Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Skoda Octavia: Czech this!

Skoda Octavia
Skoda Octavia

From much ridiculed ‘junk’ brand to highly desirable machine – that’s been the remarkable progress of Skoda since the company was acquired by the Audi Volkswagen group back in 1991.

“Re-writing the ruled, changing the game” is how the Czech company puts it.

While the junior Fabia models have played a part in Skoda’s remarkable renaissance, it was the launch of the original Octavia, two decades ago that really kick-started the whole affair.

Here was a beautifully engineered, well-made family saloon to take on the likes of the Ford Mondeo at considerably lower prices.

Now the new Octavia is out on our streets, available in five-door hatchback and estate car versions.

Clothed in an elegant body-shell – dominated by strong lines and sharp angles – is all the technology you could wish for.

Attention to the finest of details has become something of a Skoda hallmark. For example, tucked away inside the lockable fuel filler cap is a very useful ice scraper while the front headlamp washers are telescopic to ensure more efficient washing and there’s a cubbyhole behind the sun visor to stow your sunglasses.

The Octavia’s lighting system is one of the industry’s best. Providing two and a half times the illumination of halogen headlights, the car’s Bi Xenon lamps are enhanced by a system that adjusts the lighting according to weather conditions and the car’s speed.

The interior of the SE version I tested oozed the high quality feel of an expensive executive machine – and bear in mind that the price tag for this version is £22,185, a modest figure for such a worthy chunk of machinery.

Included in the goody bag are such items as a height and reach adjustable leather-clad steering wheel, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone air-conditioning with humidity control, driving mode selection and lots of useful stowage space – as well as a cavernously deep boot, all 590 litres of it, expanding to 1,580 litres with the back seat down.

Excellent safety provision includes electronic stability control, a fatigue sensor and a crew protection assistant system that senses an impending collision and carries out a range of safety precautions, all in the blink of an eye – closing windows and sunroof and tightening the front seatbelts. There’s also an automatic post-collision braking system that, in the event of a crash, applies the brakes to prevent the vehicle from being shunted into oncoming traffic and, at the same time, activates the hazard-warning and brake lights.

The test car’s 2.0 TDI diesel engine was mated to a six-speed manual transmission to give a potential 135-mph top speed and a brisk 8.2-seconds 0-62-mph acceleration figure.

Fuel economy is excellent. Much of my driving was on city streets but I still managed well over 50-mpg. The claimed combined cycle figure is a very frugal 68.9-mpg.

With this new car, a company that was started as a bicycle repair shop by a disgruntled book shop owner and his brother has surely entered the modern era of high-tech quality cars.

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