Ford Focus VS Skoda Octavia
- Great chassis
- Surprising engine
- Optional advanced safety
- Better tyres would be nice
- Too many optional colours
- Good value
- Nice to drive
- Sport by name and nature
- Option packs abound
- Uglier than predecessor
- Materials a little cheap
Ford's small hatch, the Focus, is criminally under-bought in Australia. The latest model is one of the best hatchbacks on the road and when you chuck in the decent price, impressive equipment and absurdly powerful engine for its size, it's a winner.
But you lot? You don't buy it in nearly the kinds of numbers it deserves. Partly because there isn't a bait-and-upsell boggo model to lure you in, partly because it's got a badge that is not exciting Australians any more and partly because it's not a compact SUV.
Or is(n't) it? Because alongside the ST-Line warm hatch is the identically priced and therefore technically a co-entry level model; the Focus Active. Slightly higher, with plastic cladding, drive modes and a conspicuous L on the transmission shifter, it's a little bit SUV, right?
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Skoda Octavia 2018 range offers buyers unparalleled pragmatism, and a broad range of options to suit varied budgets.
It may not be as attractive as it was prior to its most recent facelift, but there is plenty to like if you can look beyond the challenging front-end design.
There's the choice of a five-door hatchback (which looks like a sedan), or a five-door station wagon - and with Skoda buyers being pragmatic, the wagon is the more popular body style. So that's what we've got here, and in the new Sport trim line.
Consider yourself intrigued? Read on to find out more.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
Ten years ago, the idea that the higher-riding version of a hatchback would be a good city car would have been laughable. The Focus Active is pitched as a kind of SUV with its different low-grip driving modes, which you'll never touch if you stick to the city.
The Ford Focus is genuinely a brilliant car, no matter where you take it. The Active takes a terrific chassis, tweaks it for comfort but, ironically, doesn't lose much of the speed.
The Skoda Octavia 2018 Sport wagon may run the same 110TSI drivetrain as the regular base model car, but its chassis and design tweaks make it a worthwhile model to consider if you want something that stands out a little bit from the rest of the Octavia pack.
If you want an RS wagon but can't afford one, you really ought to take a look at this car.
Would you consider a wagon over a hatchback? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
For a fairly conservative hatchback, the Focus came under fire for what some termed its derivative styling. I quite like it, and not just because the styling work was led by an Australian. The front end is very much family Ford, as long as it's the European arm of the family, fitting in with its smaller sibling, the Fiesta. The Active scores the usual black cladding, higher ride height and smaller diameter wheels, in exchange for more compliant, higher-profile tyres. All of that takes nothing away from a design that I think looks pretty good.
The cabin is well put together, with just that oddly angled touchscreen causing me a bit of a twitch. The design is a fairly steady Ford interior with a lot of switchgear shared with the Fiesta, but it's all quite nice. The materials feel mostly pleasant and the hardwearing fabric on the seats feels right for this kind of car.
I didn't like the new look for the Octavia when Skoda revealed it early in 2017, and I wasn't alone. The once-handsome Czech mid-size model had been taken to with the ugly stick, with the dual-headlight look appearing to make the model look, well, nothing like a model.
In some colour combinations it's not too bad - a red RS245 with the black gloss grille, for example, looks tidy. But the Octavia Sport model you see here in white just looked a little bit… spidery, I'd say. Yeah, spidery.
The Sport model is accentuated by black pinstripes here and there, and look, I reckon the design of the wagon is a lot more becoming than the hatch. But if you value style as much as substance, consider the svelte Mazda6 is available for close to the same money…
The dimensions of the Skoda Octavia vary between the hatch and wagon, and the regular model vs the RS - yep, there's a bit of a size difference, but it's pretty miniscule. Here are the main numbers you need to know.
The hatch is 4670mm long (2686mm wheelbase), 1461mm tall and 1814mm wide. The regular wagon isn't as long at 4667mm (2686mm wheelbase), but sits a bit taller (1465mm) and is the same width (1814mm).
Thankfully the interior dimensions are accommodating, and the design in the cabin is very, very smart.
The Focus is quite roomy compared to other cars in its class. The rear seat has good leg and headroom, with the feeling of space accentuated by large windows. Annoyingly, though, all that work put into making the rear a nice place to be is ruined by a lack of amenities like cupholders, USB ports or an armrest.
Front-seat passengers fare better with two cupholders, a roomy space at the base of the console for a phone and a wireless-charging pad. The front seats are very comfortable, too.
The boot starts at a fairly average 375 litres - clearly sacrificed for rear-seat space - and maxes out at 1320 litres with the seats down. While you have to lift things over the loading lip and down into the boot, it's one of the more sensibly shaped load areas, with straight up and down sides. Ironically, the smaller Puma has a noticeably larger boot.
Skoda is a marvel when it comes to interior packaging, and the Octavia is perhaps the most impressive exponent of this. It really packs a lot in to relatively compact dimensions.
Boot space is perhaps one of the biggest advantages to the Octavia, with the hatch's luggage capacity spanning 568 litres, and the wagon offering up 588L (that measurement is to the window line). There's a spare wheel under the boot floor (you get a space-saver in RS models) and the back end features a dual-sided mat so you can put damp items in the back without damaging the carpet.
Of course there's a couple of clever inclusions like flip-down shopping bag hooks, remote release levers for the split fold seats (they go down in a 60:40 fashion, and there's a clever ski-port for loading through longer items), and there's a dual-action cargo blind. You get a mesh net system, a removable torch and an umbrella, too.
Plus the space on offer for occupants is very good. A family of five, plus luggage, will fit in here easily, with the back seat offering enough rear legroom, headroom and shoulder room for adults, too. With the driver's seat in my driving position (I'm 182cm) I had easily enough room to sit comfortably.
Storage is well thought out, too, with bottle holders in all four doors, map pockets in the back, rear air-vents and a flip-down armrest with cupholders. The materials aren't as plush as you'll find in a Volkswagen Golf or a Mazda6, but they're not scratchy or harsh.
Up front there are big door pockets, a pair of shallow cupholders, a good sized box in front of the gearshifter for your phone and wallet, and a reasonable glove box.
The media system in our test vehicle was the upgraded 9.2-inch unit, which is crisp to look at an offers good resolution, plus the added usability that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can't be ignored. But the lack of a volume knob is frustrating, and it can be hard to figure out if you should be pressing Home or Menu when navigating through the systems array of pages.
Price and features
The Focus Active wears a $30,990 sticker but the several people I know who bought one haven't paid that much, so Ford dealers are obviously keen to do deals. Even at that price, it's got a fair bit of stuff. The Active has 17-inch wheels, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto LED headlights, LED fog lights, sat nav, auto wipers, wireless hotspot, powered and heated folding door mirrors, wireless phone charging, a big safety package and a space-saver spare.
Ford's SYNC3 comes up on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dashboard, which weirdly feels like it's facing away from you slightly. It has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB+ and also looks after various functions in the car.
The panoramic sunroof is a stiff $2000 and includes an annoying perforated cover rather than a solid one.
One of the main reasons you might be drawn to the Skoda Octavia is its attractive pricing. So, how much does the the mid-size model cost?
Without running through the full price list of the Skoda Octavia models sold in Australia, we can tell you that Skoda prefers to deal in drive-away pricing, so that's what you see here.
The base model Octavia is pretty well equipped, with niceties such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a cooled glovebox, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
The wagon model has silver roof rails, but sadly, there's a chrome strip at the nose end, and this model comes with halogen headlights but the tail-lights are LED units. Standard-spec Octavias come with 17-inch alloy wheels, and all Octavias get front fog lights.
The Sport model costs more, with the hatchback version listing at $32,990 drive-away, and the wagon priced at $34,490 drive-away. Both of these are auto-only, though.
In comparison to the entry-grade model, the Sport adds auto LED headlights with adaptive lighting and LED daytime running lights, auto wipers, an extra pair of airbags (for rear side protection) and it rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels.
Sport models have different front seats with integrated headrests (still manually adjustable), privacy glass, and the seatbelts feature a tightening feature if the car's computer predicts a crash (the windows wind up, and if there's a sunroof, it'll close).
Plus the Sport has a black pack, including black door mirror caps, plus side and tailgate decals, there's a rear spoiler (black for the hatch model and body-colour for the wagon), and it rides on a lower sports suspension set-up. The Sport wagon has black roof rails.
If you're interested, the RS model line-up consists of a few different variants. The petrol manual hatch costs $41,990 drive-away, the petrol auto hatch is $44,490 drive-away, and the diesel auto hatch is $45,590 drive-away. Add $1500 for a wagon.
Then there are the top of the range RS245 models, with extra punch and more kit again. The sporty petrol-only RS245 model costs $46,490 for the manual hatch, and $48,990 for the auto hatch. Wagon versions add $1500.
Some notable elements: you need to option keyless entry and push-button start, no matter the model you choose, and a sunroof will cost you $1500 for the hatchback and $1700 for the wagon. You can get a power tailgate as an option on all trim grades of the wagon, too, at $500.
Now, option packs.
The 'Tech Pack' consists of the upgrade to the 9.2-inch screen with nav, LED headlights, semi-automated parking, adaptive chassis control (on RS and RS245 models only), keyless entry and push-button start, 10-speaker Canton audio, drive mode select (already on RS and RS245 models), manoeuvre braking assist (auto braking in reverse), and a driver profile set-up (already on RS and RS245 models).
The Tech Pack costs $4900 for the entry-grade car, $3900 for the Sport model, and $2300 for RS versions.
The other main pack is the 'Luxury Pack', which adds leather trim (base car; N/A Sport) and electric seat adjustment (base model and RS; N/A Sport), Alcantara/leather trim (RS; N/A Sport), heated front and rear seats, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, the added rear airbags (base model only), and auto folding door mirrors with dimming and puddle lights. This pack costs $4200 for the base grade, $1600 for the Sport model $2800 for the RS, $1500 for RS245.
For those playing along at home, the model you see in these images is the Octavia 110TSI Sport wagon, fitted with the Tech Pack and an electric sunroof.
The other choice you'll need to make is on colours, with metallic paint adding $500. Check out Skoda's configurator to see if you like it in red, white, silver, blue, grey, green or black. There's no gold, brown or yellow, but there's a lightish beige hue called 'Cappuccino', which you can't get on higher-spec versions.
Engine & trans
Ford does an excellent range of small turbo engines. The "normal" Focus range (such as it is, now the wagon has disappeared from the market) comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Bucking the SUV-this-size trend (yes, I know it's not really an SUV), this punchy little unit delivers an impressive 134kW and 240Nm. They're both very decent numbers for such a small engine.
The big numbers continue with the transmission boasting eight gears, a number you don't often find in a hatchback. It's a traditional torque-converter auto, too, so those of you who have bad memories of Ford's old PowerShift twin clutches should worry no more.
Power goes to the front wheels only and you'll get from 0 to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.
There are three drivetrains to choose from in the 2018 Octavia range, and the specifications step up as you move up the range.
Base grade models and the Sport variant have the 110TSI 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 110kW of power (5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm (1500-3500rpm). It is available with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission in the base grade, but the Sport model is auto only. If you want more horsepower from your motor, you'll need to go for the RS.
There is no diesel option for the lower grades, and every model in the Octavia range sold in Australia is front-wheel drive (FWD / 2WD). In some markets there are all wheel drive (AWD) models sold, but there isn't a proper 4x4 version with a low range transfer case in any market, though. There is no LPG model sold here, either.
Now, if you think you might consider towing with your Octavia, you'll need to know its capabilities - and towing capacity varies across the range.
The 110TSI hatch has a 620kg un-braked trailer weight capacity or 1500kg for a braked trailer (manual or auto); the 110TSI manual wagon can deal with 630kg/1500kg, while the DSG wagon is good for 640kg/1500kg.
Ford's official testing for the big window sticker delivered a 6.4L/100km result on the combined cycle. In my time with the Focus, I got 7.2L/100km indicated on the dashboard, which is a pretty solid result given the Focus spent a good deal of the time on suburban or urban roads.
With its 52-litre tank, you'll cover around 800km if you manage the official figure, or just over 700km on my figures.
Fuel economy is good for the 110TSI model we're testing, with claimed consumption rated at 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres for the DSG hatch and wagon, while the 110TSI manual hatch uses 5.4L/100km and the 110TSI manual wagon claims 5.5L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity for all models is 50 litres, and your mileage will vary depending on how hard you drive. Based on my time in the 1.4-litre Sport wagon, I was going to do about 650km on a tank, with at the bowser fuel consumption measured at 7.3L/100km. The dashboard display was reading 7.2L/100km.
The Octavia requires 95RON premium unleaded fuel at a minimum.
Despite the very mild off-road pretensions, if it's a comfortable city ride you're after, the Active is the Focus to have. While the ST-Line isn't uncomfortable - not by a long way - the Active's more compliant tyres and higher ride height (30mm at the front and 34mm at the rear) iron out the bigger bumps without sacrificing much of the sportier car's impressive dynamic prowess, even with the low-rolling-resistance tyres.
The cracking 1.5-litre turbo is responsive and well-matched to the eight-speed auto. The big torque number pushes you along the road and makes overtaking much less dramatic than a 1.5-litre three-cylinder has any right to.
Ford's trademark Euro-tuned quick steering is also along for the ride, making darting in and out of gaps a quick roll of the wrist, which has the added benefit of meaning you rarely have to take your hands off the wheel for twirling. That darting is aided and abetted by the engine and gearbox, with the turbo seemingly keeping the boost flowing with little lag. It's almost like they planned it that way.
You have good vision in all directions, which almost renders the fact that the blind-spot monitoring is optional acceptable. Almost. It's very easy to get around in, easy to park and, just as importantly, easy to get in and out of. Compared to, say, a Toyota Corolla, the rear doors are very accommodating.
What makes the Octavia Sport worthy of that much-lauded, oft-overused badge?
Well, it feels pretty sporty to drive, with the MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension both getting the harder-edge tune and sitting a few mm lower to the ground as a result (be aware of the car's ground clearance - it is lower, but it's not suctioned to the ground like a sports car).
The regular Octavia model was already at the pointy end of the segment for dynamics and comfort, but this Sport version is more dialled into the surface below, with the combination of the stiffer chassis and the bigger wheels with grippy Bridgestone Potenza 225/40/18 rubber rewarding the driver, albeit at a slight penalty in terms of outright ride comfort. You can link bends together with ease, and the turning circle is pretty tight, meaning parking moves are easy enough.
The way the Octavia Sport finds its way through corners, almost telepathically, will have you thinking you've got more grunt than the 110TSI's outputs suggest - that comes down to the refinement at speed, where the torque of the small engine keeps momentum as the dual-clutch auto shifts clinically between gears. There are no paddle-shifters, but there's a manual mode to flick up or down on the shifter, and there are a few drive modes to choose from, each adjusting the throttle response and gearing. Sport was great, but Normal was where I spent most of my time.
In Normal mode there's a bit of stuttering at lower speeds when you're on and off the throttle, but it isn't as much of a deal-breaker as it might have been with earlier iterations of dual-clutch autos. Just make sure that if you're considering the Octavia (or any new car, for that matter!), that you test drive the car extensively, and try to put it through your regular day-to-day routine.
As with many examples of cars built on the Volkswagen MQB modular architecture, there is some road noise - especially on coarse-chip surfaces. I didn't find it hard to live with - I just turned up the volume on the sound system.
Over a week of commuting, driving in and around Sydney and more than a few hours on the city's motorways, I came away convinced that if I couldn't stretch to the RS, I'd be pretty happy in the Sport model.
Need more? Want a quicker 0-100 acceleration time, more speed, and better performance figures, and independent rear suspension? You really ought to read my review of the RS245 wagon.
The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (low speed with pedestrian avoidance and highway speeds), forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and active lane-keep assist.
Annoyingly - and I can't for the life of me work out why this is a thing - despite some advanced safety features in the base package, you have to pay $1250 extra for blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and reverse AEB, which are part of the Driver Assistance Pack. No, Ford is not the only company to do this.
The back seat has two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The Focus scored five ANCAP stars in August 2019.
All Skoda Octavia models currently on sale are still covered by the car's 2016 five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating.
Safety features across all models include a reversing camera and rear parking sensors (with a visual park assist display), auto emergency braking (AEB), multi-collision brake, tyre pressure monitoring, fatigue detection and adaptive cruise control.
Of course, every model in the range comes with outboard ISOFIX child-seat anchor points in the back seats, and there are three top-tether attachment points, too.
Airbags for the Octavia are seven for the regular model (dual front, front side, driver's knee and full-length curtain) and nine for RS models (added rear-side protection). The extra airbags can be added to entry-grade models as part of the Luxury Pack, which will also bring lane keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring.
The first five services cost $299 each and also include a free loan car and a 12-month extension to your roadside assist membership for up to seven years.
The Skoda vehicle range is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is better than its parent company VW offers in Australia, and matches the likes of Mazda, which only recently upped its warranty plan. There's no extended warranty option, though.
The Czech brand allows customers to pre-pay their service costs by choosing one of its 'Service Packs, the cost of which can be bundled into finance or outright purchase price. The plans are three years/45,000km ($1150 no matter the model) or five years/75,000km ($2250 for non-RS models; $2700 for RS models).
The other option for customers is to pay for their maintenance as they go using capped price servicing for up to six years/90,000km. The average service cost for a standard Octavia is $416.50 and $453 for RS models, but that's before additional consumables like brake fluid. Also worth noting that the alarm system needs to be replaced every six years, at a cost of $411 - that might need to be considered in your resale value estimates.
If you're concerned about common faults, problems or issues you may encounter check out our Skoda Octavia problems page. The value of a page like this is that it goes beyond standard features to give you a gauge of the reliability rating for the vehicle.