Skoda Octavia EstateOut of the four volume brands within the Volkswagen Group in the UK, Skoda for the first nine months of this year has shown the largest growth in sales.

These are up by 19.4% compared to the premium Audi brand which has grown its sales by 12.7%, SEAT sales are up by 16.5% and Volkswagen by just 5.3%. Overall the UK’s new car market has shown 19 months of consecutive growth, this year so far by 10.7% to almost 1.8 million registrations.

A rash of new models from all four brands has served them well in the new cars sales league, especially Skoda which is heading for another record year with almost 50,000 registrations so far this year. However that total is only a third of VW UK sales and half of Audis, more than SEAT but Skoda’s increase in sales is the highest in percentage terms.

One of their big performers, in size and numbers, is the new third generation Octavia range comprising of C/D sized five door hatchbacks and five door estates. These models in terms of size can compete against the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia in the D segment and yet compete for price against smaller C-segment ranges such as the Ford Focus and VW Golf.

Skoda Octavia EstateLast year the second generation Octavia range sold nearly 17,000 units in the UK, the hatch being slightly the largest seller. This year with the recent introduction of the new range, sales up until the end of August were nearly 8,000 units with an equal split between hatch and estate versions.

The new Octavia hatchbacks are priced from £15,990 and rise to £24,650 for the top vRS diesel auto. The five door estates start at £16,790 and rise to £25,325 for the diesel/auto vRS version. Both line-ups have S, SE, Elegance and vRS levels of specification. Engines for mainstream models, depending on the spec chosen are 1.2 TSI 105hp and 1.4 TSI 140hp petrol and 1.6 TDI 105hp and 2.0 TDI 150hp turbodiesels, all with manual and auto gearbox options. There is even a 4x4 estate version with the 1.6 TDI engine but only with SE specification. The sporting vRS models for both body styles have a choice of two engines, both 2.0-litre units, the 220hp TSI petrol and 184hp TDI turbodiesel. Again both units are available with manual and auto gearbox options.

The main selling version for both hatchback and estate models is the 1.6 TDI 105hp manual SE with the hatchback costing £19,240 and the estate just £800 more at £20,040. These are less than the new VW Golf estate which for the same 1.6 TDI 105hp SE version is priced at £21,475. The Octavias are roomier for passengers as well and have a far larger boot/load space despite the fact that both the new Golf and new Octavia models use versions of the same latest Volkswagen MQB platform. The Octavia estate has 610-litres of boot space with all five seats in position, with the rear three folded this goes up to an enormous 1,740. The Golf estate is 605 and 1,620-litres.

Skoda Octavia EstateI have just had a longer driving spell with the Octavia estate in its best selling 1.6-litre 105hp SE form. This model will appeal to company car drivers because of its low Benefit-in-Kind tax rate as the 105hp turbodiesel engine emits only 99g/km of CO2 emissions so the rate is just 14%, really low for such a large load-lugger. Both retail and business customers will also appreciate the £0 cost VED road tax cost – a bargain at this size of estate. Officially this engine allows the estate to return 74.3mpg in the Combined Cycle. In reality of course the real-life figure was lower at 56.5mpg for a mixture of motorway driving in the ‘Eco’ mode and Normal mode for A/B open roads and urban trips. Part of the SE specification is the Driving Mode Selection function, as it is on Golfs, where the driver can select Normal, Eco, Sport and Individual levels of engine response.

Some other items of note within the SE specification are 16-inch alloy wheels, touchscreen infotainment system, side, front, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, dual zone air conditioning, electric front and rear windows, electric door mirrors. height adjustable driver and front passenger seats, hill hold control, stability and traction controls, stop/start engine system, rear parking sensors and front fog lights. There is of course an array of extra cost options to choose from, the most notable and useful being the satellite navigation system at £550. Unfortunately a set of front and rear floor mats is considered an option so that will add £50 to the price as will £75 for the temporary spare wheel and the must-have variable height boot floor costs £150.

It is the only really annoying feature of the Octavia estate, other than paying for mats and a spare wheel, that use of the huge boot space is compromised, except for the top level Elegance versions, by having a load floor lower than the rear sill. This makes loading difficult especially if the rear seats are folded and long heavy items needed to be loaded or unloaded. It’s nonsense to be like this so why should customers be forced to pay more for a variable height floor? Another slight niggle is that the rear seat backs do not fold down completely flat so it ends up with a sloping load bed section behind the front seats.

Skoda Octavia EstateSkoda Octavia EstateInside the passenger compartment the Octavia is very like an Audi A4, same sort of styling layout, soft-feel plastic trim, chrome inserts, the controls are just where you want them and easy to use. The driving position is great and comfortable. The rear seat passengers will enjoy the extra legroom from the extended wheelbase, at least the outer two passengers will; the centre position legroom is restricted because of the long centre console which extends rearward from between the front seats.

The fuel frugal 1.6-litre, 104bhp turbodiesel wins lots of praise for its excellent fuel economy and low emissions. Even with 184lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm it can feel a bit weak for response at low-revs, a bit of the legacy of using only a 5-speed manual gearbox where the ratios are wide spread. Although it isn’t sporty at low speed the power delivery is progressive so the Octavia is easy to drive around town but then improves in terms of acceleration in the mid to higher range and it will cruise very easily and quietly at motorway speeds, even fully loaded. Top speed is 119mph, zero to 62mph takes 11.0 seconds and with 56.5mpg, as my test drive average, that looks like a set of impressive figures.

Skoda Octavia EstateRide comfort is generally good although the rear suspension coped less well than the Golf Estate with rough surfaces and the noise of bumps and bangs from the rear suspension hitting potholes was transmitted into the cabin via the boot space. Perhaps more insulation would solve that issue. Otherwise the handling was like the rest of the estate, easy to live with. It is certainly easy on the pocket to run.

MILESTONES: Skoda Octavia Estate 1.6 TDI 105HP SE manual. (Best selling model) Price:£20,040. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection, turbodiesel, 104bhp, 184lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm, 5-speed manual, Performance: 119mph, 0-62mph 11.0- seconds, 74.3mpg Combined Cycle ((56.5mpg on test), CO2 99g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 14%. Insurance group: 14. Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,659, W 1,814mm, H 1,465mm, boot/load space 610 to 1,740-litres, braked towing weight 1,500kg. For: Huge interior passenger and load space, competitive price, low taxes and running costs, classy interior, nice to drive. Against: Noise intrusion from the rear suspension, unsettled ride over poorer road surfaces, only the top spec model gets a boot floor level with the rear sill, some extra cost options such as the floor mates and spare wheel should be standard. Miles Better News Agency

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