Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI: long-term test review

First report: the award-winning Skoda Octavia hatch is already proving to be a big hit

  • 5.0 out of 5

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    I’m optimistic that the Skoda Octavia, one of the latest addition to the Auto Express fleet, will prove itself ever more invaluable as the weeks roll on. It already feels like that kind of car: it’s practical, absolutely nails the brief as a family car, and is now even more luxurious than ever.

    • Mileage: 2,300
    • Economy: 47.4mpg
    • It’s telling, how quickly a car blends into your everyday life. And that’s never more important, I think, than when the vehicle in question is a family car.

      So here’s the very best endorsement that I can give to one of the latest cars to join the Auto Express fleet: our new Skoda Octavia already feels like it’s been on my driveway for years. And in a good way.

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      In fact, we’ve had the reigning Auto Express Car of the Year for about a month. We were keen to get hold of an early example, so our car is an SE L First Edition, equipped with a 148bhp 1.5 TSI petrol engine and a six-speed manual gearbox.

      That means that it’s based on what is possibly the sweet spot of the range, SE L trim, which comes fitted with heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, a plusher finish on the dashboard, Skoda’s excellent 10.25-inch infotainment system, and a digital dashboard.

      On top of this, First Edition brings a few extra trinkets – ambient lighting inside, an electric driver’s seat and so forth – but nothing that we’d consider a deal-breaker, especially since this trim level is now available from stock only.

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      Even with the current restrictions on movement, it took only days for the Octavia to stitch itself neatly into our lives. My son recently stepped up a bike size and his latest two-wheeler wouldn’t quite fit into the boot of our own family car, a SEAT Leon.

      For the big Skoda, though, this wasn’t a problem. This hatchback’s boot is huge; and yes, although the long slope of the rear can restrict you on height, a quick shimmy of the handlebars had Henry’s bike slotted in place. My wife and I closed the boot, looked at each other and smiled: an early win.

      In truth, though, such tricks have long been an Octavia speciality; this model has flourished by being just that bit bigger than the class norm, for roughly the same cash (or even a little less). Where the new model has impressed us so far is in its refinement, its road manners, and its interior finish.

      The Octavia sits on the same MQB mechanicals as the latest Leon and the Mk8 VW Golf. But while those cars do feel like they’ve gone for tighter body control and slightly more agile handling this time around, Skoda’s engineers haven’t followed. As a result, around town the Octavia just rolls over potholes and manhole covers with a gentle thud, doing a great job of isolating us and keeping the McIlroys comfortable.

      When we have taken to the motorway – usually for a weekend walk at a National Trust property – the engine has been a polite companion, potent enough to shift the car’s bulk, but happy to switch seamlessly between two and four cylinders.

      I’m already seeing 55mpg on motorway trips, and a full tank has a predicted range of almost 500 miles – pretty stellar numbers for a petrol-engined car of this size.

      The cabin, meanwhile, is another lesson to VW on how to not be blinded by tech and give up on functionality. The heating and ventilation controls have been moved onto the large screen, admittedly, but Skoda’s software engineers have designed the interface so they’re always available and still usable with just a single prod of the finger. The same ‘touch slider’ as the Golf is here, but Skoda only uses it for audio volume.

      The quality of materials in SE L trim is alarmingly close to VW standards too, with a neat stitched-suede panel in the middle of the fascia, and a simple line-up of shortcut switches just beneath the display.

      Model:Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI SE L First Edition
      On fleet since:December 2020
      Price new:£25,150
      Engine:1.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol, 148bhp
      Options:Metallic paint (£595), full matrix LED headlights (£1,610), head-up display (£700), space saver spare wheel (£185), rear window wiper (no cost)  
      Insurance*:Group: 18 Quote: £448
      Any problems?None so far

      *Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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