The space machine
THE dictionary definition of practical is ‘suitable for a particular purpose’. If you need a small family hatchback that acts like a big one so it can cater comfortably for five adults and their luggage, then the Octavia is the practical solution.
This is a car for those who use heads rather than hearts when deciding what motor they want to buy.
While it looks smart enough and is decent to drive, the majority of owners are going to be attracted by one thing – how much you can get in it.
For the money, there is no doubt this Skoda offers space normally only found by stepping up a level and paying a good deal more than its £18,500 price-tag – or going the whole hog and choosing a van.
The Octavia is a load-lugging nirvana with the boot offering an enormous 590 litres that expands to 1,580 litres when the rear seats are folded flat.
Opt for the estate and the basic figure rises to 610 litres, while the cave created by lowering the rear bench is enough to keep a family of grizzly bears happy.
Raw space comes with clever thinking as the boot of the hatch I drove offered shopping bag hooks, handy load bay lights and a 12-volt power supply.
Normally the trade off for lots of the above is less room for human beings – but that’s not the case with the latest Octavia which boasts more interior space than stablemate the Volkswagen Golf, or the Ford Focus.
The modern cabin is accessed via wide-opening doors and again gives cars in the class above a run for their money by offering astonishing leg and head room allowing five adults to be swallowed with the ease of an anaconda.
There are lots of cubby holes, storage boxes and cup holders as well as rubbish bins and boot holders. I even found an ice scraper located inside the fuel filler cap - in motoring terms that’s as practical as it gets.
The driver gets a steering wheel adjustable for height and reach, while the seat can also be easily moved into exactly the right position.
Cars labelled ‘practical’ are sometimes a bit dull to drive - but the Octavia cuts the mustard on the road. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine – linked to a super slick six-speed manual transmission – that lurked under the bonnet of my test car is a star. It delivers crisp acceleration away from the lights with the usual thrum from a three-pot well contained.
Whether pootling around the urban jungle or cruising at motorway speeds it is equally happy while sipping fuel with fantastic efficiency thanks to a stop-start system.
Skoda offer a broad range of turbocharged engines with other petrol options including a 1.4-litre TSI fourcylinder, or a 2.0-litre TSI with an output of either 217bhp or 227bhp in the hot vRS version. If you prefer a diesel then the choices are a 1.6-litre TDI producing 108bhp, or a 2.0-litre TDI which produces either 148bhp or 181bhp in the more powerful vRS.
The line up starts with the entrylevel S which features alloy wheels and a DAB radio, before moving up to the SE model I drove which adds trinkets such as the Bolero touchscreen infotainment system, dual-zone air conditioning, a leather multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, cruise control as well as a host of electronic aids to keep you on the road and a raft of airbags to protect occupants should an accident be unavoidable. The SE model also comes as upgraded Sport and Technology trims.
After that you venture into the realm of the SE L and luxury Laurin & Klement versions.
Built in the Czech Repblic, the Octavia is a solid performer packed full of good ideas offering lots of space that will appeal to families looking for a spacious motor.