For many Australians, the name Skoda is as foreign as their Czech-based roots. Still, the automobile maker has come a long way from their first quirky vehicles in the late 80’s through to the Superb and upcoming Kodiak. Skoda is still best known for one thing - offering great value for money on practical, cleverly equipped cars.
Of course nowadays Skoda is owned by the massive Volkswagen Group (along with a good portion of the world’s car brands including Audi, Bentley, Bugatti etc). In fact Skoda shares most of its parts with its Volkswagen and Audi relatives thanks to Volkswagen’s MQB platform.
While Volkswagen have filled the hatchback market with Golfs and Polos, and entered the medium sized market with their Jetta and Passat, there remains a market opportunity for a competitively priced, mid-sized, family-oriented vehicle.
Enter the 2017 Skoda Octavia Ambition.
Building on the success of previous Octavia models, Skoda have upped the ante on the MY17 release with a host of generous features included as standard.
The result is a fantastic package at a very alluring price point. The 2017 Octavia Ambition starts at $24,490 drive away in manual, lift-back guise and includes a whole host of premium features; Seven airbags, adaptive cruise control, city emergency brake, Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto depending on your platform), 6.5” touchscreen infotainment system, fog lamps, reversing camera, rear parking sensors and 17” alloys just to name a few. That’s a whole lot of kit for a very compelling price.
$26,790 gets you the wet-clutch DSG model, and an extra $1700 for either transmission gets you a wagon which offers a little more height up back (surprisingly the total boot space between the sedan and wagon differs by just 20L due to the smart design of the liftback sedan). It’s the DSG wagon I went with – stock fit out in Candy white, and it’s a cracker of a family car.
To some, the Octavia looks a little bland. Sure, it doesn’t have the emotive appeal of the Mazda 6, nor does it have the flair of a Subaru - but it doesn't need it. It's simplicity in form - and for some, myself included, that form is beautiful. It somehow manages to be both bold, and understated at the same time – a harmonious blend of minimalistic design and confident design elements. The 2017 Octavia Ambition seems like it would feel at home on the cover of an Ikea catalogue – and that’s not such a bad thing.
This design language carries over to the interior - which is surprisingly well equipped for a car in this price range. Sure, there’s no woodgrain or aluminium here, but Skoda have blessed the car with a generous smattering of soft-touch plastics and other nice touches as well. Felt lined door wells, tasteful chrome coloured trim and the real leather appointed steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake make the car feel premium and refined. The layout is simple, functional, clean – an ode to the similar layout of the Volkswagen Golf. It's a world away from the cluttered spaceship-like interiors of those found in many modern Holdens, Fords and Mazdas, and it’s better for it.
Then there's a host of storage compartments. A centre arm console with ample storage, two cup holders beside the handbrake, another sliding storage compartment under the centre console with handy USB and AUX in connectors above. Another storage area is found to the right of the driver’s steering wheel - large enough to place a wallet, and above your head there’s a handy a storage compartment for sunglasses. The glovebox provides further room, with a handy pen and paper holder included. There's even a ticket holder on the windscreen so you can clip your pay-and-display parking tickets easily.
The boot is cavernous with 588L on offer with seats in place, or an enormous 1718L with the seats folded. In fact, the boot for both the wagon and sedan are larger than that of a Mazda CX-5. Retractable shopping hooks in the wagon make life so much easier when loading bags of groceries and there’s a full-size steel spare wheel under the access hatch. There’s also provision for rear pass-through access via a folding hatch in the middle seat which also doubles as rear cup-holders and armrests when travelling with two passengers in the back. On the topic of the rear seats, there’s ample legroom in the back, with the Octavia rivalling many larger cars and SUV’s for knee space. As a 6-foot something passenger, I have business-class room in the back seats, with plenty of headroom too. There’s plenty of space for a baby capsule without having to adjust the front seats beyond comfort levels. Rear individual reading lights, rear air vents, side bottle storage, seat pockets and ISOFIX mounting points add to the overall function and appeal of the vehicle.
The engine is a 110kw TSI unit lifted from the Golf Highline and it's a cracker of a power plant - smooth, plenty of torque, and fantastic on fuel. The 110TSI is enough to propel the impressively light 1250kg DSG wagon from 0-100 in 8.3 seconds – a respectable number for a family wagon, especially when considering its fuel consumption of just 5.2L/100km. This alone outclasses almost every competitor in its class. The comparable Mazda 6, Toyota Camry or Hyundai i40 can’t match the performance and efficiency of the Skoda.
With 250nm of torque on tap from just 1500rpm, the Octavia feels wonderfully responsive when overtaking. It's always willing and its weight means it doesn't feel like a bothersome, bogged down wagon at all. This is the remarkable thing; the Octavia, with its generous back seat space and cavernous boot – still feels like a small car to drive.
On the road, the Octavia is generally refined and responsive. Granted, it’s not as plush as the Golf and is lacking a little of the sound dampening found in its more expensive siblings, but it still feels unapologetically German (did I mention it’s built in Wolfsburg?) with precise steering and suspension lapping most of the finer lumps and bumps.
There’s a little more road noise than more premium brands, and it can be slightly more crashy over speed bumps, but overall the Octavia provides a more than adequate combination of comfort and responsive - almost sporty - road feedback.
The addition of adaptive (radar) cruise control, reversing camera and smart link connectivity are big winners. It’s a rarity that all of these features are found as standard inclusions, and that’s exactly what the Octavia brings to the market.
With the additions of a whole host of standard features at a very competitive price point, Skoda are positioning themselves to bolster their market share as they strive to establish their name on the Australian market.
In that market which is increasingly crowded by SUV’s, the spacious Skoda Octavia is a welcome breath of fresh air and a relief to the hip pocket.
The 2017 Octavia Ambition is a brilliant car for those looking for maximum bang for buck – and room for a growing family. From the willing engine with excellent efficiency, to the spacious and feature-packed interior with 5 star safety – the 2017 Skoda Octavia is an enticing option for anyone looking for a full-featured, mid-sized vehicle at an unbeatable price point.