CAR brands will tell you that punctures are extremely rare events these days — it’s part of the sales pitch for space-savers, tyre repair kits and run-flats — but that’s not our experience at Carsguide, where we’ve had two in less than six months.
Our first was in a Holden Astra at last year’s Car of the Year testing and our latest was with our Skoda Octavia wagon long-termer. We learnt not all space-savers are created equal.
The Astra had a skinny space-saver, while the Octavia’s was a proper 16-inch steel wheel. Both are limited to 80km/h, though, as the Octavia’s is a different size to the rest of the car’s 18-inch alloy wheels.
Having said that, the Holden tyre doesn’t give you the same peace of mind on a country road with the family on board. It also means that if you’ve packed the load area with luggage, you’ve got some major rearranging to do as the flat full-size tyre takes up much more room.
The Octavia’s spare is reasonably easy to fit. It’s a different story when putting the full-size tyre back on.
Unlike most cars, where the studs are attached to the hub and the lug nuts are separate, Skodas — and all Volkswagen Group cars — have one-piece bolts that screw into holes on the hub. That means that unlike most set-ups, where you can hang the wheel on the studs, you have to line up the tyre with the hub, holding it off the ground while you fit the bolt. It’s not an easy exercise.
Apart from the puncture, our 700km return trip to the NSW central west was entirely stress-free.
Our Octavia is fitted with active cruise control and automated emergency braking, which means the car can keep a safe distance to the one in front on the freeway and come to a complete stop if necessary.
It will then accelerate automatically up to speed when it’s time to get moving again.
With the amount of roadwork zones on our trip, it was an extremely handy option.
The wagon does longdistance holiday cruising with ease. The 1.4-litre turbo may be small, with a modest 110kW at its disposal, but a healthy dose of low-down torque means it lopes along at low revs on the freeway and disposes of overtaking manoeuvres with reassuring haste.
With four on board and a stack of luggage, the Octavia averaged roughly 7.0L/100km for the trip. That’s a fair way off the 5.2L/100km claim but it’s not bad for a car that can carry more gear than a regular Aussie family sedan.
It runs on 95 RON, though, and in the country you’ll find that some servos have regular, E10 or 98 RON, which is about 19c a litre dearer (or about $9.50 extra a tank, which should get you about 700km). Find 95 RON at about 14 cents more than regular and the damage is just $7 extra per fill. If that sounds like a lot, remember you’ll get slightly better fuel returns for your extra spend.
Our only real gripe was the seats, which didn’t have enough under-thigh support and became uncomfortable after a couple of hours on the road.