The humble Skoda Octavia is all grown up.
It’s still affordable, and it still shares plenty with the Volkswagen Golf under the skin, but Skoda’s one-time standard bearer for ego-free motoring has a bit more swagger about it for 2021.
Skoda is on the charge in Australia, riding a sales wave driven by its fully-stocked cabinet of fresh SUV models. The new Octavia is no niche player, though, and it’s more than a Golf in a Czech frock.
It’s a critical cog in the fast-growing Skoda range, and a super capable rival to the entry-level Toyota Camry in base 110TSI Ambition spec.
Pricing for the Octavia starts at $30,390 before on-road costs, or $32,990 drive-away, for the 110TSI Ambition sedan on test here.
Opting for the wagon ups the drive-away price to $34,490.
More generously-equipped Style, 140TSI Limited Edition, and RS variants are also available.
A full price list is below:
- 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI Ambition: $30,390 ($32,990 d/a)
- 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI Ambition wagon: $31,690 ($34,490 d/a)
- 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI Style: $34,890 ($36,990 d/a)
- 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI Style wagon: $36,190 ($38,490 d/a)
- 2021 Skoda Octavia 140TSI Limited Edition: $44,790 ($48,490 d/a)
- 2021 Skoda Octavia 140TSI Limited Edition wagon: $46,090 ($49,990 d/a)
- 2021 Skoda Octavia RS: $47,790 ($51,490 d/a)
- 2021 Skoda Octavia RS wagon: $49,090 ($52,990 d/a)
Prices outside of brackets exclude on-road costs.
On paper, the Camry Ascent petrol is the closest sedan match to the entry-level Octavia at $30,990 before on-road costs.
The entry-level Mazda 6 is $4000 more expensive, while the smaller Kia Cerato and Mazda 3 aren’t really a match for the Octavia when it comes to cabin space.
Over in Volkswagen land, the smaller but closely-related Golf range kicks off at $29,350 before on-road costs with a manual, or $31,950 before on-roads with an automatic.
Even the base Octavia comes loaded with standard equipment.
There’s a 10.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster as standard, along with ambient lighting and wireless phone charging.
The headlights are full LED units, and the tail lights are LEDs with dynamic scrolling indicators.
The Ambition rides on 18-inch alloy wheels, and gets privacy glass, silver roof rails (in wagon guise), a powered tailgate, push-button start, an eight-speaker stereo, and rain-sensing wipers.
‘Simply Clever’ touches include an umbrella in the driver’s door, foldable luggage hooks in the boot, tablet holders, and a bin in the door.
Moving up the range gets you factory satellite navigation, keyless entry, semi-autonomous parking assist, and Matrix LED headlights. It also gives you access to the Tech Pack and Luxury Pack, neither of which are available on the Ambition.
The 2021 Skoda Octavia has a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on tests conducted by sister firm Euro NCAP.
It scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 73 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 79 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
• Adaptive cruise control
• Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
• Rear parking sensors
Eight airbags are standard, including a central airbag, but moving to the Octavia RS or 140TSI Limited Edition takes that airbag count to 10.
You’ll need to opt for the 140TSI or RS – or choose the 110TSI Style and tick the box for the Luxury Pack – to get emergency assist, blind-spot monitoring and assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The new Skoda Octavia is miles removed from its predecessor inside.
Where the old Octavia was upright, simple, and largely free of excitement, the new car immediately grabs your attention with its massive floating touchscreen and wing-shaped dashboard.
Most of the buttons have been culled for 2021, victims of the Volkswagen Group’s new minimalist focus.
In the case of climate control, the physical buttons have been replaced with touch buttons at the base of the 10.0-inch infotainment screen for temperature, and a sub-menu within the system for finer adjustments.
The volume knob has been axed in favour of a touch slider at the screen’s base, while vehicle controls such as auto start/stop and stability control are buried in the heart of the infotainment.
Although the cabin looks super clean, it’s a huge step backwards for day-to-day usability.
Want to actually take charge of the air-conditioning and set the fan speed? That’s at least two prods.
Want to change the radio station or change inputs when you’ve fiddled with the air-conditioning? That’s two more pokes, and more eyes-off-road time.
The bones of a good system are there. The central screen is high-resolution and quick to respond, and you’re able to customise the home screen to within an inch of its life.
Wireless smartphone mirroring connects quickly and seldom drops out, and the driver display is still one of the best in the business. It’s clean and simple, with a pleasing range of options.
Satellite navigation isn’t offered on the base Ambition, so the fact the central infotainment system still defaults to a ‘map loading’ home screen display is a bit strange. It can be replaced with any number of options, but comes across as lazy.
The rest of the cabin is fundamentally excellent. The driver and passenger sit in comfortable pews trimmed in attractive cloth, and the driving position has space for a broad range of body styles.
Storage spaces abound. There are big (felt-lined) door bins, a (felt-lined) drawer for garage keys to the right of the steering wheel, a wireless phone charger below the dash, and a spacious central storage bin up front.
The driver’s door pocket is home to a small bin that’s perfect for gum-chewers and kit-kat-munchers like me, and even the glovebox is large and spacious.
Rear legroom is good for a mid-sized car, with plenty of space for leggy adults behind leggy adults, and headroom is surprisingly accomodating given the sloping roofline and tailgate.
Along with the usual fold-down central armrest there’s niceties like smartphone-sized pockets in the seatbacks. It’s a great place to spend time.
As you’d expect there are air vents back there, but the base Ambition misses out on USB power for the rear seats.
Boot space is 600L with the rear seats in place, and 1555L with them folded.
Power in the Skoda Octavia 110TSI comes from a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
It’s sent to the front wheels through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission, rather than the dual-clutch (DSG) transmission of its predecessor.
The Skoda Octavia 110TSI sedan uses a claimed 5.7L/100km on the combined cycle, and the wagon uses 5.9L/100km.
We saw 7.5L/100km during a week in Sydney traffic with the Octavia, which is impressive.
Longer, wider, and with a longer wheelbase than before, the new Octavia feels more grown up than the car it replaces.
It soaks up bumps and potholes like a bigger car, with a softly-sprung, relaxed feeling over the horrific roads of Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Under the skin is actually an evolution of the MQB platform from the last Octavia and Golf, so it doesn’t feel like a totally different breed of car, but there are plenty of detail changes designed to smooth out the rough edges.
The steering is light at low speeds, making the Octavia dead easy to park and pilot on tight city streets. With decent visibility and a clear reversing camera, there’s no excuse for dinged wheels or scraped bumpers.
Up the speed and the Octavia is a quiet, stable highway cruiser. Wind noise and road noise are impressively suppressed, and the clever adaptive cruise makes long drives easy.
The only real knock on refinement is the rear suspension, which can be noisy over patchwork tarmac. Our tester would thwack over sharper-edged ridges and thud over potholes in a way that’s decidedly out of keeping with the Octavia’s general sense of refinement, even if the ride itself is always good.
It’ll be interesting to spend some time in the wagon to see if it does the same.
Given the engine carries over from the last model, the fact it’s smooth, quiet, and punchy should come as no surprise.
Even though this isn’t the most up-to-date engine in the Volkswagen Group stable, it’s refined in a way few rivals can match, with bags of torque just off idle making for effortless progress at city speeds.
Push hard and it can get decent move on for an entry-level sedan, although those in a real hurry will no doubt be tempted by the 140TSI or RS.
The big change in the Octavia for 2021 is the gearbox. Gone is the crisp-shifting dual-clutch from the old model, replaced with an eight-speed torque converter.
The positives? The car feels more conventional in traffic.
It creeps more naturally and slurs from first to second on the sort of light throttle inputs that occasionally cause hiccups when dual-clutch transmissions are mated with small-displacement engines.
The negatives? The 2021 Octavia uses more fuel than the car it replaces, is slower from 0 to 100km/h, and lacks the same crisp feeling when you’re up and running.
Whether that’s progress or regression depends on your priorities.
You can still take charge of the transmission using the paddles behind the steering wheel, and the stubby little gear lever can be jabbed into Sport if you want to hang onto lower gears for longer.
Should the mood take you, the Octavia can be hustled along at decent pace. It errs on the side of comfort, though, which makes sense given its target market.
If you’re in a real hurry there’s the RS sedan and wagon. If you want to get from A to B with a minimum of fuss, the 110TSI is all you’ll need.
Maintenance in the Skoda Octavia is required every 12 months or 15,000km.
A three-year service plan costs $800, and a five-year plan will set you back $1400.
Like the wider Skoda range, the new Octavia is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
As exciting as the range-topping Octavia RS is, the real gem in the line-up is the entry-level car you’re looking at here.
It’s a staggeringly competent car for just over $30,000 drive-away, with acres of space, a refined drive, and more technology than the average buyer will ever need.
Even the changes that are retrograde steps on paper (ahem, torque converter) will endear the Octavia to buyers who don’t want to adjust their driving style for a dual-clutch transmission.
The only thing you need to think about is whether to choose the liftback-style sedan or the more practical, better-looking wagon.
How much do I like it? My best mate has just taken delivery of a wagon, and my girlfriend is a few months away from hopefully doing the same.
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