Skoda Octavia VS Mazda3
- Good value
- Nice to drive
- Sport by name and nature
- Option packs abound
- Uglier than predecessor
- Materials a little cheap
- Brilliant, integrated tech
- No compromise to refinement
- Benefits might be too subtle to justify price premium
- Aus set to get less effective Euro-spec
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|
We all know that X means buried treasure in the world of children’s book pirates, but it’s looking like it could hold similar relevance for what lies under the bonnet of future Mazdas.
We first officially heard about Mazda’s industry-leading Skyactiv-X technology at the brand’s Global Tech Forum in Germany two years ago, but now we’ve ventured back to Germany to drive it in production form ahead of its Australian arrival aboard a new flagship version of the Mazda3 early next year.
No other manufacturer has managed to productionise compression ignition for a petrol engine, and with an underlying intention to make the combustion engine work better for everyday driving, in the face of the electric-focus of all other global brands, this could be the most exciting technological development of my career.
Why invest so much in combustion engines if every other major brand is beginning to treat them like yesterday’s news? While the Japanese government predicts that 52 per cent of new cars sold in 2030 will use some form of electrification in their drivetrain, the same data suggests 90 per cent will still use an internal combustion engine as at least an element of their drivetrain. That’s 90 per cent of the market, more than a decade from now.
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.
Unlike most big technological advancements, this isn’t about extra performance or reinventing the wheel, it’s about Mazda’s bigger picture approach to deliver the best mobility solutions for right now, while still planning for electric and fuel cell vehicles in the future.
That may sound like a line straight out of the Skyactiv-X press release, but Mazda’s realistic approach to our continued dependence on combustion engines is commendable.
My final judgement will have to wait until we know how much more it will cost over a regular Mazda3, but I can say the technology works really well and should really suit Australian conditions.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
Aside from the stunning good looks of the new Mazda3, the only visual distinctions the Skyactiv-X version scores over a regular high-sec model are bigger exhaust tips like those seen on the latest version of the Mazda6, and a Skyactiv-X badge in place of the regular models’ Skyactiv-G.
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
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.
This is probably the biggest question mark above the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X’s head for now, with all we know being Mazda Australia’s plan to launch it as a new top-spec version, so sit above the existing $36,990 G25 Astina flagship.
How far above will be the clincher, and given it’s not likely to quite match the performance of the G25, it will depend on what value you place on outright driveability and a marginal fuel saving over the base 2.0-litre engine.
Engine & trans
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.
What’s compression ignition again? It’s basically how a diesel engine works, by using extreme pressure instead of spark plugs to burn fuel. Skyactiv-X still uses spark plugs, but only to kick off the ignition process and act as a safety net for cold starts and other edge cases, while extreme compression makes for much more effective combustion, which means improved efficiency.
This combustion efficiency means the engine can use a much leaner fuel-to-air mixture, and make more power and torque with less fuel and even less wasted fuel out the exhaust. Mazda describes it as delivering diesel-like torque and fuel consumption, with the power, responsiveness and refinement of a petrol. Or in other words, one step away from turning water into wine...
Mazda is calling the process Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), and the extreme pressures required to make it all happen are created by higher static compression ratio (but less than a typical diesel), much higher fuel pressure and boosted air pressure entering the combustion chamber.
Key to managing all these heightened parameters (and the very technological advancement that makes it all possible) is an ultra sensitive in-cylinder pressure sensor that has been developed specifically for this task.
Delivering the boosted air pressure is a Roots-type supercharger - or what Mazda describes as a high-response air supply - which was chosen over other air pump designs like a turbocharger or the Miller-cycle supercharger previously used in Eunos models because of its instantaneous boost delivery and breadth of efficiency.
Speaking of breadth of efficiency, perhaps the biggest plus for average motorists is that the engine’s efficiency zone has multiplied, meaning the difference between city and highway consumption, leadfoot drivers and my Dad, heavy and empty loads etc will be far less than a typical petrol engine.
This all represents a continuation of core principles we’ve seen from the start of Mazda’s Skyactiv era. That is, to make an existing engine type work better under everyday driving conditions rather than targeting outright performance.
The Skyactiv-X era starts with a 2.0-litre based on the regular Skyactiv-G engine, with the same 1998cc capacity. Other capacities are planned, with the eventual reborn rotary looking increasingly Skyactiv-X along with a straight-six version for a new CX-9 in a couple of years. Smaller versions are unlikely due to the economies of scale involved with such technology in a smaller and therefore cheaper car.
Mazda is making two versions of the Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre for now, one with 16.3:1 compression designed for Europe that favours Premium unleaded petrol, and one 15:1 version aimed at the US with their abundance of lower grade unleaded.
Unlike conventional engines, it’s the lower compression version that will deliver the biggest benefits, because Skyactiv-X relies on the usually “bad thing” pinging to do its best.
We’re set to get the Euro-spec one in Australia, which unfortunately means we won’t quite be getting the very best Skyactiv tech again.
The Euro-spec engine puts out 132kW at 6000rpm and 224Nm from just 3000rpm, which on paper sounds about halfway between the existing Skyactiv-G 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engines.
The engine also incorporates a mild hybrid system, but don't be confused by the H-word, there's no electric drive element. It simply means its got a cleaver alternator that only engages when needed and on deceleration to reduce efficiency-sapping drivetrain friction,
Pop the bonnet and you’re confronted by the biggest engine cover you’ve ever seen, but unlike most, this one is equipped with labeled latches that encourage you to have a look underneath. This encouragement continues with a clever little retention hook to hold the cover up against the bonnet while you’re poking around.
Unless you’re a Mazda engineer you’re likely to be baffled by the array of hoses, ducts and wiring, but you might get a kick out of spotting the supercharger.
There’s less to be said for the transmissions though, with versions of the existing six speed manual and torque converter automatics deemed up to the task, with the new engine’s increased efficiency zone negating any increase to the ratio count. The ratios have been adjusted to suit the new output characteristics, and while the ratios are yet to be published, there’s a narrower spread across the six with what feels to be taller first and sixth gears.
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.
All this hooha about fuel savings, and Mazda is yet to confirm an actual figure for Australia. We do know the hatch is rated at 4.5L/100km in manual and 5.3L/100km in auto according to the NEDC, which is historically close to the figures generated by the ADR 81/02 test we go by in Australia.
If it comes close to matching the NEDC figure it will be a win, sitting comfortably under the 6.4L/100km (manual) and 6.2L/100km (auto) figures currently applied to the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre Mazda3 hatch.
While the Australian-spec Skyactiv-X engine is expected to align with Europe rather than the US, and therefore be tuned to deal with Premium 95 RON unleaded, it’s still unclear if it will accept the cheaper Regular 91 RON unleaded.
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.
What’s probably most amazing about Skyactiv-X is that you can’t really tell there’s anything special going on under the bonnet.
Push the start button and it gets going like any other petrol Mazda, although perhaps quieter.
Move off from rest and there’s no significant difference to the way it feels.
When I drove the prototype version of this drivetrain, there was a slight pinging under light throttle as it transitioned from spark to compression ignition, but I’m pleased to confirm that the extra two years of calibration has tuned this down to the tiniest occasional diesel sound, and it all feels a bit like a smooth diesel that’s more responsive than you expect.
The European-spec Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre’s outputs suggest it should be closer to the existing 2.5-litre in terms of performance, but in reality it feels closer to the 2.0 litre.
My perception is likely to be clouded by the Skyactiv-X’s specific transmission gearing, but it could also be because it’s able to do the same job with less revs and therefore not sound like it’s working so hard.
First gear feels quite tall with either transmission, and we also found the auto and manual were only sitting on 3500rpm in sixth at 160km/h on the Autobahn.
Mazda doesn’t specify performance figures, so it would be handy to put all three alongside each other from a standing start. But then, that’s not what Skyactiv-X is all about, it’s more about performing better under light throttle and incidental bursts of acceleration.
We can’t wait to put it to the test over some hilly terrain and familiar territory when it hits Australia early next year.
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 existing Mazda3’s maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating will almost certainly be carried over, and the high level of safety gear fitted to the existing G25 Astina is also likely to be matched.
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.
Service pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but Mazda engine development boss Eiji Nakai assures CarsGuide that the new engine will not need servicing more frequently or cost any more to service than existing Skyactiv-G engines.
So expect the same 12month/10,000km intervals, with five year/50,000km capped servicing plan totalling just under $2000 over that period.
Like all new Mazdas, the recently upgraded five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty will apply to the 3 Skyactiv-X.