Skoda Octavia was introduced to Australia in November 2007 as a major component in the return of the Czech marque in here after an absence of 25 years. The Octavia has been described as a VW Jetta/Golf with a different body. However, there's a lot more to it than that. 

While VW does control Skoda these days it has allowed the Czech company a large degree of design freedom in the body, though the mechanical components are principally all VW

The Czechs like to have room to move in their cars and Octavia is larger in most interior dimensions than the VWs. Indeed, it's more Passat than Jetta sized in the cabin and boot. In keeping with the practical seating the Octavia has numerous voluminous stowage places.

Eight years after the return of Skoda to Australia, the Octavia - indeed all Skoda models - is still struggling to make a solid name for itself downunder. This is a mystery to us as you get a lot of European car for a pretty modest price. 

And Octavia's price has become even more modest over the years because the importer has reduced it several times in an attempt to increase sales. It's now a real bargain on the new-car front. This hasn't pleased those who paid relatively big money to buy a new Octavia and have seen their trade-in values plummet - because used prices are based on current new ones. They are the losers; the winners are those buying on the used-car market.

Exterior styling of the Octavia is on the conservative side, though that does have the advantage of making it timeless. Though the body is significantly different the interior has plenty of signs of its Volkswagen origins. 

Should you need a Skoda serviced or repaired in a relatively remote location then knocking the door of a VW dealer is likely to get you out of trouble

As is frequently the way with European marques many Skoda Octavia buyers opt for a station wagon, to the extent that even the high-performance Octavia RS is offered in this practical body.

It's a similar story with engines; there's a turbo-diesel as well as a turbo-petrol in the Octavia RS range. While the RS is virtually a Golf GTI under the skin it doesn't have quite the same performance due to its heavier weight.

An interesting model is the semi-SUV Octavia Scout, basically a standard station wagon with increased ground clearance, all-wheel-drive, plastic body scuff panels and underbody protection. In fact, the Scout is the sort of vehicle that more SUV buyers should be going for - only a tiny minority need the off-road ability that medium to large SUVs and 4WDs provide.

Octavia engines are Volkswagen sourced petrol and diesel units ranging in size from 1.4L through 2.0L. These days all petrol engines are turbocharged; naturally all the diesels have this feature. 

Transmissions in Australia are manual and DSG automatic - with a strong degree of favouritism towards the self shifter.

Performances are good in all engines as they have strong torque. The RS variants aren't exactly rocketships, but they have plenty of grunt and are enjoyable to drive, thanks not only to the added output but also because they have firmer suspension and bigger wheels and tyres.

Scratches and tears in the luggage area, particularly on a station wagon, may mean an Octavia has done some heavy-duty cargo hauling

Ride comfort was good thanks to competent suspension as well as the aforementioned interior spaciousness. 

Skoda often operates in Australia through semi-autonomous dealership separate from Volkswagen ones. However, should you need a Skoda serviced or repaired in a relatively remote location then knocking the door of a VW dealer is likely to get you out of trouble.

Insurance charges are generally about average for this class; as always it's worth shopping around, but make sure you do a direct comparison between companies. Keep in mind that building up a long-term relationship with one insurer may bring benefits that make it worth spending a few dollars more.

What to look for

A full service history by a Skoda dealer or a qualified mechanic on the brand is a plus. If it's the latter then make sure genuine Skoda parts have been used. 

Previous body damage, particularly on the high-performance models, could be a warning sign to pass up a car.

Scratches and tears in the luggage area, particularly on a station wagon, may mean an Octavia has done some heavy-duty cargo hauling.

Engines that have been running on lower grade fuel may be down on power. Recommended petrol is usually 95 octane, so check that on the sticker on the car or in the handbook. Skoda's office can help if neither are available.

The use of a performance chip or an aftermarket accessory can cause damage to the engine and transmission. A Skoda dealer can check if there's one on the vehicle at the time.

Transmission changes in the DSG should be smooth and fast. However, at very low speeds they may be slow and jerky. If you feel this is too bad then have it checked out.