While the memories of jokes made at the expense of Skoda are dimming fast, there is one facet of the brand that will take much longer to fade away – value for money.
It’s not surprising that the brand has won over many new buyers during a recession where its products stack up well against the competition despite being significantly cheaper. However, nothing in sales stands still that long and it appears the marketers at the Czech Republic factory are trying to move even further away from its budget-buy roots with the new Octavia estate.
It was not too difficult to spot this trend when the word ‘premium’ became the phrase most uttered at the car’s launch in the beautiful Austrian Alps at Kitzbühel. And the sleek sophisticated lines of the new car sit very easily among the usual expensive ski-carrying cars crowded into the winter resort. That’s because the Octavia uses a lengthened version of the Audi A3 platform and comes with all the style and build quality one expects from the stable of the mighty VAG motor group. SI tested what Skoda believes will be the best corporate fleet seller, the Octavia Combi 1.6
Yet, in keeping with the factory’s traditional ‘value-for-money’ approach, the estate claims to deliver class leading carrying capacity with 610-litres of boot space swelling to a van-like 1,740-litres with the rear seats folded down. The 103 brake horsepower 1.6-litre TDI DFP five-speed manual boasts 74.3mpg fuel economy and a C02 emission rating of a tax friendly 99 g/km and with BIK rates from 14%, the 1.6 is clearly attractive for corporate users.
Despite increased length and width over the old model, which was market leading in this segment last year, the new 1.6 TDI still manages good performance figures with a 0- 62mph time of 11 seconds and 119mph top speed from its 105PS turbo-diesel motor.
A chassis weight saving of 4kgs over the old model and improved aerodynamics has boosted efficiency and help the car handle challenging driving surprisingly well, further enhanced by revised suspension set-ups front and rear.
The interior also enjoys several load combinations with a new two-level rear boot compartment plus section dividers for separate front and rear stowage options. A remote rear seat folding mechanism speeds
system, which comes with touchscreens and proximity sensors as standard supporting gesture control to allow users to ‘swipe’ through menu options.
And while I’m usually a fan of manual gearboxes, the DSG six-speed automatic option is an attractive alternative offering quick up and down ratios that work with little or no noticeable lag that can plague similar systems from other manufacturers.
On top of this the extra equipment, as standard, puts up to £5,300 of extra value into the new Combi at the range-topping Elegance level while the entry level ‘S’ boasts Bluetooth connectivity, 8-speaker DAB digital radio hi-fi, start/stop engine, 7 airbags, automatic post-collision braking, tinted glass, black roof rails and 16-inch alloys as standard.
However, there is a ‘but’ in among all this positive appraisal because prices are perilously near the ‘premium’ market with the 1.6 TDI in ‘S’ trim tipping the scales at £18,840 albeit with all that standard equipment.
And, for the majority of user-chooser corporate drivers, the pricing, which at the top Elegance specification is nudging £22k, could place the car dangerously close to the more desirable badges from VW and Audi.
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Engine: 1.6-litre TDI DFP
Top Speed: 119mph
Economy: 74.3mpg (claimed)