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Skoda's Octavia Estate gets mid-life facelift

By Paul Connolly

Sometimes, the wisdom of the crowd wins out against personal viewpoints. If a car sells well, it's almost always a reliable yardstick of excellence, even if there are some things about it you don't like.

Take, for example, the Skoda Octavia estate. It's a Skoda, tick. It's an Octavia, tick. It's an estate, well, half a tick (for me at least).

Most estates you see look like an afterthought. A metal and glass rear end slapped on the back of a saloon or hatchback. The ultimate triumph of practicality over style.

I drive a (non-Skoda) estate myself, so bear with me on this. Mind you, the damned thing broke down this week, so perhaps I'm just on grumpy form.

Anyway, most - not all - estates fall into this category, which doesn't make them bad cars - far from it. They're just not the prettiest to look at.

Which brings me to back to the Octavia estate and the wisdom of the crowds. The thing sells like the clappers and wins awards, too.

In 2015, it was the UK's most popular estate car in the fleet market, with 25% market share, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Fleet popularity is a coveted position. Not only are fleet managers incredibly canny and knowledgeable, but company car drivers often choose fleet cars after they leave companies. So fleet influences private.

Skoda is canny enough to play this market expertly. The Octavia SE Business 1.6 TDI Greenline III version has a low BiK (Benefit in Kind) rating of 16%. Skoda reckons that means it costs employees as little as £57 per month.

Each Greenline III is well kitted out, too, with extra 16" alloys, an Amundsen touch-screen satnav and Bluetooth connectivity as standard.

You also get fuel efficiency of 80.7mpg on the combined cycle - these are official figures, mind - and 90g/km of CO2 emissions, putting you in highly attractive road tax territory (This is the 'green' version, not all models will have the economy).

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Skoda Octavia Estate

The good news is that the car maintained its impressive fleet and other sales figures in 2016 and continued to win gongs, including the Auto Express Estate Car of the Year.

And now, as if to cap an important couple of years, the Octavia estate has been the subject of quite a major facelift.

The design changes are modest, but there is a decent uplift in tech and plenty of changes under the bonnet.

Out goes the old 1.4-litre TSE four-cylinder petrol engine that was the workhorse of the range and in comes VW Group's latest 1.5-litre petrol powerplants.

For those models with this engine, there are slight performance gains (0-62mph in eight seconds, top speed of 136mph), but well improved efficiency with a power output of 148bhp.

There's a stop/start system and a technology called cylinder deactivation (it will switch to two cylinders in some optimum conditions).

A large engine choice remains, including an attractive 2.0-litre TDI diesel that until recent controversies might well have been the natural choice for many customers.

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Skoda Octavia Combi

There are changes to transmission, too, with a six-speed manual gearbox and an automatic DSG dual-clutch also available in some models.

There haven't been any major changes to the cabin; it remains, like the exterior of the car, very adequate but not exactly inspirational. However, you do get updated technology that will fit better with you and your family's lifestyle.

Things like an eight-inch Bolero infotainment system, digital radio, Apple and Android smartphone connectivity and much more.

You still get a vast 1,740 litres of boot space with the rear seats flat, and an impressive 610 litres with them raised, which is excellent for a small-ish family estate (If you want more trade up to the cavernous Skoda Superb estate.

Pricing begins around the £17,610 mark for an Octavia S 1.0 TSI 115PS model, which is very competitive for a multi-talented car in this class.

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