Ford Focus VS Skoda Octavia
- Refined styling
- Roomy interior
- Advanced safety equipment
- Blind spot warning standard only on Titanium
- Auto transmission can seem indecisive
- No manual gearbox
- Good value
- Nice to drive
- Sport by name and nature
- Option packs abound
- Uglier than predecessor
- Materials a little cheap
Ford has just released its new-generation Ford Focus. Do you know what that means? It means we're at a monumental point in history that, while nobody will ever really remember it, could impact you greatly.
Because like the automotive equivalent of planetary alignment, we are reaching a moment when Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai and Ford will have all brought their latest-gen small cars to market at about the same time.
Okay, you may not find that exciting. But it means you've now got the most current technology, styling and safety features to choose from right across the board, with Ford the latest to throw everything it's got at its new small-car contender.
All that and more as we take you through the launch of the 2019 Ford Focus, where we tested the hatch in the Trend and ST-Line grades, and the new wagon, too.
|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|
Different but more refined looks, a smaller but powerful-for-its-size engine, plenty of advanced safety equipment and more room than ever before, the new Ford Focus is much better than the model before it. And it has to be – the competition is fierce.
The sweet spot in the range is the ST-Line hatch with its long list of standard features, comfortable ride and impressive handling.
Is the new Focus a car to take on the might of Hyundai and Toyota? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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.
This new-generation Focus is completely new, and that goes for its design, the structure of the vehicle and the platform that underpins it all.
That grille, though poutier than before, still makes this new car recognisable as a Focus, but the rest of the car’s styling is a fairly big step away from the look of the previous model. The nose looks more elongated and turned down, and the headlights have an irregular shape (which somehow works) and they're helped to look more defined by the LED running lights that sit above each headlight like an eyebrow.
That front-end may take some getting used to, but I think most will like the rear exterior styling straight away. The hoisted-up style to the rear of the previous car is gone and the illusion is now a car which sits lower and level. I particularly like the Focus badging across the tailgate, too, which is reminiscent of Fords of the 1960s.
The car’s profile has changed, too, with the window structure simplified. Previous versions of the car had rear quarter glass; a small porthole which looked into the boot. That's now been incorporated into the door glass, which means the rear passenger aperture is larger.
Inside, the cabin has been decluttered of its galaxy of buttons, and that busy interior has given way to a more minimalist design with many of the functions moved to the large dash-top screen. That said, the steering wheel still has way too many buttons for my liking or need.
Telling the grades apart may not be obvious at first, but the ST-Line car is recognisable thanks to the blacked-out grille, more aggressive bumper treatment with its air-blade style design around the fog lights, and its twin exhaust. The car itself sits 10mm lower on sport suspension.
You can pick a Titanium from the inside by its leather-accented seats, multi-colour ambient lighting and the B&O sound system speakers.
The ST-Line’s seats are upholstered in a mesh-fibre material with leather accents and red-stitching, and there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel and metallic brake and accelerator pedals. The wagon version of the Focus only comes in the ST-Line grade, and it comes with roof rails and a cargo cover.
The Active grade is the most recognisable of the Focus family due its higher-riding stance and its plastic wheel-arch cladding. The Active suspension has it sitting 35mm higher than a Trend grade, and while that doesn’t seem like much, the overall affect is quite dramatic, giving the Active a true SUV-like appearance.
There are nine colours to choose from, including Ruby Red, Orange Glow, Desert Island Blue, Blue Metallic, Shadow Black, Magnetic, Moondust Silver, Metropolis White and Frozen White.
At 4378mm end to end, the Focus hatch is 18mm longer than the previous model, while at 1454mm tall it's 13mm shorter, and it's 1979mm wide including the wing mirrors.
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 new Focus is longer by about 18mm, but it’s the wheelbase which has increased the most dramatically (by 52mm) and that means more space inside.
I’m 191cm tall and I can just sit behind my driving position without my knees touching the seatback – I wasn’t able to do that in the previous Focus. Headroom is also great for me in the backseat.
The entire cabin feels roomy, actually. For this new model the dashboard was moved 100mm further forward, opening up more space in the cockpit. Even the gear shifter being a rotary dial has freed up room.
Storage throughout is pretty good, with a deep centre console bin covered by the armrest and a hidey-hole in front of the shifter, plus two cup holders and big bottle holders in the doors up front. The door pockets in the back are big, too, but there are no cupholders in the second row.
Boot space is for the hatch is 341 litres packed to the cargo cover with a space saver spare, while the wagon’s cargo capacity is 575 litres. With the back row down, the hatch can fit 1320 litres and the wagon can do 1620 litres.
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
Ford has priced its new Focus competitively compared to rivals like the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Mazda 3, but its most affordable grade does kick off at a slightly higher level than the entry-level cars for those other brands.
That start point for the Focus hatch range is the Trend grade, with a list price of $25,990. Above it is the ST-Line, which is a sporty spec, for $28,990. And at the top of the hatch range is the $34,490 Titanium. There’s also a wagon version of the Focus in the ST-Line grade for $30,990.
But wait, there’s more. Ford is offering an SUV-style version of the Focus for the first time. It's called the Focus Active, and it'll cost $29,990. We’ll cover the physical differences between it and the rest of range in the Design section below.
Coming standard on the Trend is an eight-inch display screen with sat nav, Ford’s Sync3 voice activated media system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, a six-speaker stereo, a Wi-Fi hot spot, single-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a rotary-style gear shifter, LED running lights, paddle shifters, halogen headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The mid-spec ST-Line takes the Trend’s features and adds dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, floor mats, puddle lamps, privacy glass and 17-inch alloys wheels. There’s also the sports suspension, which we’ll cover in the Driving and Engine sections.
The top-of-the-range Titanium brings a B&O 10-speaker sound system, heated front seats, leather accented upholstery, roof rails and LED headlights.
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
The new Focus has been given a new engine! It’s a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol, but don’t let that put you off - it makes as much grunt as the four cylinder in the old Focus. Actually, at 134kW, it makes 2kW more power and the same amount of torque (240Nm). Cylinder-deactivation allows the engine to run on two when not under much load, which is even more frugal.
The old six-speed auto has been replaced with an eight-speed automatic – it’s not a dual-clutch, it’s a traditional torque-converter auto. The Focus doesn’t offer a manual gearbox, and is front-wheel drive.
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.
According to Ford, the three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine in the Focus will use 6.4L/100km of fuel after a combination of urban and open-road driving. My mileage in the Trend grade, according to the car’s trip computer, was 9.4L/100km after 487.9km of country roads.
Not all of those kilometres were mine, mind, but that was the average after four different drivers had been behind the wheel.
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.
The Active and Titanium grades weren’t available to drive at the Australian launch of the Focus, but I did get to drive the ST-Line in hatch and wagon form, as well as the Trend hatch.
The ST-Line hatch is the sporty one in the Focus range, even though it has the same 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the Trend (and the Titanium). What makes it sporty is its sports suspension. Does it work? Absolutely, although I didn’t realise just how well until I drove the Trend hatch after steering its ST-Line brother for a few hours first.
Three-cylinder engines tend to have a satisfying little burble to their exhaust notes, but the ST-Line hatch I started in had a particularly deep growl to it at idle. While the ST-Line does have a dual exhaust, the engine output is the same as any other Focus, and so the gravelly voice is more theatrics than suggesting the car is any more potent than a Trend.
What the ST-Line does do without any drama is handle well, because even though it has a torsion bar set-up in the rear (like the Trend), it also has a lowered ride height and a sports suspension tune. It’s not Focus ST-level of agility by any means, but the ST-Line hatch felt nicely pinned down in the bends, with excellent steering feel and accuracy ensuring it is a genuinely fun car to drive.
What I didn’t know until I drove the Trend hatch is that the firmer sports suspension actually gives a more comfortable ride in the ST-Line than the base-grade car. The Trend, like the Titanium, has softer suspension, which you’d think would offer the best ride, but I found that over the bumps and bruises of country roads, the Trend’s ride was comfortable but bit bouncy, while the ST-Line was more composed and meant the occupants weren’t jiggled around as much.
The award for the most comfortable ride and best handling of the three cars I drove goes to the ST-Line wagon with its sports-tuned multi-link rear suspension. Yup, the cargo hauler of the range was also the best to drive from a comfort and fun perspective, with its compliant suspension keeping life civilised inside the cabin over bumps, while also feeling planted in the switchback and hairpins that cut through country Victoria.
Shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic (you can’t get a manual), but it’s super keen to shift to a higher gear as early as possible, and when sitting at about 100km/h on a motorway, it was indecisive about which gear it wanted to be in; go 104km/h and it shifted up, drop to 97km/h and it shifted down. Up, down, up, down, up... well, you get the idea.
When it came time to drive roads which went all bendy, the transmission still tried to take the fun out by shifting up and bogging the car down in lower revs. The solution was to leave the car in Sport mode, which instructs the gearbox to cling to lower gears for longer. I kept the Trend and ST-Lines in Sport mode most of the time I drove them – it didn’t affect the ride (the cars suspension isn’t adaptive), but the throttle response and shifting was perfect for all driving, whether I was flinging through the winding country roads or trundling through town centres.
All three – the Trend hatch, ST-Line Hatch and ST-Line wagon - performed well, with the ST-Line duo feeling like they were approaching or even matching Volkswagen Golf levels of agility and composure.
At no point did I feel that the three-cylinder was under powered - it’s a surprisingly responsive and grunty engine.
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 Focus scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2018. Standard across the range are seven airbags, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and lane keeping assistance and traffic sign recognition - the latter of which can read speed limits for you.
The Titanium comes standard with a lane-centre system, which I tested and found it works seriously well – drift out of your lane and the system rapidly yanks you back in again. Only the Titanium comes with blind spot warning, which is odd considering the impressive advanced safety tech that’s already standard across the range
Auto parking is optional only on the Titanium, and can be used for parallel or perpendicular parking. Also standard on all is a 180-degree split-view camera, but front parking sensors are only available to option on the Titanium – again, that’s a bit odd.
A space-saver spare is found under the boot floor for all grades. For child seats, you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts in the second row.
The new-generation Focus was developed in Europe and built in Germany.
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 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.