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Remember mid-size sedans? Once pretty popular with smaller families, they’ve largely gone the way of dial-up internet, thanks in no small part to our insatiable appetite for SUVs in Australia, which shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.
According to the most recent vehicle sales data release, there are just seven choices left in a once-crowded segment, one of which is this, the Skoda Octavia, which is also available as a wagon – another body style that's been left by the wayside in the SUV crush.
So are we right to rush to SUVs instead of vehicles just like this one? Or should you be cross-shopping the Skoda Octavia before you commit to a high-rider?
Let’s find out, shall we?
The Skoda Octavia Style 110TSI sedan starts at from $37,790 drive away, and is pretty comprehensively equipped for that money. It also has a wagon sibling, which is yours for $39,260 drive away, or for more thrills, the fire-breathing RS version is $51,490 drive away ($52,990 wagon).
Let’s stay with the Style for a moment. Outside, it rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and gets LED headlights, satellite navigation, keyless locking, LED DRLs and heated mirrors, while inside, there’s fabric seats, dual-zone climate, an air-conditioned glove box, push-button start, a slick gear selector and ambient interior lighting.
But where the Skoda truly shines is in the tech department, which is seriously impressive. It starts with a 10.0-inch touchscreen, equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leaving you free to stick your phone on the wireless charging pad. All of that kit is joined by Skoda’s very good Virtual Cockpit, which digitises the driver’s binnacle, and adds a seriously premium air to the cabin experience.
Safety? There’s lots. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
This is always a controversial segment. Eye of the beholder and all that. Still, let's dive in.
For mine, the Skoda looks sharp and handsome, with clean, crisp lines and a definite premium feel to the overall design language.
But... whether it's simply the white shade of our test car or the fact that mid-size sedans are a little out of favour, it manages to look a little bland from outside, and like the kind of vehicle that could be sold in bulk for fleets.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, by the way. Plenty of cars are over-designed and as such, age terribly. The Skoda's design, while not pulse-quickening, does feel timeless.
Outside, there's a kind of power-dome 'V' running through the centre of the bonnet, that leads to the thin headlights – made up of individual clusters – that are framed by slick-looking LEDs.
The Skoda grille is a series of 3D slats that jut out from the front end, while the bottom is all black plastic mesh, giving this Octavia a vaguely sporty vibe.
The vehicle's flanks are embellished with two sharp creases, one at the shoulder line and one at the belt line, which run the length of the Octavia, too, and step to the rear and you'll find a fairly simple boot area, with sharply angled brake lights and clean lettering across the boot.
Inside, some of the cabin materials might leave a little to be desired, but it is a really modern, clean-feeling, tech-savvy space.
The steering wheel is thick and chunky and feels great to hold, the cabin dials make a satisfying and tactile click when you turn them, and there's a kind of textured, layered effect to the dash with a nice mix of materials, including a metallic-look dash panel that runs from the passenger side to driver side.
There's an attention to detail here that you notice – even the black plastic panelling used has been perforated to elevate it slightly above the standard cabin fare.
It's clever, the Skoda Octavia, and that story begins in the boot, which opens to reveal a seriously large and seriously usable 600 litre space. While not that deep, it's wide and long, and with out test car fitted with a spider's web of netting, there was tons of space and storage options for everything we needed to carry.
Short answer? For me, it's all the space and storage I need. SUVs be damned.
Up front, the centre screen is clear and simple to use, as is the secondary digital screen behind the driver's steering wheel. And there's just a few little surprise and delight features, too, like the bar that controls volume via touch, or the Smart AC settings which offer to "warm your feet" or deliver "fresh air".
Your comfort features are on point, too, with two USB ports up front, two cup holders, and plenty of headroom, and plenty of shoulder space between you and the passenger next to you.
The backseat is impressive, too, although the swept-back nature of the roof line does start to impede headroom ever so slightly, but knee room, toe room and shoulder room are really good, and I suspect you could even fit a third person across this middle row of seats without too much drama.
Skoda Simply Clever features abound, like the mobile phone storage pocket in the seatbacks, which are part of the larger seat pocket so you don't lose your device. There are two child ISOFIX attachment points and two cup holders in the rear, too.
The Skoda Octavia Style is powered by a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine, producing a 110kW at 6000rpm and 250Nm from 1500rpm.
That's enough grunt, Skoda says, to clip 100km/h in nine seconds, and it will push on to a flying top speed of 223km/h.
Skoda says its Octavia will sip 5.7L/100km on the combined cycle (5.9L/100km for the wagon), and emit 131g/km of C02.
Our test vehicle was displaying an average 8.8L/100km over our 200-odd-kilometres with the car, but I have been accused of having a heavier than average foot.
It sips 95RON fuel, and its tank will hold some 45 litres of the good stuff.
Sink into the driver’s seat, push the start button and use the cool-looking, but a little cheap-feeling, shift-by-wire gear selector to choose Drive, and you’re almost immediately reminded why we all loved lower-riding cars so much more than those big and often billowy SUVs of yesteryear.
This Octavia doesn’t pretend to be a sports car - there’s the RS to handle those duties — but the mere fact you’re sitting lower to the ground leaves you feeling closer and more connected to the road surface below you, rather than like you’re towering above it.
You also feel like you’re sitting in the Skoda, not on it, and all of this — combined with a firmer (but not too firm) suspension tune, good steering and the low 1500rpm arrival of peak torque — ensures the Octavia delivers a more engaging drive experience than its exterior design probably suggests.
There are some downsides, however, one of which being that, on take-off, the engine isn’t as smooth or as quiet as it could be, and because the power arrives so quickly, it can also feel a little like it’s surging a little in slow-moving traffic. The flip-side to that, though, is a car that feels responsive, and when you dart around a slow-moving vehicle to overtake the power is there when you need it.
We ventured out on the freeway to see how the little petrol engine performed at the legal speed limit, and I can tell you that long-distance travel is also right in the Octavia’s wheelhouse, too.
It climbs to 110km/h quickly and smoothly, and while the cabin noise increases at speed – mostly from the tyres and wind – it's not overly annoying, and it is well insulated from the sounds of other cars. The ride on the freeway is fantastic, while the steering feels weighted and direct, inspiring more confidence at speed.
There are more powerful cars out there, including in the broader Octavia range, but to be honest, you don't really need more grunt than is on offer here, other than for bragging rights.
It's a comfortable and usually composed offering from Skoda, this Octavia, and will definitely tick plenty of boxes.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Skoda Octavia scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash-tested in 2019, and arrives with plenty of active and passive safety features.
That story starts with eight airbags and the usual braking and traction aids, but then steps up to more advanced stuff, like AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and a self-parking function.
If you want the really advanced stuff, like blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, or Lane Assist with lane guidance, you'll need to shell out for the optional Luxury Pack, which arrives with plenty of other goodies, too.
Speaking of which, services are due every 12 months or 15,000kms, and Skoda's service calculator will tell you what each service will cost. To save you the trouble, you're looking at $301, $398, $447, $634 and $447 for the first five services.
This is motoring at its easiest. Powerful but not too powerful, firm but not too firm, and loaded with all the cabin technology 2021 calls for, and more.
We'd like to see more of the safety kit arrive as standard, and to tone down the engine noise in the cabin under heavy acceleration, but if your shopping for a mid-size SUV, then the Octavia Style sedan has earned its place on your consideration list before you sign those papers.
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