Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the updated MY17 Skoda Octavia, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch. 

Have you ever experienced that birthday moment where you open all your presents, hoping to find a new mountain bike or similar, before realising the best you’ve mustered is a new case for that violin your darling parents insist you learn to play?

The launch of new cars often bring similar disappointment, where we expect the new model to bring certain advancements that justify the hype behind it, before realising the base model has reverted to plastic hubcaps instead of the previous version’s alloys, for example. 

Skoda’s latest update to the Octavia does just the opposite, by bringing pretty much every current wishlist item as standard fitment to the entry model, as part of a range revision we weren’t expecting in the first place. 

You may not have had the chance to use CarPlay, Android Auto, AEB or active cruise control before, but each will change the way you view driving.

Following on from the running changes that saw the 103TSI become the 110TSI in mid-2015, this MY17 update sees the specs for the entry Ambition and Ambition Plus trim levels combined into one higher spec, extra value added across the line, and the top-spec Scout 4x4 Premium 135TDI dropped to leave just 110TDI and 132TSI versions of the off-road wagon. 

This repositioning of the Octavia follows a similar approach to the recently renewed Honda Civic and last year’s refresh of the Ford Focus, where value has been added to the base grade to help build the brand, rather than chasing outright sales with a $19,990 stripper model. 

Price and features

The base Ambition 110TSI is the new Octavia’s headline act by adding AEB, active cruise control, a 6.5-inch infotainment touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors and 17-inch alloys to its standard features sheet (which alread includes for a pricing adjustment just $500 more than the previous starting point. Skoda estimates the value of these extra features at $4750 and makes it arguably the best safety-equipped mainstream family car without options you can buy.

You may not have had the chance to use CarPlay, Android Auto, AEB or active cruise control before, but each will change the way you view driving, and their inclusion is a significant step for a model that initially launched without the availability of a reversing camera anywhere in the range. 

Listing at $22,990 or $24,490 drive away, the Ambition 110TSI manual sedan is also available with a DSG auto for an extra $2300 (rrp). The wagon can be had with either transmission for an extra $1500. 

For those wishing to spruce up their Ambition, the option of a factory-fitted 'Sports Pack' (as fitted to the red wagon we drove) has been added to the price list. 

This adds the upgraded lights from the Style, black 19-inch multispoke wheels with lowered sports suspension, black rear spoiler, mirrors and decals, flat-bottomed steering wheel, tinted rear windows, auto headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror and rear seatbelt reminders. How much? A reasonable $3400. 

Our automatic test car was also fitted with the optional Tech Pack that brings inbuilt GPS sat nav, front parking sensors, proximity unlocking keys, Canton sound system with CD radio and 10 speakers, driving modes and voice commands for a further $3200. 

Coupled with the $1700 panoramic sun roof and $490 auto tailgate, the total list price for our wagon tallied $35,780. So while it comes with all the important stuff as standard, you can still get yourself in trouble by dancing with the extra costs on the options list.   

The Octavia Style, already featuring high-end features like climate control air conditioning and leather seats, continues as the next step up, and also scores AEB and active cruise, but adds a sports steering wheel, bi-Xenon headlights with LED DRLs, LED taillights, blackened front foglights and rear seatbelt reminders. 

Still auto-only, the Style starts $200 more than before at $33,790 or $36,790 for the 110TSI sedan. The diesel 110TDI is available for $3100 extra and in wagon guise for $1500 more.  

By comparison, the wolf in practical clothing RS range gains standard AEB and active cruise for between $300 and $500 extra, with the entry 162TSI manual sedan now listing at $39,590 or $42,690 drive away. A DSG auto is still available for an extra $2300 along with the wagon for a further $1500. 

Still forming the top spec for the entire Octavia line-up is the auto-only 135TDI diesel RS. The sedan now lists at $41,290 or $44,390 drive away, with the wagon version adding $1500. 

The off-road flavoured all-wheel drive Scout range also benefits from standard AEB, active cruise, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus front parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights with LED DRLs, LED taillights and rear seatbelt reminders.

Dropping the previous 135TDI Premium model, the Scout line-up now kicks off at $33,290 or $35,990 drive away for the manual diesel 110TDI, and tops out with the DSG auto petrol 132TSI Premium at $38,990 or $42,290 drive away.  

Design 

Aside from new wheels for the Ambition, and the upgraded head and taillights for the Style, the MY17 Octavia line-up is identical to the MY16 range. 

Riding on the much-lauded MQB modular platform, the Octavia continues the Skoda tradition of splicing two traditional segments, with the width of a small car, but the length of something approaching mid-size.

The Octavia colour palette runs to eleven shades - 'Cappucino', 'Brilliant Silver', 'Black Magic Pearl', 'Candy White', 'Corrida Red', 'Race Blue', 'Quartz Grey', 'Topaz' (brown), and 'Moon White.' Unfortunately for supporters of our national sporting teams, green, yellow and gold are absent. 

Practicality

In terms of dimensions, for both sedan and wagon, the five-seat Octavia’s extra length is made up of 66mm more wheelbase than the Golf it’s based on, and an extra 244mm of rear overhang to bring the overall length to 2mm more than the Golf wagon

As a result, rear legroom is in line with expectations of the interior space of a proper mid-size model, and boot space is an enormous 568 litres for the sedan and an even bigger 588 litre luggage capacity for the wagon. 

Both sedan and wagon rear seats have two ISOFIX child seat points and split-fold 60:40, and the sedan’s surprise hatch tailgate creates a much more useful opening than a traditional sedan bootlid. 

It’s worth noting that the small-car width may make the Octavia easier to thread narrow streets, but you’ll have more trouble fitting three child seats across the back than you would in a genuine mid-sizer like a Passat or Mazda6

All Octavias front entry-level to top of the range get two cupholders up front with a third spot for smaller drink cans or takeaway espresso cups, plus bottleholders in each door. All bar the base Ambition sedan get another two cupholders and espresso holder in the rear armrest.

The Octavia also gets bonus points for its little door pocket rubbish bin, cupholder-mounted mobile phone holder and the shopping bag hooks in the cargo area. 

The Octavia’s spare wheel is also a semi-spacesaver too, in that it is simply the smallest regular steel wheel and 205/16 tyre fitted to the Octavia overseas, which makes it suitable for multiple uses unlike a limited-distance fully-fledged spacesaver. 

Engines and transmissions

The Octavia range continues with the same petrol and diesel turbocharged four-cylinder units as before, which are also used across the VW Group passenger car line-up. 

The entry 110TSI petrol is a 1.4-litre direct injected turbocharged petrol unit that produces 110kW (147 horsepower in the old money) with 250Nm of torque all the way from 1500-3500rpm. 

The 110TDI is a 2.0-litre turbodiesel that also makes 110kW, but torque steps up to 320Nm from 1750-3000rpm. 

The 132TSI 1.8-litre turbo petrol engine is now only available in the Scout and makes 132kW with 280Nm all the way from 1350-4000rpm. 

The 162TSI RS is still the performance flagship, with 162kW from the 2.0-litre turbo petrol and 350Nm from 1500-4400rpm. 

Mixing performance with efficiency is the 135TDI RS, with 135kW from its 2.0-litre turbodiesel and a grunty 380Nm from 1750-3000rpm. 

Only the 110TSI Ambition, 110TDI Scout and 162TSI RS variants are available with a manual transmission, which is a six-speed unit in either case. 

The 110TSI models are also available with a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch auto, and all other Octavias continue with the six-speed dual-clutcher. 

All models are front-wheel drive, so no off-road 4x4 capability or high performance on-road all-wheel drive set-ups here 

Fuel consumption

Aided by the stop/start system that’s standard on all Octavia variants, the line-up’s consumption hero continues to be the 110TDI auto with a 4.7L/100km official combined figure. This mileage figure only climbs to 4.9 in the taller and heavier Scout manual. 

Despite its sporting flavour, the 135TDI RS carries an impressive 4.8L/100km combined figure in sedan guise, and a still frugal 4.9 in wagon form.

The 110TSI petrols are next, with the sedan officially consuming 5.4L/100km of 95RON combined in manual, and 5.3 with the auto, with the wagon somehow trumping the sedan in this case with a 5.2 figure. 

The 162TSIs may be the quickest Octavias, but they’re not the thirstiest, officially sipping 98RON at 6.4L/100 combined with the manual, and 6.6 with the auto. 

Topping off the Octavia economy chart is the 132TSI Scout, which officially consumes 6.7L/100km of 95RON on the combined cycle.

During our testing, we saw 5.9L/100km at constant freeway speeds from the Ambition 110TSI auto wagon.

Fuel tank capacity is 50 litres, and no LPG version is available. 

Driving 

Given the lack of mechanical changes across all Skoda Octavia models in this update, there were no surprises during our revisit. Two years on, the second generation to arrive in Australia is still a fine machine. 

Like everything that’s been spun from the MQB platform to date, the Octavia impresses with its balance of ride and handling over a variety of surfaces, even on the lower sports suspension and slim-profile 18-inch tyres that come with the Sports Pack. 

It’s not quite as cosseting as a base Golf on 15-inch wheels, but this is one case where cool looks certainly don’t ruin the drive experience, even with the simpler strut front suspesnion, torsion beam rear suspension that all bar the RS and Scout models use. 

The 110TSI motor generally punches well above its 1.4-litre engine size weight when underway, and only reminds you of its small capacity with a momentary delay from rest as the turbo wakes up. Otherwise, it handles hills as well as a non-turbo engine of about 2.5 litres, but manages to deliver its torque with a lot less revs and fuss. 

Acceleration time from 0-100km/h for the 110TSI manual sedan is 8.1sec and 8.2 for the dual-clutch auto (wagon 8.2/8.3). Slightly less speed from the dual-clutch only diesel, the sedan running 0-100km/h in 8.5sec, and the wagon 8.7.

Not surpisingly, the RS's performance figures are quicker, the manual sedan recording 6.8sec and 6.9 for the dual-clutch auto (wagon 6.9/7.1). Then the diesel RS sedan stops the clocks at 8.2sec, and the wagon 8.3.

On the inside, the Octavia remains very quiet and comfortable for a mainstream model, with controls that are easy to navigate if you’re familiar with VW’s ergonomic language. Road noise is modest and the turning circle is nice and tight.

The Bluetooth connected easily to this author’s Samsung S6 Edge and drew no sound quality complaints from those at the other end of the line.

Towing capacity for petrol models is 620kg for an unbraked trailer and 1500kg for a braked trailer, while the diesel is rated to a weight of 670kg and 1600kg respectively. 

The Scout 4x4 wagon offers extra ground clearance (+33mm to 171mm) for offroad excursions. 

 Safety

The Octavia line-up already carried a maximum ANCAP five star safety rating.

Standard active safety features across all models include ‘Front Assist with City Emergency Brake’, ESC, ‘Hill Hold Control’, ABS, EBD, ASR, electronic differential lock, ‘Multi-Collision Brake’, reversing camera, a tyre pressure monitoring system, active cruise control. Although park assist isn't fitted, rear parking sensors are standard on the Ambition, with front and rear sensors on Style and RS.

Passive safety tech includes driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger side airbags, curtain airbags (front and rear), driver’s knee airbag, emergency fuel supply cut-off, automatic flashing brake lights (activated in emergency braking situation). Style and RS models also feature rear side airbags, ‘Passenger Protect Assist’ and fatigue detection.

Ownership

All Skodas are covered by a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which can be converted to a five year extended warranty via a variety of packages. 

Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, but prepaid manitenance packs can be purchased to cover the service costs (capped price servicing style) for three years ($1159 for Ambition and Style, $1299 for RS and Scout) or five years ($2300 for Ambition and Style, $2650 for RS and Scout).  

Buyers using Skoda finance can also opt to use the Skoda Choice guaranteed resale value plan. 

The Octavia enjoys a strong reliability rating for with no serious record of common faults like diesel problems, manual gearbox and clutch problems, timing belt issues, or auto transmission problems. 

And for those keen to get their hands dirty, the owners manual notes VW 507 00 oil type (equivalent to 5W-30 synthetic) for use in diesel models, and VW 502 00 (equivalent to 0W-40 synthetic) for petrol variants. Oil capacity is 4.3-litres for diesels and 4.6 litres for petrol models.