octavia presents as clinical and clean. There are few styling flourishes, instead the Skoda remaining a practical yet comfortable place to be. The leather seats (part of the $4200 optional Luxury pack) are decent with good support. Heated, too – a boon on a cold winter’s morning.
The 9.2-inch colour touchscreen works effortlessly, with a smart-looking table-style interface. And the system is super responsive, too, whether via Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. A word to the wise, though. You’ll need the optional Tech pack if you like your sat-nav built-in, the standard 8.0-inch system relying solely on smartphone mirroring.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel, finished in a lovely perforated leather, frames what is arguably the highlight of the cabin – Skoda’s take on the wider Volkswagen Group’s Virtual Cockpit. Configurable in myriad ways, it’s not as slick-looking as Audi’s interpretation, but its functionality is beyond reproach. From the position (and size) of your dials, to integrating navigation, and the simple ease of customising the display to your personal tastes, Virtual Cockpit is a winner.
So, too, the sheer practicality of the Octavia. We’re probably sounding like a broken record, but Skoda continues to astound with just how much space it can package into a car. The second row is roomy enough for full-size adults, and they don’t miss out on creature comforts either. The rear seats are heated, while a couple of USB points will stop any squabbling over who gets to charge their devices. There are air vents back there, too, although no separate climate controls.
Those back seats fold down in 60:40 split fashion freeing up a generous 1718L of storage space. There’s still a decent 588L with the back seats being used by humans. There are six tie-down points and another four hooks – as well as a cargo net – in the boot, too, making securing your stuff a cinch. A space-saver spare hides under the boot floor, which is covered by a double-sided mat – rubber on one and carpeted on the other.
And the Skoda touches abound in even the entry-level model – there’s the Skoda umbrella (under the passenger seat), the neat little removable rubbish bin in the door, a removable LED torch in the boot, and a smartphone holder that’s a bit hit-and-miss depending on the size of your device.
Awarded a five-star ANCAP rating back in 2016, the Octavia scores a decent suite of safety kit, albeit some of it (as already outlined) as part of the optional Luxury pack. Standard, though, is adaptive cruise control, tyre pressure monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, a rear-view camera, and driver fatigue monitors. Optional, though, are key technologies like lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring, while rear cross-traffic alert is a glaring omission across the Octavia range.
The Octavia is covered by Skoda’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, while servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. The first five years of servicing will set you back $291, $371, $435, $592 and $435 for a total of $2124. Interestingly, the near-identical-under-the-skin VW Golf Wagon asks for $2463 over the same period.
The Skoda Octavia continues its impressive form, marrying comfort and practicality in a wagon that defies the current trends. If you’re after something capable of lugging the family and all their stuff, then the Octavia Wagon is worthy of consideration.