IF there was ever a true definition of squeaky bum time, it has to be standing by your car with a fuel filler that won’t open, 90 miles showing on the range with over 360 to go to get home – and you don’t speak the local language.
Happily I didn’t have to elicit help from a passing Glaswegian as miraculously, after much cursing and prodding, the recalcitrant flap decided to open and save the day.
And that was the only minor blemish on a week with Skoda’s excellent Octavia estate, a car that deservedly won the Auto Express best estate car award. Probably because it is the best value for money estate car around.
It’s also probably one of the most attractive cars Skoda have produced, with its streamlined profile, and the build quality is commendable for the price. It’s an area that most manufacturers spend a lot of time trying to get right, and you can see influences from other parts of the VW Group – of which Skoda is part – as you glance around the interior. It’s very well fitted and kitted.
Motorway signs will occasionally urge you to ‘check tyre pressures regularly’ – hard to accomplish when you’re blatting from down south to north of the border. But of course some cars have the facility to do this at the touch of a button, and it’s one of the things you can add in to an otherwise comprehensive specification on the Octavia.
It has rather a lot of interior space – the legroom available for occupants is exemplary, and its 610 litre load bay can be extended to 1740 litre by folding the rear seats flat. And even with the driving seat set well back there’s still a decent amount of room for the passenger behind (who didn’t complain once in over 950 miles of testing). Add in comfort to the seats and everyone is happy, however long the trip.
This is the third incarnation of the Octavia, now quite simply a more spacious and luxurious car with plenty of up-to-the-minute technology to make your time behind the wheel a bit more special.
Apart from the steering. Because, like the new Leon we scrutinised a week or so ago, there’s the occasional deadness to the feel from the front wheels if you’re on an extended stretch of straight line running. Unnerving at first, it is thankfully something you get used to and in any other situation the feel is pin sharp. The ride is set on the firm side but not so that it makes it uncomfortable for the occupants. Merely that you notice that it could be a little softer.
There are neat little touches like the phone holder that sits inside one of the cup holders and keeps your mobile close at hand and linked to the inbuilt Bluetooth, and the ice scraper located inside the fuel filler flap (as long as you can open it!).
Making the Octavia that much more of an attractive proposition are the latest crop of engines, ranging from the 1.2 TSI 105PS to the 2.0 TDI CR DPF with its 150PS sampled here.
Excellent performance coupled with low CO2 emissions is a vote winner for many, and no longer is Skoda a bargain budget range. You can take your pick from an options list that includes bi-xenon lamps, LED lights, park sensors, lane assist, intelligent parking assistant, touchscreen sat nav, leather upholstery and much more. All the things you can specify on a car costing much more. As is the case in showrooms all over the UK, you pay your money and take your choice. And I would hazard a guess there will be plenty adding it to their shopping lists.
Would I buy one? A big estate for a compact car price will be tempting for many and so it should be. Coupled with the 150ps 2.0 TDI engine it’s an efficient and desirable all-round package.
FAST FACTS: Skoda Octavia estate Elegance; £24,040; 1968cc TDI CR, 150ps, 320Nm, six speed DSG box; Top speed 132mph; 0-62mph 8.7 secs; fuel (50 litres) – urban 52.3, extra urban 68.9, combined 62.8; CO2 119g/km; will it fit the garage? 4659/1814/1465 (l/w/h).
© wheelwrite 2013