2017 Skoda Octavia and Octavia RS Review

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2017 Skoda Octavia and Octavia RS Review

Overall Rating

0

4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

5 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProUnderstated style; roomy interior; generous cargo bay; low fuel use.

  2. ConNot as quiet or smooth as the mechanically similar VW Golf.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Skoda Octavia RS 169 TSI 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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The medium-sized Skoda Octavia has a regal look, and offers lots of space and equipment for the money. A line-up of keen, frugal engines is crowned by the athletic 2.0-litre turbo in the Octavia RS, which is like a sporty Volkswagen Golf GTI wearing sensible clothes. All Octavias have auto emergency braking, and all but the least costly provide nine airbags.

What might bug me?

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Paying extra for fuel: Skoda recommends premium (95 RON) or super-premium (98 RON) petrol for the Octavias.

That you can’t listen to your favourite CDs – there’s no player.
In an Octavia RS, driving at 80km/h on the skinny space-saver spare until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

(The less sporty Octavia and Octavia Sport use a full-width spare that nevertheless does not match the other wheels and tyres on the car. While it too is speed-restricted, it will probably get you further than the space-saver.)

That Skoda owners experienced months of uncertainty as parent company Volkswagen Group developed its response to the Dieselgate scandal that erupted in September 2015, when it admitted that 11 million of its diesels sold worldwide had been capable of cheating emissions tests. Skoda says all engines supplied with the current Octavia comply with pollution standards.

Drivers born and bred on traditional automatic gearboxes may need to approach an auto Octavia’s DSG dual-clutch gearbox with an open mind. The DSG transmission is essentially an automated manual gearbox – albeit a highly sophisticated one – and when starting from rest it won’t match the forgiving smoothness of a conventional automatic or CVT auto.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door hatchback and five-door wagon. The hatchback looks like a sedan but has a boot-lid hinged from above the rear window rather than below it, a body style that can also be described as a liftback.

The Skoda Octavia drives its front wheels. It is classed as a medium car, lower priced.

What features do all versions have?

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Adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains a safe distance from vehicles ahead on the highway.

A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors (which help you judge how far the bumpers are from obstacles).

Dual-zone air-conditioning, so that the driver and front passenger can set different temperatures.

A sound system with a radio, USB and auxiliary sockets, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, two SD card slots, and eight speakers, controllable from an 8.0-inch (or larger) touchscreen.

Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allows the touchscreen to display and control some apps from your phone (including navigation).

Height and reach adjustment for a leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel, which carries controls for the audio system and your phone (via Bluetooth). Height-adjustment for the driver’s seat.

Daytime running lights, illuminated by extremely long-lived LEDs.

A hill-holder, which operates the brakes automatically to make uphill starts easier.

Wheels made from an alloy of aluminium, which are lighter than steel wheels and don’t need plastic trim caps. A tyre pressure monitor, which warns you if a tyre has lost air (this can give you extra time to get a slow puncture seen to).

Autonomous emergency braking (effective at speeds below 30km/h). A driver-fatigue alert.

Seven airbags. Anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control – which helps you control a skidding car. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Octavia safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Skoda Octavia carries a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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The 110 TSI petrol engine that is your only option in the less costly Octavias is as fuel efficient as the alternatives, consuming 5.2 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined) in auto form. Manuals use marginally more.

In a real-world comparison conducted for the January 2017 issue of Wheels magazine, an Octavia with this turbocharged, 1.4-litre, four-cylinder averaged 6.8 litres/100km, ranking as the most fuel-efficient of 12 hatchbacks reviewed (even though every other car was smaller than the Octavia).

It is a responsive engine that endows the Octavia and Octavia Sport with brisk city and highway performance.

The only reason you wouldn’t choose it is that you want more speed and better handling, from a more expensive Octavia RS.

The RS offers a choice from diesel or petrol engines. The 2.0-litre diesel in the Octavia RS 135 TDI uses about as much fuel as the petrol engine in the less costly Octavias, while supplying about 20 per cent more grunt.

The alternative, 2.0-litre, petrol engine in an Octavia RS feels smoother and more responsive than the diesel, and produces about 40 per cent more thrust than the smaller petrol in the Octavias. You can expect to average 8-9 litres/100km from a petrol RS.

All engines have an automatic stop-start system, which saves fuel in urban driving. It shuts down the engine when you stop, and starts it again when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away.

A six-speed manual gearbox is available in the Octavia and the petrol Octavia RS.

All Octavias offer a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The auto in an Octavia or Octavia Sport will have seven ratios, while the auto in any Octavia RS will have six ratios.

A dual-clutch automatic works like a robot-controlled manual gearbox. It improves fuel efficiency and shifts very smoothly once you are moving.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly Octavia, called simply the Octavia, has cloth-covered seats, 17-inch wheels, the 110 TSI petrol engine, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and the features common to every Octavia.

Spending more on an Octavia Sport gets you seats trimmed in a mix of real and fake leather, and very bright and durable LED headlights that shine into corners when you turn the wheel. Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains. The car rides lower on its torsion-bar suspension (for a sportier look and more stable cornering), and its slightly bigger, 18-inch, wheels carry lower-profile tyres (for a sportier look).

On the safety front, the Octavia Sport has two more airbags (adding chest protection to the standard head protection for rear passengers), and a pre-crash preparation system that detects when you are making an emergency manoeuvre and readies the car for a possible collision.

Paying still more for an Octavia RS gets you a more powerful petrol or diesel engine, as described above, some other performance-focused features, and some sporty cosmetic touches.

On the performance side is a more sophisticated, multi-link, suspension design at the rear, which sharpens the steering and handling. Driving mode selection allows you to tailor the weight of the steering and the sensitivity of the accelerator for your driving conditions.

Among the interior touches are seats are trimmed in a mix of real leather, fake leather and fabric. You also get built-in satellite navigation, displayed on a 9.2-inch central touchscreen. Outside, the 18-inch wheels are in black, with matching black elements in the exterior trim.

Two option packs allow you to enhance any Octavia at extra cost (some elements of either are standard on more expensive Octavias).

A Tech pack gets you the 9.2-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, LED headlights, a better sound system, and smart-key entry (the key can remain in your pocket or bag while you unlock the car), among other features.

A Luxury pack brings part-leather seats, power adjustment for the front seats, and two active driver aids (lane keeping assistance and a blind-spot monitor), among other features.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The sports suspension on an Octavia Sport or RS reduces ground clearance, which make these versions more prone to scraping the front bumper on steep driveways.

The firmer springs and shock absorbers on an RS also make the ride a bit less supple, particularly at low speeds and over sharp-edged bumps.

The 18-inch wheels on the Octavia Sport and RS have the same effect on ride comfort, in comparison with the 17-inch wheels worn by an Octavia, because the lower profile tyres on the bigger wheels have less rubber and air cushioning you from the road.

Of eight colours available on a Skoda Octavia, only two – Corrida Red and Candy White – are non-metallic and come at no extra cost.

How comfortable is it?

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The sense of space inside the Octavia, and its firmly supportive seats, make it a comfortable car before you even get moving.

The Octavia rides bumps smoothly, and it is above average at shutting out noise from the tyres, suspension and wind, and vibes from the road and the engine.

At highway speeds the bump-smothering is at its best in RS Octavias, thanks to their using a multi-link, independent rear suspension rather than the torsion beam found on all other Octavias. The 18-inch wheels and tyres remove some low-speed polish, however.

The torsion beam cars still deliver an absorbent, if slightly less settled, ride – at its best in the plain Octavia because the tyres fitted to its smaller wheels have deeper sidewalls.

What about safety?

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Every Octavia has stability control, seven airbags, a reversing camera with multiple perspectives, rear parking sensors, a fatigue alert, and low-speed autonomous emergency braking. It is an all-round good package, augmented by active cruise control (which cuts fatigue on long trips).

There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and passenger; one on the outer side of each front occupant to protect the upper body; a curtain airbag on each side at head level, protecting front and rear passengers; and an airbag at knee level for the driver.

The fatigue alert monitors your steering for signs you are falling asleep at the wheel, when it will suggest you take a break.

An Octavia’s autonomous emergency braking warns you of obstacles in front of the car, typically a slower vehicle, and applies the brakes automatically if you do not react. It works when you are travelling at up to 30km/h – the idea is to save you from crashing into a car ahead that stops suddenly in heavy traffic.

(The Octavia also has multi-collision braking. This applies the brakes after an initial collision, in the hope of mitigating a secondary impact. For example, it might prevent your drifting into an oncoming lane after being hit from behind.)

Sport and RS Octavias add an extra two side-airbags, for a total of nine. These supply rear-seat passengers with pelvic and chest protection against side-impacts – adding to the head-level protection on the cheaper Octavia.

A pre-crash preparation system on the more expensive cars responds to indications of an impending crash and prepares for impact, by tightening the seatbelts and closing the side windows (and, if fitted, the sunroof).

To any Octavia you can add Lane Assist and Blind spot detection, via the optional Luxury pack. The former monitors highway lane markings for signs you are drifting wide (perhaps from distraction), and can both warn you and apply a steering correction. The latter monitors your rear corners, alerting you to vehicles that might not show in your mirrors.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Skoda Octavia five stars for safety, its maximum, most recently in August 2016. The Octavia scored 36.84 points from a possible 37.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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‘Surprise and delight’, as the motoring industry puts it, or in Skoda-speak ‘Simply Clever’ features, go a disproportionately long way to making the Octavia an enjoyable car to own and drive.

Without wanting to take away all the wonder, the simple ticket-holder on the right side of the windscreen, the air-conditioned glovebox, and the double-sided mat in the boot are cool, handy features that suggest Skoda has thought long and hard about every part of the car.

However, there’s a lot more to an Octavia. Every engine is smooth, with power from low speeds, where you need it in city driving, and a slick dual-clutch auto or tactile manual gearbox. The knowledge that your car is highly fuel efficient adds pleasure to the drive.

An Octavia’s steering is pleasantly weighted and offers a good sense of how well the front tyres are gripping the road. The Octavia doesn’t have the slick sense of connection you get in a Ford Mondeo, or even the engagement of a Volkswagen Golf, but it’s still a satisfying steer.

The handling, like the steering, is innocent and enjoyable – rather than in-your-face firm and sharp.

Responsiveness takes a concerted step towards sportiness in an Octavia RS, however. The extra power brings these sports versions alive, along with lower, stiffer suspension. They are swift, respond more quickly to the steering wheel, and corner crisply.

A so-called Extended Electronic Diff Lock (EDL) provides a limited-slip effect to help both front tyres apply the extra power to the road without spin. A performance sound actuator that enhances the engine note gives RS Octavias a bit more grumble.

The responsive paddle gear-shifters in any dual-clutch auto Octavia RS let you take more control of the engine when you’re driving enthusiastically, which adds to the fun.

How is life in the rear seats?

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The Octavia’s rear doors open wide to reveal generously large apertures, which makes getting in easy, and they shut with a reassuring thud.

The clever design and generous proportions continue inside. The high seat-cushion provides good under-thigh support, and there’s lots of leg and shoulder room, which means it’s comfy for two and roomy enough for three.

Back-seaters get a good view forward and out of deep side-windows, as well as their own air-conditioning outlets on the rear of the centre console.

Tyre noise is a bit better than average – it’s quieter in the back of the Octavia than it is in a Mazda6, but not as hushed as it is in a Volkswagen Passat or a Golf (which share their chassis component sets with the Skoda). It’s also a bit noisier in the rear of an Octavia wagon than in the hatchback.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The Octavia sedan’s boot is bigger than that of any alternative medium car, at 568 litres, and it’s accessed via a hatch-back rather than a normal boot lid, which makes loading enviably easy.

With the 60-40 split rear seatbacks folded the Octavia can swallow 1558 litres of stuff, although because of the height of the rear seat base the resultant floor isn’t flat.

The wagon version can take a bit more luggage – 588 litres officially – and its carrying capacity expands to a cavernous 1718 litres with the rear seatbacks folded.

Not only are the Octavia boot and cargo bay large and easily accessible, they’re also equipped with lots of handy little features – such as a 12-volt power socket and multiple hooks and tie-down points.

Octavia wagons come with roof rails that make it easy to attach luggage devices.

Where is it made?

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The Skoda Octavia is built in the Czech Republic.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Maybe the poor-weather grip and stability of all-wheel-drive, which you can have in a Subaru Impreza or Levorg.

Among other cars worth considering are the Ford Focus and Mondeo, Mazda3 and Mazda6, Holden Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Passat, Kia Optima, and Hyundai Sonata.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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Our reviewers like the Octavia RS wagon with a petrol engine. It has Golf GTI power, with the practicality of a big wagon body and a lot of equipment.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

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The current third-gen Skoda Octavia went on sale at the end of 2013, and was joined by the RS versions in April 2014.

The Octavia was updated in October 2014 to include a standard reversing camera in all versions except the Ambition.

A change to Euro 6 emissions-compliant engines in mid-2015 also introduced a fuel-saving automatic engine stop-start system, and upgrades for the infotainment systems.

And an equipment update in mid-2016 brought city-speed auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and alloy wheels to every Octavia. (The Ambition Plus variant was dropped, with the Ambition gaining its extra kit.)

On 1 January 2017, Skoda extended its warranty on new cars to five years.

A mildly revised and facelifted Octavia arrived about the end of May 2017, dropping the 110 TDI diesel engine option and renaming the trim levels. The Octavia replaced the former Octavia Ambition, receiving dual-zone climate control among other adjustments. The Octavia Sport replaced the former Octavia Style, gaining LED headlights but bringing a lower stance, bigger wheels, a firmer ride, and cosmetic changes.

About the middle of July 2017 a facelifted Octavia RS also arrived, equipped with a little more power from the petrol engine and a bigger touchscreen (the 135 TDI diesel option was retained).

Expect to see a new-generation Octavia about 2020.