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First Drive

First Drive: Skoda Octavia

The story: The fourth generation of Skoda’s Octavia builds on the strengths of its predecessor with more tech, safety kit and space than before, as well as electrified powertrains to follow.
Category:Lower medium
Key rival:Vauxhall Astra
On sale:Now


A Skoda Octavia has always been a very sensible choice in the fleet sector, being excellent at all the practical stuff such as space and cost-efficient ownership, while offering less by way of flair or excitement.

To a large extent the brand has stayed close to that formula with its new, fourth-generation car, which is claimed to be safer and offer more technology than its predecessor, and is even larger than a model that had already stretched
the dimensions for cars at the top of the lower medium segment, offering excellent passenger and luggage space.

First Drive- November 2020- Skoda Octavia- Image 6The new Octavia will, in time, also get plug-in power with a model capable of 37 miles on electric-only due later this year, but initially it’s 110hp 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre 150hp petrol engines or the 116hp and 150hp 2.0-litre diesels. We drove the more powerful petrol. The diesels are not yet RDE2 compliant so attract a four-band BiK penalty, making the petrols a much better company car tax bet, especially given their lower P11D prices.

The new car is 19mm longer (or 22mm in the estate) and 15mm wider than its predecessor, while the boot goes up by 10 litres to 600 in the hatch, and by 30 litres to 640 in the estate, both huge by class standards.

The space is also still excellent for rear passengers, while up-front plenty of effort has been made to improve the look of the dashboard, with contoured lines across the dash and some soft plastics stretching across the top of the cabin.

First Drive- November 2020- Skoda Octavia- Image 1It’s not quite so good lower down, with the bottom half of the cabin dominated by harder materials. And it’s worth noting that the car has switched completely to USB-C ports, with all four being the smaller sockets rather than the traditional USB, and wireless phone charging is a £325 option on all trim levels.

The looks are a subtle evolution, and the hatch in particular looks, from the side, a little over-elongated towards the tail. Our lower-spec model also looked under-wheeled, and a little drab compared with sharper-suited rivals. But the slender headlamps give the front a more interesting appearance.

To drive, the ride is a little harder than buyers of the previous-generation Octavia might expect, but the 150hp 1.5-litre engine is a bit of a peach, and also fairly good from an efficiency point of view.

paul barker

The verdict

There’s nothing revolutionary about the new Octavia, but it improves in key areas while maintaining the core strengths of space and practicality that made the previous version so appealing.