Britain’s favourite Skoda is the Octavia. Need a family hack that is safe, sturdy and sensible? This big hatch is exactly what you need. And now it’s time for a mid-life facelift, in which Skoda aims to add a bit more excitement to the mix.
We’ve already driven it overseas, and found the extra tech to be a welcome addition. Via a big new 9.2in touchscreen, you can control new wi-fi hotspot connectivity, a more intelligent sat nav and also standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The only thing we were lukewarm on was the 113bhp 1.6-litre TDI turbodiesel, which was a bit too meek for our liking. So in the UK, we’ve decided to try the 148bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol instead – and Skoda also added optional adaptive dampers to the car supplied.
Perhaps the most divisive part, however, is that restyled front end. The headlights have now been split, and the bisecting look didn’t grow on us despite spending a week with us. They seem to have been simply added on to an otherwise conservative-looking body, and it’s a bit odd.
Luckily, the clever new infotainment system within blends in more smoothly. The one-piece gloss cover looks smart and it’s easy to use in practice. There are fewer physical buttons but the on-screen alternatives are simple, and even the lack of the gesture control system seen on the latest Golf isn’t something to get upset about: the VW tech is currently rather hit-and-miss.
As for the engine, we reckon it’s a sweet spot of the range. Performance is brisk and pulling power is strong. It may not ultimately have the shove of the 1.6-litre turbodiesel below 2500rpm, but it’s still lag-free and, unlike the diesel, will spin smoothly right round to 6500rpm.
It’s an easy car to drive, with light steering, stable handling and good composure when changing direction quickly. The six-speed gearbox is nice too, adding to the satisfaction you get behind the wheel.
Surprisingly, we’re less keen on the optional adaptive dampers. In Comfort mode, you’d expect it to deliver a smooth motorway cruise, but it ends up too soft and bouncy, which ironically makes it less comfortable. Although the ride in Normal mode is more fidgety, the extra control ultimately makes it more agreeable.
Overall, the Octavia is as good as ever, and continues to offer real standouts such as its massive boot and roomy, high-quality cabin. Skoda’s done nothing to lessen its appeal, simply added on even more onboard technology to broaden its appeal. As for that new front end, we’re sure you’ll get used to it…
Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI SE L
Engine 4 cyls, 1398cc, turbo, petrol
Torque 185lb ft
Gearbox 6-spd manual
Kerb weight 1180kg
Top speed 136mph
CO2/tax band 121g/km,21%
Rob Adams is a writer for AutoCar.
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