One guide to choosing a good car is looking at what police, ambulance and taxi companies use because they are on the road 24/7 and one of the most prolific of vehicles you’ll see is the Skoda Octavia Estate.
Without being wincingly expensive to buy and run they fulfil their roles and deliver mile after mile, year after year. For me that’s a good advertisement and testament to the Octavia Estate.
Now in its fourth generation on sale, the familiar shape of the estate and stablemate hatch hide an evolution in powertrains, interior design and specification.
There is a big range of petrol and diesel engines and still more versions, including a vRS, are due to arrive in showrooms once the factories can return to a more usual production system while coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
Our test estate was the immensely popular 2.0 litre 150ps turbo-diesel with seven-speed sequential automatic transmission and it’s a truly awesome combination of power and precision.
Not quiet when first started it eases on the ears as it warms and it packs a punch when accelerating, will swiftly dispatch slower vehicles on country and main roads and really does cruise with utter composure on motorways.
What’s more remarkable is that during our test we never went below 52mpg and even saw 64mpg average on some journeys. You can see why taxi firms love it and the emergency services value its mile-gobbling character.
The smoothness of the warmed engine, its effortless power delivery and matched with the simple and creamy automatic gearbox make any journey a pleasure. The gear selector couldn’t be simpler with forward or back at the flick of a wrist, sporting manual mode is through column paddle shifts and the push-button park setting securely locks the drive. An electronic parking button held it on our regular test slope and it eased off as the throttle depressed.
The Octavia Estate’s brakes were strong and gave good feedback, the steering twitched a bit with the lane warning system engaged but it did turn quickly and in town was easy to manoeuvre into parking spaces.
The car gripped well with a very slight tendency to run wide on longer curves but there was little body roll and for an estate it actually rode well even lightly laden, which is always a moot point with this class of car. Load it up and the suspension coped just as well.
In the boot you have more room than the previous generation, a knee-high floor with flat surface, wide and long and some useful compartments to the sides and underneath as well as bag hooks and quick release levers to drop the rear seatbacks. It all smacks of being extremely well thought out and is immensely practical day to day and I liked the fact the test model had a full size spare tyre
Drop those back seats and the boot capacity effectively triples and looking inside the cabin you can see lots of oddments spaces throughout.
Access to the interior is also easy with wide opening doors, low sill and there’s plenty of room for four big people, five with a squeeze in the back but the seats are well shaped too and support under the legs and around the back and the front two have height adjustment as well as reach and rake. This combined with the fully adjustable steering column allow any size of driver to become comfortable.
Controls fell immediately to hand and foot, were well marked and operated with a satisfying firmness. The new Octavia gets the latest selectable instruments display so several different functions can be rotated and importance given to particular features a driver wishes to use. It’s a lot to take in and sometimes distracting but it’s very clear and comprehensive.
The driver’s display is matched by a big centre screen for most infotainment and climate functions, navigation and communications etc and it also can be distracting to use as you go through screens but it was clear to read.
The air conditioned climate control worked extremely well to select, disperse and maintain chosen output and temperature and was even voice controlled.
The Octavia has been slightly enlarged inside with the new generation and it also gives excellent visibility with low windows, very strong lights, big wipers and powerful wash both ends.
The roominess, comfort, sophistication and refinement give the car an executive quality and while it's not cheap, it's good value for what it is and does deliver.
Performance is highly respectable on the road, the economy really stands out and it has a feeling of being well made even if the plastic trim panels inside are a bit of a let-down.
At the price it is, the new Skoda Octavia Estate is hard to better because it ticks so many boxes and there’s nothing to really dislike.
Mini Milestones: Skoda Octavia SE L First Edition Estate Price: £32,120 (Inc options) Mechanical: 150ps 4cyl 2.0L turbo-diesel, 7sp Auto Max Speed: 137mph 0-62mph: 8.8sec Combined MPG: 64mpg Insurance Group: 16 C02 emissions: 136g/km Bik rating: 36%, £540FY, £150SR Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles Size: L4.69m, W1.95m, H1.47m Boot space: 590-1,700 litres For: Roomy, very comfortable, highly economical, thoroughly practical, well made, with excellent powertrain Against: Some irritating trim details, rough engine at start-up, distracting touch-screen infotainment unit.Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency