Herald Sun - Motoring - - Head To Head -

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.

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