Although it’s a little light for towing, it ticks just about every other
box as a sensible tow car and family workhorse. In fact, pound for pound, it’s
one of the best estate cars on sale.
Big and clever
For starters, it’s simply huge inside. There’s 610 litres of space for
luggage with the rear seats upright (up five litres compared with the old model),
rising to 1740 litres with the back row folded flat (an increase of 85 litres).
It’s not just big. A lot of thought has gone into the design. The load floor
can be set to a variety of different positions, giving one huge space, or some
hidden storage under the floor, or a vertical partition. With the floor flush
with the tailate opening and the rear seats folded down there’s a near-flat load
space. As an optional extra, the front passenger seat can also fold, giving room
to load items nearly three metres long.
It’s good to see that the seat backs can now be folded using levers on
either side of the boot as well as by pulling catches on the top of the back
seats (a standard feature on SE and Elegance models), and there’s space to
stash the luggage cover under the boot floor. The floor itself can be flipped
over, giving a choice of wipe-clean or carpeted surfaces. It’s nothing
revolutionary, but these are all useful, well considered features.
Like the hatchback, the Octavia Estate has plenty of room for passengers as well as their luggage.
The old car was class-leading for cabin space, but the new Octavia has grown
inside in every direction. A 6’3″ passenger can sit behind a 6’3″
driver with room to spare. Air vents between the two front seats should keep
anyone in the back cool on a hot day – something that’s missing from too many
Up front, even very tall drivers should easily find a comfortable driving
position, and anyone trading in the previous model will notice a definite step
up in the quality of finish. The Skoda no longer feels like the VW Golf’s poor
On the road
Octavia is better to drive than before as well as roomier and more practical. A
fine balance has been struck between comfort and control. At low speeds the
suspension is a little firm, but the Octavia is smooth and stable on the
motorway and handles neatly on country roads. The Driving Mode Selection
function on SE and Elegance models allows the driver to choose normal, sport, eco or individual set ups.
Sport weights up the steering and sharpens the throttle response, but it
doesn’t make a night-and-day difference to the Octavia’s composed and tidy drive. Real excitement will have to wait for
the sporty vRS model, on sale this summer.
Of the four engines available from launch, the 2.0 TDI 150PS (148bhp in old
money) is best suiting to towing. With 236lb.ft of torque, there’s no shortage
of overtaking punch, and the Octavia’s light kerbweight contributes to the brisk
Of course, treading lightly on the scales is a mixed blessing for
caravanners. The 2.0 TDI with DSG transmission we drove weighs 1367kg (including
75kg for the driver not included in Skoda’s published kerbweight) giving an 85%
match figure (as usually recommended for stable and secure towing) of 1162kg.
But that’s still high enough to make lightweight four-berths like the Adria
Altea Shannon and Elddis Xplore 304 sensible matches. The legal towing limit is
1600kg, so if you are an experienced and confident tow car driver there’s
nothing to stop you pulling a heavier van, although we’d never recommend
exceeding a 100% match.
We also drove the 1.6 TDI. Official combined economy of 74.3mpg for the manual
improves on the 2.0 TDI manual’s 68.9mpg, but with a lower kerbweight of 1322kg
and a 52lb.ft drop in torque. Even so, the engine is responsive and unstrained in
regular driving, and should cope with light vans and trailers. It has five
gears rather than the 2.0-litre’s six, and there’s a muted drone from under the
bonnet at motorway speeds. But otherwise it’s a fine alternative to the
2.0 if price and economy are higher priorities than towing.
For and against 4×4
Alongside the front-wheel-drive models, Skoda is also introducing 4×4 versions
of the estate. From the outside, only the 4×4 badging gives the game away.
Otherwise the four-wheel-drive cars look identical to the standard
They might be unassuming from the outside, but the 4x4s have important
advantages for towing. The traction benefit of sending power to all four wheels
should go without saying, but the 4x4s also weigh more and have higher legal
towing limits. The 2.0TDI 4×4 is 108kg heavier than the 2WD and the legal
towing limit increases by 400kg to 2000kg.
The 4×4 models also benefit from a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension set up, which promises improved handling.
We’d be lying if we said the 4×4 cornered or rode very differently from the
regular car, but when the standard set up is so good that’s hardly a criticism.
The 4×4 test route included an off-road section. The dry gravel track was not the most testing environment, but I was impressed by how smoothly the
Haldex 4×4 system shifted power between the axles.
As standard the 4×4 has the same ride height as the standard car, but there
will be an optional off-road pack giving more ground clearance for owners who
regularly head off piste.
Or you could wait until the new Octavia Scout arrives in 2014, with SUV-lookalike
styling. Think of it as an alternative to the VW Passat Alltrack, but expect a
much lower price tag.
Price and spec
You’ll pay at least £16,790 for an Octavia Estate, which is £800 more than the
cheapest hatch. That buys you a willing little 1.2 TSI 105PS petrol engine which
works well in other models, but may be a little slow in an estate loaded with
kids and luggage. There’s also a 1.4 TSI petrol with another 35PS, priced from
The 1.6 TDI diesel costs from
£18,840, and the 2.0 TDI starts from £20,940. The cheapest 4×4, the 1.6 TDI,
costs from £21,490.
There are three trim levels;
S, SE and Elegance. Even the basic models have air conditioning, alloy wheels
and an eight-speaker stereo, plus seven airbags and a host of electronic aids
including Trailer Stability Assist.
The new Skoda Octavia Estate
goes on sale on June 21st. If your van is light enough to make a suitable match then you’d be hard-pressed to buy better.