Cross­ing the Golf

There will be no lame Czech puns here — the Oc­tavia war­rants favourable com­par­isons with the VW hatch

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - PAUL POTTINGER CARSGUIDE ED­I­TOR paul.pottinger@carsguide.com.au

IF this Czech take on Volk­swa­gen’s Golf was a nov­el­ist, it’d be some­one like the Bo­hemian na­tion’s own Mi­lan Kun­dera. That’s to say, one es­teemed by com­pa­tri­ots but be­yond its bor­ders only by cognoscenti and not enough real peo­ple.

The Oc­tavia — es­pe­cially in wagon form — has been rated by peo­ple like me since gen­er­a­tion two be­lat­edly ap­peared here in 2007, but not so much by you. Yet those who have spent that way ap­pre­ci­ate a near full-sized Euro­pean fam­ily car priced from the level of a ba­sic Asian hatch, an equa­tion that be­comes more ev­i­dent still in the new range that ar­rives this week.

VALUE

Once again this more com­plete Golf can be had as a lift­back­style sedan or, for $1350 more, a wagon. There are three spec­i­fi­ca­tion lev­els — Am­bi­tion, Am­bi­tion Plus and El­e­gance — with equip­ment pack­ages or sin­gle op­tions in­clud­ing sat­nav on the en­try cars from $2850 and me­tal­lic paint $475 on all grades.

Am­bi­tion kicks off from $21,690 for the man­ual sedan, a pack­age so ba­sic it lacks not only cruise con­trol but a cen­tre arm­rest. And the wheels are steel. A DSG twin-clutch auto adds $2300. The bet­ter-kit­ted Am­bi­tion Plus starts from $24,490 with a clutch pedal, $26,790 with­out.

Em­brac­ing El­e­gance means a big­ger en­gine for $34,690, a diesel choice at $35,490. Auto is stan­dard. A $3300 Tech Pack adds such fur­ther fruit as bixenon lights, park­ing as­sist and sta­dium-fill­ing Can­ton sound. But there’s no re­vers­ing cam­era, only beep­ing graph­ics.

Our fully equipped 132 TSI El­e­gance wagon is near enough 40 grand be­fore on-roads. But then not a lot of cars parked around this ballpark get an eight-inch screen with such so­phis­ti­cated func­tions.

The fail­ure of Mazda, Subaru and Honda to im­ple­ment capped price ser­vic­ing looks all the more churl­ish against Skoda’s new six-year/90,000km pro­gram, for a to­tal of $2044 for six years in the base car and $2464 for the diesel. You get road­side as­sist and the op­tion of ex­tended war­ranty.

RS per­for­mance vari­ants lob in the first quar­ter.

TECH­NOL­OGY

VW Group wares re­side within, in­clud­ing an en­gine shared only by Audi. With 132kW/250Nm and a 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.4 sec­onds, the 132 TSI ap­proaches a Mark V Golf GTI. It’s an en­gine con­sid­ered quite good enough for a $58,500 Audi A4, the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of which is not, un­like the Oc­tavia, built on the group’s new plat­form.

Petrol cars run a DSG with seven gears, the diesel six. The Am­bi­tion and Plus mod­els are pow­ered by a Golf-shared 103kW 1.4 turbo four. It’s worth not­ing that the Golf doesn’t get this tune un­til you part with more than $31,000.

All the VW vari­ants there un­der are 90kW.

But both Am­bi­tion and diesel vari­ants make do with ba­sic rear axles — only the 132 TSI has in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion with anti-roll bar. None gets the Golf’s faux diff on the front axle.

DE­SIGN

Al­to­gether less slab-sided than the out­go­ing model, which looks and feels all of its nine years, the up­per-spec Oc­tavia teeters on the precipice of pres­tige. Hav­ing driven it weeks in ad­vance of the of­fi­cial launch we’ll need to spend time in the en­try cars, but can say none looks any more poverty-pack than the equiv­a­lent Golfs.

Only Skoda has a lift­back — this and the big­ger Su­perb — though it’s la­belled a sedan. The wagon, which is even more in the vis­ual vein of the equiv­a­lent Su­perb, is yet more prac­ti­cal and pleas­ing, es­pe­cially in sig­na­ture blue with full-length sun­roof. Smart 18-inch al­loys fill the El­e­gance’s arches with over­hangs neater than the pre­de­ces­sor’s. The tail­gate is elec­tric and opens to a gap­ing 568 litres (a good deal more than a Fal­codore’s boot) and al­most triple that with the rear seats folded flat.

SAFETY

Five stars from Euro NCAP with 93 per cent for adult pas­sen­ger pro­tec­tion and 86 for kids, a score matched last week in lo­cal crash­ing.

There are Isofix child seat an­chor­age points and day­time run­ning lights with switch-off func­tion — but the lack of

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