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The third-generation Octavia is the latest of Skoda's models to showcase all-round excellent quality at reasonable prices.
It is bigger than its predecessor: 90mm longer and 45mm wider while the wheelbase has grown by 108mm, meaning more interior space (there's also more headroom in the back as well as best-in-class boot space at 590 litres). This increase in size means it sits between the lower medium Golf-size cars, which is where Skoda wishes to position it, and the next sector up, with players such as the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat. To contextualise, a Golf measures 4255mm in length, the Octavia is 4659mm long and a Mondeo is 4784mm.
Starting from £15,990, £295 less than the entry-level Golf, the top fleet seller will be the 1.6 TDI 105hp mid-trim SE, which will cost £19,240, emit 99g/km of CO2 and offer 74.3mpg and a 13% BIK rating. Across the range there will be two TSI petrol engines - a 105hp 1.2-litre and 140hp 1.4-litre - and two TDI diesel engines - the aforementioned 105hp 1.6-litre as well as a 150hp 2.0-litre, plus three trims, S, SE and Elegance.
A Greenline version with 89g/km CO2 and returning 83mpg is due to launch later this year, and a less fleet-friendly but sporty vRS model will also be introduced. Fleet sales, meanwhile, will make up a huge 70% of total volume.
On the road, the 1.6 TDI is everything you need in a mid-range mid-sized car, with decent comfort and handling. The interior quality is far better than you might expect from a Skoda, and the engine is sufficiently powerful. While this car doesn't excite, it is hard to fault, aside from a little excessive engine and wind noise.
And for the many Golf fans out there, consider this: the two cars share the same platform and engine, and for many, it would be hard to tell the difference behind the wheel.
Standard kit on the SE trim includes 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth, energy recovery, DAB radio, driving mode selection, hill hold and stop/start, all of which adds £3890 of additional value over the current Octavia SE, according to Skoda.
Whole-life costs for the Octavia are not yet available, but its sibling Golf consistently wins in this arena versus the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, thanks largely to strong RVs - 41.7% against 31.6% for the Focus and 29.5% for the Astra. Still, the Octavia should compete reasonably well; Skoda expects RVs to reach up to 44%, an improvement from 36% on the outgoing model.
The Octavia makes sense on a number of levels - economy, value, driveability and space - and with ever-improving styling, there's no doubt it will go even further than its predecessor. Still, it will be hard to convince faithful Golf devotees to buy in, but Skoda insists its main target is the Korean carmakers as well as Astra and Focus buyers. It's an exciting time for Skoda, and the Octavia is yet another reason to reconsider the brand.
Full model name
Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI 105hp SE
Model price range
BIK 20/40% per month
Boot space min/max
Yet another example of Skoda
excelling in all-round quality cars.