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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.

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Roomy interior

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

family cars.

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

relation inside. 

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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.

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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.