The Legend is Back
Back at the start of 2000s, a Czech automobile manufacturer ventured into the Indian market. At the time, the company targeted the premium sector. You guessed it, the Skoda Octavia was a runaway success in the Indian market from its launch in 2001. Back then, the ease of drivability, the comfort and robust build not to forget the high fuel efficiency offered for a great price made the Octavia an instant hit. Now, 12 years after it’s first impression on the Indian auto customers, Skoda has brought the Octavia moniker back to India. We get our hands on it and share our first-hand experience.
The car looks stunning. It has a presence. The butterfly grille with the new Skoda badge along with the new headlamps adds a different appeal to the front end. The robust wheel arches and shoulder lines makes for a beefy appearance something very similar to the previous generation Audi A4.
On the rear the car comes with the stereotypical Skoda C-shaped tail lamps. Škoda has kept it very simple at the rear, keeping the similarity with their current small sedan, the Rapid. One aspect that is striking is that there is no badging on the rear that indicates the engine variant (petrol or diesel) being driven. This allows for a lot of anonymity and standardization. It’s just the simple “Skoda” and “Octavia” in chrome on the trunk.
The daytime running lamps are only available on the top end, “Elegance” model whereas the mid- “Ambition” model gets yellow halogen DRLs and the “Active” variant does not get any. The sunroof option is available on the “Elegance” variant only. All three variants come with 16-inch alloy wheels. The Active gets a 5-spoke rim whereas the Ambition and Elegance variants both come equipped with a 10-spoke rim.
The wheelbase has been made longer by about 8cm and the haunch of the car has been raised allowing for more headroom in the rear and a whopping 590-litre boot capacity. With the rear seats folded down the capacity of the trunk increased to 1590 litre. That is more than enough space required to fit anything at all.
Škoda has kept the interiors simple, exclusive and luxurious. There is ample knee and headroom in the rear but the seat does feel a little too upright. The leather used has an exquisite feel to it and is clean and soft.
The light colour of the leather makes the cabin look roomier and compliments the dark instrument cluster and the dark steering wheel and trim. The top end variants all come with a 12-way electrical seat adjustment with a memory setting for 3 drivers. A similar system is seen in the Skoda Superb. The passenger seat has a manual seat adjuster.
The mid and top variants get a 5.8inch LCD touchscreen audio player with a multifunctional steering wheel that can be connected via Bluetooth, USB or Aux.
The “Bolero” system not only plays music and helps you answer your phone but it also has a whole data tracking system built into it to keep you updated with the vehicle dynamics such as mileage, drive duration, fuel consumption, tire pressure and time till the next service.
The electronic stability control can be turned on and off from this system as well. Most of this information can be seen on the dashboard display between the dials as well and can be controlled by the multifunctional steering wheel keeping the driver in control and aware.
The dual zone A/C Climate control system allows the driver and the passenger to set their surrounding air temperatures to their personal liking. Škoda has also added a rear vent for the passengers sitting in the back.
There are multiple stowaway areas in the car that allows for a good storage capacity in the cabin. Boot access from inside the cabin is also available by folding the rear armrest down. The door handles have a very sleek and elite finish. The metal lever is easy to hold and opens with a pop that feels genuine.
Engine and Transmission:
Skoda has provided the Octavia with 3 mill options, 1 oil burner and 2 petrol mills. The diesel is a reworked engine seen on many cars in the VW group, the 2.0-litre, 4cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 140bhp and 320Nm of torque. The diesel engine comes mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed DSG automatic. We didn’t get time with the automatic but the manual is car is fun to drive. The engine has very minimal turbo lag and with the foot down on the gas pedal the tachometer needle moves freely to the 5000rpm mark. That is quite commendable for a diesel motor. After about 2000-2500rpm the diesel drone in the cabin from the engine is pretty high and can get slightly annoying. The large amount of torque produced by the engine makes it easy to climb up slopes but low rpm drivability in 3rd gear is close to naught. Second gear on a hilly road full of sharp turns and twists makes it feel as if you are driving an automatic.
The petrol mills that Skoda has provided are the 1.4 TSI and a brand new 1.8 TSI. The 1.4 TSI is also found in the VW Jetta, but here it is bumped up to put out 138bhp and comes mated to a six-speed manual box only. The car that is the most fun to drive is the 1.8 TSI. Skoda says the engine is a brand new development on the 888. This petrol mill comes mated to a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. It produces 179bhp and 250Nm of torque. This car is an absolute blast to drive. The engine pulls from anywhere in the rpm range all the way to the red zone. In the first and second gears the car gives you all the confidence needed in flooring the throttle and controlling the vehicle. The multilink suspension does a great job in preventing the car from getting shaky or buckling down, under pressure of hard cornering.
The transmission in “S” mode shifts cleanly and smoothly but doesn’t always down shift at the desired time when coming into a corner. In manual mode the tiptronic gearbox responds very well and on downshifting it even revs the engine a little bit allowing for a wonderful sound when slowing down. A feature that was truly missed was the paddle shifters. The 1.8 TSI would have been much easer to drive in racer boy style.
The new Octavia is extremely easy to drive. The steering feel is light and has a good response though it is an electric system instead of a mechanical one. The feedback is very minimal but that makes for a good urban ride and drive. The ride is plush that allows the passenger in the rear to sit easily without feeling every single bump or pothole on the road.
The main difference in suspension is noticed when you move from the diesel that has a torsion bar in the rear to the independent multi link suspension found in the 1.8 TSI. The independent suspension in the rear gives the car a very tight feeling and a lot more feed from the rear end. Body roll is very little and chucking the steering wheel into a sudden corner doesn’t jerk the passengers around too much.
The Octavia eats up corners but the A-pillar does seem to get in the way a little bit while looking ahead. Skoda claims that the 2.0-litre diesel gives a mileage of 20km/l; on the curvy roads in Shimla we got a good mileage of 14.5km/l. The mileage in the 1.8 TSI went for a toss as we ended up having more fun driving this car around the bends than concentrating on the mileage.
Skoda made a mark in the Indian Automobile market with the 1st generation Octavia. Since then their products have been reliable but their post purchase service is not something they like to talk about. Now they say that they Indian team is working on giving the customer a better experience post the purchase of a new car. They are revamping their service strategy and we hope that this will help the existing and future customers.
As for the Octavia, the car is a pleasure to drive and extremely comfortable. The new look is subtle yet exquisite. The interiors are spacious and luxurious. The mid-variant diesel, the Ambition, gets nearly all the bells and whistles except for the LED DRLs, electric driver’s seat, sunroof and automatic transmission, but that doesn’t matter. Everything this else remains the same.
When the Octavia was launched back in 2001 it was a game changer, Skoda says that they car will possibly be priced above it’s competition, the VW Jetta. Let’s see where they actually place it. Overall the new Octavia is a wonderful car to have as a city driver and a long distance tourer, now its just a waiting game for the price. We are expecting it to start from about 11 lakhs and go up to 20 lakhs ex-showroom Mumbai price.