Graham Smith reviews the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Skoda Octavia as a used buy.

Under the plain packaging, Skoda's mid-sizer delivered affordable European motoring.

New

The Octavia was the flag bearer for Skoda when the Czech brand was relaunched here in 2007 after a lengthy absence. By then, the Skoda badge was part of the extended VW family and positioned as a more affordable alternative to the mainstream stablemates.

Skoda had sold here at various times but had never gained any serious traction with Australian buyers, most of whom have regarded it as a cheap and cheerful curiosity mostly bought by the cash-strapped. It was no different this time.

The Octavia range was made up of practical hatch and wagon body styles and there were petrol and diesel engines (this review doesn't cover the performance RS model and all-wheel drive Scout wagon).

Standard Skoda practice, the Octavia borrowed from the VW parts and technology bins, but packaged them in more conservative sheet metal.

The Octavia was similar is size to the Golf but the wagon was a practical family option.

On the road the Octavia drove well, the ride was firm but not uncomfortable and the handling was well balanced.

At the launch in 2009 there was a 1.6-litre engine at the entry point, with a regular six-speed auto or a five-speed manual, but the main petrol engine options were turbo fours, a 1.4 and a 1.8-litre, both decent performers with appealing fuel economy.

On the diesel front there were 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre engines, with plenty of torque for driveability and zippy performance.

The auto transmission with either engine was the dual-clutch DSG, six-speed on diesels and seven-speed on petrol engines.

On the road the Octavia drove well, the ride was firm but not uncomfortable and the handling was well balanced as expected of a VW derivative.

Now

As a niche brand, Skoda's resale values aren't great — but of course that can present a bargain for anyone prepared to take one on.

The brand has also suffered along with the other VW brands with the problems associated with the DSG transmission.

The Octavia, however, delivers affordable European motoring.

VW and its offspring brands were the darlings of the Australian market but, with all the adverse publicity about the DSG, many shoppers have crossed them off the list.

The Octavia, however, delivers affordable European motoring. The diesel engines are very good, performing well with thrifty fuel consumption, the handling is assured and well balanced, the braking is powerful, everything about them says buy me... then you get to the DSG.

Should you decide to take the risk on a DSG-equipped example, thoroughly road test your chosen car, and preferably have it assessed by a mechanic experienced with the transmission and the knowledge of what to look for. Clutch packs are a known source of trouble, and shuddering or jerkiness at takeoff or low speed is an indication that all is not well.

Other than the transmission it's important to check for a full service history that shows the car you're thinking of buying has been properly maintained.

The cost of servicing by Skoda dealers is also a regular issue for owners, so it's worth getting to know a VW specialist mechanic to service your car for less and find more affordable parts when needed.