In 2015, my wife and I had two very good cars, a 2013 Renault Megane GT-Line diesel and a 2014 Volkswagen Golf 110TDI R-Line wagon. Both were great cars, but we'd just had our first child and needed to do two things. Firstly, reduce from two cars to one, as I had just got a company car. Secondly, we needed a tad more room.
Having worked in the car industry in sales and finance, we looked for a car we knew would be reliable, cheap and most importantly fun. I had previously sold Volkswagens and knew the GTI engine from the current Golf VII was in the Skoda RS162. I also knew that it's a budget Volkswagen.
I proposed the idea to my wife, who looked at me like I had two heads and said she would never buy or drive a Skoda. I reminded her of the time she said the same thing about the Renault, and then weeks later she saw a TV advert advertising the new Megane with three years' capped servicing. Two days later, we owned a Renault.
So, she finally decided to come to the dealer with me to look at the car. My first surprise was that the spec guides all said the Octavia had a 550-litre boot versus my Golf wagon at the time with 600 litres. However, when we tried our baby pram and everything else, we actually had more room in the Skoda than in the Golf!
Being that the Skoda is also slightly longer in wheelbase, we could have a rear-facing child seat and the front passenger didn't need to have their knees around their ears.
What also impressed us the most was that it had eight airbags as standard! Eight. In 2018, there still aren't that many airbags in most new models of most brands.
After a test drive, my wife said she would be happy to live with it if we got a fully optioned black one. Literally no option box unticked. This was the only way we were going to own a Skoda. So, we started talking with the sales manager, and he eventually found one coming in to Queensland and the only RS wagon in petrol or diesel at the time with every option box ticked.
That means our Octavia RS162 TSI has the automatic boot opening, panoramic glass sunroof, Tech Pack, 19-inch Black Pack, RS Comfort Pack, Metallic Black Magic paint, and we also fitted at the dealership the darkest legal window tint, towbar, paint protection and interior protection. All this drive-away was less than $50,000!
It's funny how we ended up with this car too, because we initially were going to end up with an MY15.5, which had a one per cent finance campaign on at the time (another way to convince the wife to consider the Skoda). However, we ended up with the MY16, which was also the introduction of Apple CarPlay, and Skoda was one of the first manufacturers in Australia to introduce it. This didn't have the finance campaign, but it was the car that we most desired.
What we love about the car is how flexible it is for our needs. So far, we have gone away with it, moved house with it, brought home a real Christmas tree in it, put a bike in it, taken my daughter's friends with us places, and every time been comfortable.
The infotainment system is crazy easy to use and huge. Apple CarPlay is great and fully functional. From the outside, when it's clean it looks sensational. Black on black on black – how can you not?
On the road, the car is comfortable but firm enough for sporty driving. It has four selectable modes for the engine and transmission mapping from Eco to Sport. In Eco, when you back off the throttle it actually disengages the clutches from the engine and allows the car to free-roll. It's quite a fun game to play sometimes seeing how far you can go free-rolling.
Normal is just an everyday comfortable mode that the six-speed DSG shifts smoothly through. Sport mode is where it picks up the ante – throttle response is sharper, the DSG responds quicker, and it has a built-in speaker that increases the engine note electronically filtered into the cabin.
On the inside in Sport it sounds quite tough, but on the outside it has no exhaust note at all. Under hard acceleration it can tend to wheel spin, but there is no torque steer and it feels very planted. Overall, the DSG is a really solid gearbox and we have never had an issue with it. Through the twisties the car can tend to roll a touch, but I expect that out of a wagon.
I guess I've summarised what the car is like and how much we love it, but there have been times when our experience hasn't been so smooth, and not entirely the car's fault either.
About a week after we first took delivery of the car, the screen that closes over the sunroof when it is shut was getting stuck and not moving smoothly. We eventually had it booked in to be looked at, and were told the dealer had to order parts. Four weeks went by and the dealer never rang us back.
I followed up with the dealer and was told nobody ordered the parts, and we would need to bring the car back in to find out which parts were needed. I basically said, 'You know what's needed. Order it. I don't have time to bring the car in again for half a day'. Long story short, this went on for almost a year until the first service was due. The dealer said it knew which parts were needed (however, it didn't the prior six months) and would fix it at the time of service.
When the car went for service, we were told it would take two days and the dealer would call us when ready, which was fine as we had a loan car. A week had passed and I had not heard a thing. I rang and was told the car would be ready tomorrow. I said a phone call would have been nice.
When the car was ready, I took it home and the next day discovered the left A-pillar had not been put back on properly. To this day (two years on) the dealer has still not replaced or fixed it, because nobody from the dealer follows up when the part comes in. I call every four weeks and I'm told the same story.
The worst of it came when the dealer tried to charge me for the service when it was included. I had to get Skoda Australia to ring the dealer with instructions on how to look up that the servicing was included.
In between the first and second service, we had the roof resprayed because of bird droppings destroying the paint. This was the very reason we paid for paint protection. The great news was the paint protection came with a lifetime warranty, which was covered by Motorone.
The company was sensational, as Motorone arranged for someone to come to my house to inspect the car to put through the warranty claim. Then it organised a repairer nearby, arranged a loan car for the week we didn't have the car, and also ensured that six weeks later someone came to reapply the paint protection to the roof after it had time to cure properly.
During this period, we also got Motorone to double-check that the paint protection had actually been applied and found that it was unlikely to have been done. Again, not the car's fault but the dealer's. Motorone reapplied it to the whole car again. With the warranty and the service we received during this time, even if you think paint protection is 'crap', it has paid for itself twice now.
Lastly, the next service we had was a shocker. We had an inexperienced service consultant who tried charging us for included items in the service, and insisted we have the brake fluid replaced two years earlier than the logbook recommendation.
Apart from these issues, mechanically the car has been faultless, even the so-called problematic DSG. The other surprising thing is how well the tyres wear. At the last service at 30,000km, the rear 19-inch Pirelli P Zero tyres measured a depth of 6.2mm. To give you an idea, a new tyre is 6.7mm, so 30,000km and hardly worn. The fronts were not that bad either at 4.5mm. We are now up to about 40,000km and the rears still look new, while the fronts might only get another 10,000km.
Fuel economy is around 9.4L/100km, which is a bit higher than stated. However, when you have a GTI powerplant, you do tend to give it a little, so it's probably not that bad.
All in all, it's a great package, and the value for money compared to an equivalent Volkswagen is sensational. We are even considering the new Kodiaq as the replacement. One thing I've always believed in is don't let a bad service experience get in the way of owning a great car. There's always someone else who can look after your car.
If you have never considered a Skoda because of its badge or its stigma, reconsider with a test drive. I guarantee you won't regret it.