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Described as the centrepiece of the Skoda brand, the Octavia is the firm's best-selling car. Renowned for its unrivalled practicality credentials and value for money, over five million have been built since 2006.
In 2017 the Octavia gets a small design nip and a tuck to keep it fresh for the competition, and crucially, some new connectivity tech and the VW Group's latest infotainment system.
From the outside the first thing you'll notice is the new dual-headlight arrangement - in a bid to make the car look more striking, the headlights have been split. They certainly give the car a more eye-catching look, but are likely to divide opinion in taste. The grille is a little wider too, and at the rear the track has been stretched by 20mm.
Here we're testing the Octavia with a 1.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet that, on paper, shouldn't really work in a car of this size. However, the turbocharged three-cylinder unit offers up 115hp and 200Nm of torque and is surprisingly powerful and capable of gaining speed quickly, largely thanks to the abundance of low-down torque on offer. It's not the quietest or most refined, but on the road proved characterful and eager to rev.
Mated to the engine is a slick six-speed manual, and the steering is well weighted too, although lacks feel. Official running costs of 58.9mpg combined and CO2 emissions of 110g/km are very competitive against rivals, and the Octavia, like before, performs exceptionally well on the motorway, thanks to its supple ride quality.
It seems the motoring world is doing a bit of a U-turn on downsizing engines, though, as real-world economy and emissions, which will become more of a focus when the new test cycle is introduced, don't perform as well as the official figures suggest, so its days could be numbered. It's something to bear in mind.
The 150hp 2.0-litre diesel we also tested in the revised car is the pick of the range, offering a sweet spot between performance and emissions and is worth considering if your drivers cover a fair amount of long-distance motorway journeys. There's also the new 150hp 1.5-litre petrol, which will join the range later in the year, and although we didn't drive this engine in the Octavia, we have in its sister car, the Golf, and came away very impressed.
As practical as ever
As there have been no real changes to the dimensions in this latest round of updates, the Octavia's class-leading interior space and huge 590-litre boot remain as good as ever. The car is littered with useful practical features called 'Simply Clever', which include the ticket holder in the windscreen, the ice scraper in the fuel-filler cap, and a smartphone holder. Skoda has introduced a couple of new items for 2017, including a bottle holder that enables you to open drinks single-handedly - these little touches genuinely make a big difference day-to-day.
The big news for these latest round of revisions is the introduction of the VW Group's latest infotainment system. It's smarter, more modern and includes some new features like wireless phone charging and WiFi. The eight-inch screen offers excellent resolution and requires the lightest of touches to navigate around the various functions. It's arguably not as easy to use as its predecessor, but it's a small niggle for what is an excellent system overall.
The arrival of Skoda Connect will please lots of company car managers too. It's a useful bit of kit that incorporates real-time traffic information, weather updates, available parking spaces, and current fuel pricing while you're on the move. You can also use an app to precondition the car and set locations in the navigation remotely.
Safety kit is plentiful too, with a new pedestrian-detection system, blind-spot monitoring, and rear traffic alert among the headline additions for this 2017 model.
It's one of the most sensible car choices you can make and we'd highly recommend the Octavia to anyone on the lookout for a practical hatchback that offers great value for money. Although this engine offers a low P11D price and a rev-happy nature, if petrol is the fuel of choice for your fleet, waiting for the 1.5-litre to join the range would be our advice, as it'll perform better in real-world conditions.