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It's always a sad day in the BusinessCar office when we say farewell to one of our long-term family, and especially when it's a car like the Skoda Octavia Estate, which has proved a valued asset to the fleet, thanks to its enormous practical credentials.
No job has proved too big for the estate and the 610-litre boot has been used often during the past six months. The rear seats easily fold flat, liberating up to 1,740 litres of space, and the large boot opening and low tailgate make it easy to get larger items in and out. Last autumn, I needed to have a big clear-out and the Octavia easily rose to the challenge of transporting a single bed, a chest of drawers, a bedside table, and endless boxes of junk, cardboard and polystyrene to the local tip.
And the good news doesn't end there. Simple touches like the ice scraper in the filler cap have been particularly useful this time of year, the umbrella under the front passenger seat has saved me from a bad hair day on more than one occasion, and the cup-holder with added grip cleverly enables you to open a bottle of drink single-handed while on the move.
One of the biggest headlines from a refresh in March last year was the introduction of the VW Group's latest infotainment system, which incorporates new features like wireless phone charging and Wi-Fi. It's one of the easiest systems we've ever used and the crisp graphics of the upgraded 9.2in touchscreen system on our test car makes it feel more premium than the price tag would have you believe.
Although updating the sat-nav, which bags you the larger screen and Wi-Fi, costs a rather pricey £1,050, after six months' testing we think its thoroughly worth the extra cash. My stepdaughter, who frequently runs out of mobile data allowance halfway through the month, has found the in-car Wi-Fi a particular bonus, keeping her up to date with various feeds and snappy chatting - or whatever the kids are calling it these days.
In fact, most of our Octavia's options are reasonably priced. Park assist and the reversing camera, at £590 and £375 respectively, we'd highly recommended, but the panoramic sunroof isn't worth the investment in our book, costing £1,150 to add.
When we took delivery of the Octavia Estate in the summer, we were sceptical about the 150hp 1.4-litre petrol under the bonnet. Could it be fit for purpose for fleet?
A great deal of the 6,712 miles we have racked up in the car have been spent on the motorway, not this engine's ideal home; however, we've averaged around the 47mpg mark, which actually is very good and much closer to those official figures than many could boast. To achieve good economy results requires a disciplined right foot, though, which does take away some of the driver enjoyment. That being said, the car makes an excellent motorway cruiser, while the suspension did a good job of soaking up the road's imperfections.
Although we've not been entirely convinced this 1.4-litre engine is the better choice over the new 1.5-litre petrol that's now available, it's eager to accelerate with 250Nm of torque providing plenty of pulling power to help the car gather speed. The seven-speed DSG auto gearbox offers slick gear changes.
While it's not the most exciting car to drive, the Octavia Estate more than delivers on the comfort front. Add to that its immensely impressive practicality credentials and the excellent value for money it delivers, and there are few other cars that can offer such a
Our average fuel consumption: 47.1mpg
We've all been there. You enter a packed multistorey car park with only a few remaining spaces and arrive at one that has half of the neighbouring car parked across it. And there's something about Christmas that makes even the most careful or experienced of drivers turn into inconsiderate parkers.
The festive season is a time of happiness and fun, it's just shopping that becomes something of a nightmare. In terms of driving, parking can produce a couple of grey hairs, too.
So many of today's cars come equipped with parking aids to help drivers navigate into a space, though, and our Skoda Octavia is no exception. Our long-termer comes with rear parking sensors as standard, as well as the optional rear-view camera, costing £375, and park assist system for £590.
I have found both features completely invaluable during our six months with the car, especially the camera, which offers crisp resolution courtesy of the upgraded 9.2in touchscreen fitted to the Octavia Estate.
Park assist systems are not exactly a new concept these days, but its surprising how little people use them, even if they are fitted to the car. So easy to use, you just click a button and the car will find a space and help you to navigate into it by taking over the steering, and giving you instructions via the trip computer on when to accelerate and brake. For some it's a trust issue, while others prefer to do it themselves. But I would highly recommend giving this system a go; it helped keep me sane during the peak shopping times at supermarkets
Combine the sensors, semi-autonomous system and camera, and parking becomes a complete doddle. Not only does it help avoid any car-park bumps, it also means you can arrive and park completely stress-free and, crucially, well within the lines. So, where do I sign to make this technology mandatory for all drivers?
Our average fuel consumption: 47.2mpg
Choosing your next company car is as much a box-ticking exercise as it is a constant compromise. You need space, but have restrictions on budget, want a certain amount of badge reputation or luxury kit, but an auto gearbox would be preferred, and so on.
Over the past couple of years, Skoda has done a great job at getting the balance just right for fleet drivers, offering cars that come with class-leading space, efficient engines, generous levels of equipment and a price tag that offers incredibly good value.
The badge still puts some off, but previous conceptions about the brand are also turning a corner, and some impressive residual values in the firm's most recent models are testament to that.
Both the new Kodiaq and Karoq have been stealing a lot of the headlines recently, especially thanks to RVs in the high 40s, but no two cars in the Skoda line-up sum up the brands core values more than the Octavia and Superb.
The Octavia, especially, is heartland for the Czech carmaker and, although the residual value for our long-termer is not as high as its stablemates, at 31.5%, it does well against comparative rivals, bettering the likes of the Ford Focus Estate and Renault Megane Sports Tourer, while keeping its Golf Estate counterpart very honest too.
Thanks to these competitive RVs, the whole-life costs really add up and our car equates to a 54.9p cost per mile. However, it is not the most cost-effective model in the range - for that you'll need the new 1.0-litre petrol option in standard S trim with a per-mile figure of 44.6p. Comparing bodystyles like-for-like, our long-termer performs just better than the hatchback for residual values. However, it is more expensive overall, with the hatch having a whole-life cost of 52.8p a mile, largely because the estate costs £1,200 more.
So the whole-life costs are good and it seems the tide is turning on badge snobbery too, with many of my friends and family really rating the Octavia Estate highly. In fact, my sister likes our long termer so much she is looking to buy one as her next family car.
Our average fuel consumption: 47.0mpg
A test car without options is like a portion of chips at your local seaside shop without salt and vinegar - it's just not normal to have one without the other.
And our long-term Skoda Octavia is no exception. It comes loaded with options, £4,670 to be exact. Some of these represent real bargains, while others have left us wondering if they are really worth the extra cash.
There's little debate about the reversing camera, though - the number of bumps and scrapes that could potentially be avoided by fitting this system is justification in itself. Add to that the fact that it costs just £375 and it's impossible not to recommend.
The upgraded sat-nav system is a little on the pricey side at £1,050; however, it does add Wi-Fi capabilities and upgrades the standard 8.0in touchscreen system to 9.2in. If connectivity is important to you, it's a solid investment. Just £300 extra for wireless phone charging seems pretty reasonable too, while the upgraded 18in alloy wheels, at £400, help give the car a more striking look and are likely to have a positive impact on resale values when it comes to defleeting.
Priced at £1,150, the panoramic sunroof is the most expensive option on our long-term Skoda. Although it's incredibly large and lets in a lot of light, it's an option that may not pay for itself at the end of the lease. According to residual value experts KeeResources, a panoramic sunroof typically adds about £250 at the end of the term, so not even 25% of the value would be retained in the Octavia.
On the positive side, the roof also comes with a blind that requires just one touch to open or close. It's surprising how many blinds require you to keep your finger on the button to operate them and even more surprising how quickly it can become
When it comes to the pricing of glass roofs, there's so much variation between manufacturers that you are often second-guessing whether or not you've got a good deal; however, with many higher-spec cars offering them as standard, I think we'd skip the panoramic roof next time around.
Our average fuel consumption: 47.3mpg
There are plenty of cars on sale that divide opinions when it comes to looks. Our long-term Honda Civic is a great example: its distinctive design features have become a real 'Marmite' feature for the car - love or loathe them - and the Civic is a definite head-turner as a result.
Our Skoda Octavia Estate is somewhat more subdued in the design department, after all, estates are bought for their practicality credentials rather than their kerb appeal. However, there is a particular feature that really gets people talking - the headlights, especially the new split-design formation that was introduced with a facelift earlier in the year.
Opinions have differed greatly, with some claiming the Octavia is downright ugly, while others rather like the fact that the new headlights give the car a more distinctive look. I sit very much on the latter side of the fence; they take some getting used to, but it's good to see the Octavia design become more noticeable as a result.
According to Skoda, the headlights help give the car a wider stance, as they are now integrated within the grille, while visibility is improved at night so the safety box is firmly ticked. To help them stay even brighter, the car also comes with headlight washers, which are activated when you pull the stork towards you when cleaning the windscreen. A great feature, although I am now on my second screenwash fill-up in four months.
The headlights are not the only feature to strike up debate. Our test car comes in metallic quartz grey paintwork, but most of the family is insisting that it is more green in colour - we're currently at a 10/7 split among family members in green's favour. It's quite a sombre shade; however, it's proving to complement the autumn months and is still looking clean despite some pretty changeable weather. This is a definite bonus heading into winter and something our features editor Rachel definitely can't say for the Honda Civic.
Our average fuel consumption: 56.5mpg
Having a baby is an exciting, challenging and expensive time in everyone's life - or so people tell me - but the amount of stuff a new addition to the family requires is something my husband and I were not quite prepared for.
From bottles to moses baskets and chairs to play mats, the list of things a baby needs is endless, which means a clear-out is essential to make room for all this impending stuff.
So it's a good thing we have a Skoda Octavia Estate on long-term test here at BusinessCar as few cars would be up to the challenge of transporting a single bed, a chest of drawers, a bedside table, and endless boxes of junk, cardboard and polystyrene to the local tip.
The Octavia Estate's 610-litre boot is among the biggest in its class and the seats are easily collapsed down to liberate a huge 1,740 litres of space that can transport even the kitchen sink if required. You have a choice of a 60/40 split for the rear seats, and they fold down pretty flat, making loading items much easier.
Getting large items into the boot is no problem either, thanks to a wide opening and lower loading lip, while the two-level variable boot floor, standard on our car, is also a handy feature, especially if you want to hide items from view or transport something particularly long.
Plastic hooks are available to help secure items and there's a 12v socket available if power is needed, too. On our test car, the front seat can also be folded, enabling items as long as three meters to be carried.
Estate cars like the Octavia rarely win awards in the looks department over their saloon or hatchback stablemates, but none can compete with the sheer amount of practicality that they offer. Our Skoda is proving to be a dependable workhorse that has comfortably coped with every challenge we've thrown at it so far.
Our average consumption 48.5mpg
With all the recent media backlash and uncertainty surrounding diesel's future in the UK, it seems the timing for us to be running a petrol long-termer couldn't be more perfect.
The C Segment has always favoured diesel in fleet in the past, however, as more companies look to reappraise petrol in preparation for legislation changes, cars like the Skoda Octavia Estate need to offer a broader range, otherwise risk being left behind by the competition.
Under the bonnet of our long-term car is the firm's 150hp 1.4-litre petrol engine. This offers some compelling headline figures, including CO2 of 117g/km, which places the estate in a 22% BIK tax band for the current year and costs a 20% payer £105 a month, and an official combined fuel economy of 56.5mpg.
On the road, the engine is eager to accelerate while 250Nm of torque provides plenty of pulling power to help the car gather speed quickly, officially the car will complete the 0-62mph benchmark sprint in a respectable 8.3 seconds, helping to make any surprise drag race at the lights more interesting.
Mated to the four-cylinder engine is the firm's seven-speed DSG, which is well matched and slick for the most part, being only a little delayed when pushing hard on the throttle.
While it's not the most exciting car to drive, the Octavia Estate is more agile on the road than you would expect, proving surefooted in the corners and nippy(ish) around the city too.
There's a little turbo lag at low revs and the steering is vague. However, at motorway speeds, which is where I spend most of my time behind the wheel, the car thankfully makes an excellent cruiser with engine noise kept in check.
Official figures suggest the Octavia will travel 616 miles on one tank; however, we've been averaging 47mpg over a variety of trips and finding the car will travel around 450 miles before needing to visit the forecourt. Not a bad performance and, admittedly, we could be driving a lot more economically. The engine also has only a few thousand miles under its belt, so we'd expect to see this figure improve as the miles rack up.
I've actually became quite a fan of this engine's rev-happy nature; however, it has now been replaced in the line-up by the new 1.5 with cylinder-on-demand technology, an excellent engine already available in the Octavia's brother, the Volkswagen Golf. With its improved efficiency and greater performance, could this be the engine to finally sway fleets?
Our average consumption 47.2mpg
Modern cars are so full of gizmos, touchpads and even gesture control these days that often slipping behind the wheel feels more like positioning yourself in the cockpit of a spaceship.
No bad thing by any stretch, modern technology can make life more relaxing and productive when behind the wheel, and it's also potentially life-saving too.
But all this new tech can be far from simple to understand at times, and having all controls through a touchscreen system can often leave you missing the odd button and switch, or longing for the days when the turn of a dial sorted your aircon temperature, rather than numerous swipes and pinches (I'm really starting to sound like my Dad).
Cars like our long-term Skoda Octavia Estate strike a healthy balance between modern technology and basic controls, and its refreshingly easy ergonomics mean anyone will be able to find their way around the cabin and into a comfortable driving position.
It's not the most exciting place to sit, but you'll never hear a driver complain about interior quality or the practicality features on offer, which we discussed in the previous report. The cabin just lacks the bling of some of its rivals.
Behind the wheel, everything is clearly labelled and easy to understand. The three dials help set the ambience of the cabin and there are buttons near the gearbox for the parking aids and drive mode select, while the Bluetooth, cruise control and trip computer controls are all simple to use via the steering wheel.
Despite the Octavia's simplistic appearance, our long-termer comes with plenty of modern technology too, including safety aids like a driver fatigue sensor, high-beam assist and an automatic braking system, plus Knight Rider-like voice control. Apple CarPlay, Wi-Fi hotspot and the 8in touchscreen system, which offers crisp resolution, are on hand to keep you connected while on the move
Options on our test car include wireless phone charging for £300, a rear-view camera for £375 - handy features that are well worth the investment - a £590 Park Assist system that we will take a closer look at in a future report, and an upgraded infotainment system for £1,050, which I'm still not convinced is worth the extra cash.
The Octavia's honest and humble cabin is one of my favourite features of our long-term Skoda. It's got lots of on-board modern tech like its rivals but doesn't feel the need to show off about it.
Our average consumption 49.4mpg
Practicality and Skoda go together like bread and butter, Ant and Dec and fish and chips, and big boots, roomy cabins and cubbies to store everything but the kitchen sink are only half the story when it comes to the Octavia Estate.
It's the small innovative touches that really make a difference to drivers on a day-to-day basis. Labelled Simply Clever our long-termer comes with a number of small practical features that, after just under a month with the car, we're not sure why other carmakers haven't followed suit.
One of the key Simply Clever features is the ice scraper in the filler cap. Admittedly, this time of year it's not getting a lot of use, but I'm sure it'll prove invaluable as the weather turns cold. It's made of durable plastic too, not the flimsy kind you usually see on sale at your local garage.
As I mentioned in the previous report, the ticket holder in the windscreen is one of my favourite features - so simple and it probably costs pence to make but it really is a practical feature that I use every time I visit my local supermarket and train station now.
Our Octavia Estate has already been on a couple of long-distance journeys and as well as offering plenty of large storage options to help me house my personal belongings, the new cupholder has added grip to enable you to open a bottle of drink single-handedly. It's a new feature and definitely worthy of mention.
Finally, what girl wouldn't want an umbrella stored under the front passenger seat? I was caught out at a recent meeting and almost completely forgot that our long-termer offered it as a feature - a day I was definitely grateful to be driving the Octavia Estate.
Add to that a cooling glovebox, black roof rails and a variable boot floor, ideal for placing items out of view, and the Octavia Estate has to be the most practical estate car in its class.
Many criticise the Skoda for its boring interior, and while we would agree that it's not the most exciting place to sit, nobody can argue with its practicality credentials.
Our average consumption 52.5mpg
First report: The king of practicality
If ever there was a car that epitomised Skoda's core values the Octavia would be it. It's very much a heartland car for the Czech carmaker and majors on the firm's key pillars of practicality, comfort and value for money.
Sure, it's not the most exciting car in the world, either to look at, drive or sit in, but it's a car that is near impossible to fault because as all-round practical family cars go, the Octavia is up there with the very best. Available as a hatch or an estate, it's the latter we've taken delivery of at BusinessCar headquarters.
This current generation was launched in 2013, and received a mild refresh in March this year. Big changes included the introduction of the VW Group's latest infotainment system, which incorporates new features like wireless phone charging and Wi-Fi, plus a new headlight arrangement, which has received a fair amount of stick from the motoring press.
I'm not going to dwell on this feature, but what I will say is that the headlights have a habit of growing on you the longer you spend with the car.
As there have been no real changes to the dimensions in this latest round of updates, the Octavia Estate's impressive interior space and 610-litre boot remain as good as ever. Fold the rear seats down and this increases to a huge 1,740 litres.
The car is also littered with useful practical features called 'Simply Clever', which include the ticket holder in the windscreen (my favourite feature), the ice scraper in the fuel-filler cap, a bottle holder that enables you to open drinks single-handedly and an umbrella under the passenger front seat - all hugely practical in day-to-day life. The latter in particular could help us ladies be spared a bad hair day when caught out in the rain.
Under the bonnet of our new arrival is a 150hp 1.4-litre petrol engine paired to a seven-speed automatic gearbox - not your usual fleet combination. But with the focus turning back towards petrol following diesel's recent backlash, could this engine now be the powertrain of choice?
We've previously tested the 1.0-litre petrol and came away impressed with its characterful nature and low running costs. This 1.4-litre engine is unlikely to be as popular but offers more in the way of power, with 150hp and 250Nm of torque enabling a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds.
The addition of the seven-speed DSG automatic should also make for an easier driving experience. It does, however, add £1,250 to the price tag. You can buy the Octavia Estate in four trims and it's this mid-range SE L that currently takes among the lion's share of sales.
Standard kit is generous and includes company car essentials like sat-nav, cruise control, Apple CarPlay, voice control functionality, Wi-Fi hotspot, parking sensors, Alcantara and leather upholstery, and dual-zone air-con.
Our car also comes equipped with over £4,500 worth of options. A large chunk of that cash is for the upgraded sat-nav system with Wi-Fi for £1,050, while the panoramic sunroof is the most expensive addition at £1,150, which seems a little too pricey in our book.
There's also a Park Assist system for £590 which I'm looking forward to testing thoroughly in the weeks to come, and upgraded 18-inch alloy wheels, which it'll be interesting to see what effect these have on the Octavia's usually excellent ride quality.
If I was spec'ing up an Octavia Estate as my next company car, this probably wouldn't be the engine or trim I would go for. However, the world of fleet is changing and I'm looking forward to finding out if this 1.4-litre petrol with automatic gearbox really can be the powertrain of choice for fleets in the future. I don't often like to be proved wrong, however I feel like this may be the exception.
Our average consumption n/a