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