Skoda Octavia 2016 review
Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the updated MY17 Skoda Octavia Ambition 110TSI wagon auto, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
It’s comforting to know that despite the Western world’s obsession with SUVs, there’s still a place for a handsome station wagon. Audi knows this to be the case, even though it still sells far more Q cars, and has just released the Avant version of the B9 A4 to cash in on it.
Sure, it doesn’t look hugely different from the old one, but underneath it’s pretty much new from the ground up. If you want a wagon-style Audi for around $64,000 you can have the ageing Q5, or you can have an A4 Avant, with a lower centre of gravity and the resultant improvement in handling.
Everybody is complaining that the new A4 looks like the old one and while this is true, there are still a lot of little details the old car just didn’t have. Evolution is the key with Audi’s passenger-car range (the SUVs are going through a rejig over the next couple of years) as is evidenced by another gentle evolution, the same-again A5.
Despite having two driven wheels and 45 fewer kilowatts than the quattro, this 140kW is still a smart mover.
The LED headlights look great at night (Audi has a lighting fetish) and the distinctive ice-pick shape of the DRLs means everyone knows you’ve got an A4.
The interior is identical to the A4 sedan, which is to say excellent – the floating dash, excellent materials, exceptionally clear instruments - it’s a great place to be. Obviously, behind the rear seats it’s a different story, but it’s a well-trimmed boot with a low loading lip and an electric tailgate you can open with a silly foot-waving motion.
The boot holds 505 litres with the seats up, tripling to 1510 litres with the rear seats folded down. The luggage area also has an electric sliding cover. It’s worth noting that the sedan’s boot is 480 litres, so the Avant isn’t much of a load-lugger. There are four cupholders in the A4, two up front and two in the rear armrest, with each door holding a small bottle.
Four of the five seats are perfectly comfortable while the middle rear is a bit tight and high, with a high-ish transmission tunnel meaning foot room is also compromised.
The new Avant comes in two flavours – the $63,900 high-efficiency 140kW front-wheel-drive version we have or the all-wheel-drive quattro for $72,900. There’s no 2.0-TDI option as there is in the sedan range. A strange choice, but obviously one well-researched by the local office.
On this front-wheel-drive model you get 18-inch alloys, an eight-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, DAB+, dual USB and Apple Carplay/Android Auto, three-zone climate control, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, a whole lot of safety gear (see below), cruise control, electric front seats, satnav, LED headlights, partial leather trim, electric tailgate, space-saver spare and wireless hotspot (SIM card not included).
The A4 range features both Audi’s MMI and smart-phone integration in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8.3-inch screen is controlled by the large MMI dial on the centre console and there’s also advanced voice control.
The eight-speaker stereo is perfectly adequate, but if you want more there’s a thumping B&O system for $2600, bringing another 11 speakers and a whole lot more watts to the party.
Our test car also had only had metallic paint, which, without the impost of luxury car tax (which it avoids due to its virtuous fuel consumption) is $1420, bringing the total to $65,320.
The 140kW engine is mated to the same seven-speed dual clutch transmission as the faster, all-wheel-drive 185kW quattro. The high-efficiency version of the 2.0 TFSI engine puts out 320Nm of torque through the front wheels to shift its 1460kg to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds. Not tardy.
Audi claims a fuel-consumption figure of 5.6L/100km on the combined cycle (and 18-inch alloys), we saw 7.8L/100km in mostly city driving. This figure is aided by a reasonably aggressive stop-start regime that cuts the power as you slow, the engine halting at 6km/h.
Despite having two driven wheels and 45 fewer kilowatts than the quattro, this 140kW is still a smart mover. While the headline 0-100km/h is 1.5 seconds slower, the 320Nm torque figure, as well as the well-sorted dual-clutch transmission, means that once you’re rolling, they’re reasonably difficult to tell apart.
There’s tonnes of grip available in this car as well, meaning it’s a bit of a laugh to throw around. The 2.0 turbo can be caught off boost, but if your transmission is in Sport or you get busy with the plastic steering-wheel mounted paddles, the effect is minimal.
As with the sedan, the overwhelming impression is that of quality refinement. With the narrower, less-sticky tyres, road noise is lower (particularly on cruddy surfaces) but all A4s share an incredibly quiet, composed chassis. You can cruise in this or suffer the slings and arrows of traffic without the ride or refinement tiring you out. It’s very finely judged and has brought the A4 right into contention with its premium rivals.
Eight airbags, traction and stability controls, blind-spot sensors, brake assist, rear cross traffic alert, exit warning, active-safety bonnet, driver-attention detection, and brake-force distribution all add up to the maximum five-star ANCAP star safety rating.
Exit warning is a clever feature on all A4s,which warns you of an approaching cyclist or a car to stop you from opening the door on them.
Audi offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and roadside assist for the duration. It also offers impressive dealerships to swan about in while you’re waiting for your car to be returned.
You can also fix your servicing costs by taking on the $1620 three-year/45,000km service plan, which covers scheduled servicing. This is often thrown in during sales campaigns.
The Avant has suffered exactly nothing in the transition to wagon. Obviously that’s the idea when you’re planning an important model like the A4, but it doesn’t always work out that way. It feels almost exactly like the sedan to drive and while it won’t take much more in the way of cargo, it certainly looks good and feels great.
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