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Road Test

 

Skoda Octavia 'Ambiente' 1.9 TDI

 

Priced from just $29,990 ($32,290 with the excellent DSG auto)!


by Ian Barrett


18th July, 2008

 

Skoda Octavia 
Location: Sydney, NSW 
Photography by Stephen Walker

My very firstencounter withSkoda wasback in the mid-70's, whena Soviet-era Renault 10-like model sold in Australia and New Zealand as the Skoda 120L. Perhaps inspired by the long-outdated Renault 8 and 10, it came with Eastern-bloc build quality, diminutive rear engine and dreaded swing axle suspension. Its main claim to fame was its low price tag, but it did offer economical (and fairly reliable) motoring. But that was before the demise of Communism in Europe. How things have changed, in so many ways, since those sad days! And not least, Skoda.

Now currentlypromoted inclever TV advertising,the first of a new wave of Czech-manufactured Skodas have landed on our shores and, they bring with themup-to-the-minutedesign and specification, courtesy of talented new owner Volkswagen. Indeed, they are earning praise as the 'more affordable' Volkswagen, both here and overseas. And not just for the overall looks, engineering and value packed features, but for being beautifully put together as well. Consistently rated within the top five marques in European customer satisfaction surveys, they're now No.2 behind a prestige brand in the UK. Now that's satisfaction!

We recently had the opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel of a SkodaOctavia and can testify that Volkswagen's decision tobring the Skoda badgeto Australia is a smart one. It certainly looksto bea winner, from a parent company which just goes from strength to strength. Our test vehicle was the entry-level Octavia 'Ambiente' fitted with the 6-speed DSG automatic transmission. In a novel pricingtwist, this least expensive Octavia comes with a diesel engine, the same 1.9-litre SOHC turbocharged version fitted to various Volkswagens.

With a modest 77 kW of power at 4,000 rpm, it promises to be no super car, but as with all modern direct-injection turbo-diesels, bucket-loads of torque help give it a surprising turn of speed. In fact, the 1.9 TDI's 250 Nm @ 1,900 rpmcompares favourably with the 200 Nm @ 3,500 rpmdevelopedby the 2.0-litre FSI petrolvariantoffered elsewhere in the Octavia (and Volkswagen) range.These figures are sufficient to achieve a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 11.8 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 189 km/h.A modest, but perfectly adequate, performer by today's standards, but at a time of hefty fuel price rises,economy should beour top priority. And here the Octavia really shines. Skoda claima miserly combined figure of 4.9L/100km for the 5-speed manual and 5.9L/100km forour automatic version. No wonder Skoda owners are happy owners!

Based on VW Golf components, the Octavia is a stylish car, very muchreminiscent ofthe Volkswagen Bora - and that is not a bad thing by any means. The trademark Skoda grillelends itquite anelegant face, though some may find the side window treatment a touch bland. But overall it's a good looking European, set off nicely with 5-spoke 16.5" x 15" alloy wheels (including the spare). And a closer view reveals a pleasant surprise. Despite being referred to as a sedan by Skoda, it's actually a hatchback! And a deceptively spacious one. Under the rear glass there's a cavernous 56-litre boot. Fold down the 60:40 split rear seat (with ski-port) and you have no less than 1,420 litres. Sleeping room for two!

Let's take a look at some of the other VW engineering beneath the skin of the Octavia. Front suspension is by struts with lower triangular links and stabiliser bar, while the rear is an independent multi-link arrangement with stabiliser.It looks like standard Golf fare and behaves accordingly. We found handling was very balanced and surefooted on all types of surfaces and ride quality was also excellent. Braking is taken care of by ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. All Octavias are fitted with a full complement ofsafety acronyms, including ESP with ABS+EBD+EBC+TCS+EDL+HBA and not forgetting DSR! Is there a dictionary in the house? Secondary safety is also a priority, with 6 airbags (front, side and curtain) standardin the Skoda Octavia.

Skoda Octavia 
Location: Sydney, NSW 
Photography by Stephen Walker

And there's plenty more on offer in the roomycabin, notwithstanding this is the'entry' model. Seating is comfy and supportive, with height and lumbar adjustment for driver and passenger, in a choice of three trim colours. Desirables, such as cruise control, active front headrests, height and reach-adjustable leather steeringwheel, 'climatronic' air-conditioning (with pollen filter), multi-function trip computer, internal headlight adjustment, front map lights, and heated side mirrors round out a surprisingly well-equipped vehicle. Remote central locking and power windows are taken for granted.

Thereis plenty of storage for drink bottles (including an integrated 1-litre bottle holder in both front doors) and other odds and ends, including a 'jumbo box' with adjustable armrest between the front seats, which also contains a 12-volt power socket and an audio dock for MP3 or iPod. The 'Ambiente' does miss out on rear centre armrest, sunglass holder, refrigerated glove box, cargo net andextra 12-volt boot socket.Also lacking, (perhaps because it's a 'sedan'?) is a rear wiper/washer. Why don't sedans ever need them?

Available options include17" alloys with sports suspension($2,690), bi-xenon headlights ($1,730), alarm system ($540), front and rear park assist ($990), electric glass sunroof ($1,730) and satellite navigation ($2,890). Metallic/pearl effect paint is an additional$690.

Skoda's Octavia 'Ambiente' sedan/hatch isan affordable European with style, respectable turbo-diesel performance and real economy. Priced from just $29,990 ($32,290 with the excellent DSG auto), plus on-road costs, it offers Volkswagen engineering in an attractive, well equippedand versatile package which is bound to win many friends 'Down-Under'. It's a combination which sawOctavia awarded the 'Best Small Family Car'two years running by a leading British automotive magazine. We can see why!



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