SKODA OCTAVIA AMBITION PLUS
VALUE Skoda’s no longer VW’s budget brand, yet struggles for definition and recognition. Tangibly it’s sound — a bigger Golf with pricing that slips between the German variants. The basic Ambition is basic indeed. The Ambition Plus in liftback/sedan form with DSG has three-year warranty ($1650 for two more) and six-year/ 90,000km capped annual servicing. The wagon’s $1650 extra.
TECHNOLOGY Octavias with VW’s 1.4-litre turbo four get the full tune — 103kW/250Nm. For a VW with that you need the $32K Golf Highline. The drivetrain is a good decade ahead of most Japanese cars. The claimed 5.2L/100km is worth the premium unleaded. But only the top-drawer Octavia 132TSI gets independent rear suspension, the rest make do with a basic back end.
DESIGN Clean, dignified lines define Euro design. The interior is a step up on the previous car. Evidently greater use has been made of sound-deadening materials. Mighty storage — 568L with rear seats up is more than a Falcon sedan; 1558L folded flat approaches a Commodore wagon.
DRIVING To a great extent it shares the refinement of the MkVII Golf. There’s the mildest hesitation from the seven-speed DSG but the 1.4 turbo is immediately responsive, summoning all its torque from low revs and pulling little more than 2000rpm at freeway speeds. The rear suspension falters on rougher surfaces and blunts the handling.
SAFETY No reversing camera at any price — even optionally — is a strike against a $30K car. Otherwise the active safety equation emulates the Golf with which it shares a platform and drivetrain, not least in its solid, predictable, confidence-enhancing on-road stance.