This is the new 2017 Skoda Octavia. No really, it is. Clearly taking the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach, Skoda has unveiled a selection of enhancements that aren’t quite needle in a haystack territory, but you may need to dig out a magnifying glass to spot them.
You can hardly blame Skoda for not wanting to mess with a winning product. The Octavia is the company’s cash cow – what Skoda calls “the heart of the brand.” Over five million Octavias have rolled off the production line since it was launched in 1996, with 430,000 units sold in 2015 alone. To put this into context, that represents around 40% of all Skoda sales.
Big figures, especially in a world increasingly obsessed with crossovers and SUVs. Skoda will want to continue milking this particular cow, as the popular Yeti is now seven years old and the seven-seat Kodiaq won’t arrive in the UK until 2017. So what you can expect from your not-that-new Octavia?
Somebody Snapchat Rihanna: you no longer need a Superb
Pop tartlet Rihanna has a thing for umbrellas, but until now Skoda could only feed her brolly habit with the luxury Superb. But the big news — especially if you’re Rihanna or happen to live in Britain — is that the Octavia now comes with an umbrella of its own.
It’s thanks to a new compartment sitting below the passenger seat, which opens to reveal a small umbrella. It’s what Skoda calls one of its ‘simply clever’ features and it’s now available across the entire range, with exception being the ageing Yeti. Skoda has yet to reveal the price of said brolly, but how much would you pay?
Perhaps we’ll ask you that question the next time you’re faced with the prospect of a downpour when exiting your generic five-door hatchback.
Wait, so the umbrella is the biggest news?
Not exactly, but it says something about the British psyche that we spent more time discussing the finer merits of the umbrella than we did the new engine. That’s right, the Skoda Octavia now boasts a new entry level engine: a turbocharged 1.0-litre unit, replacing the old 1.2 TSI.
It’s the first time a three-cylinder engine has powered an Octavia and it pits the practical Skoda against the Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost. It’s cleaner, more economical and more powerful than the unit it replaces, but Skoda is charging a mere £145 premium over the equivalent prices of the 1.2 TSI.
The engine itself weighs a mere 78kg, contributing to an overall kerb weight of just 1,225kg for the hatchback. Other important figures include a claimed 62.8mpg; 103g/km CO2; 115hp at 5,500rpm; 148lb ft torque at 2,000rpm-3,500rpm; 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds; plus a 126mph top speed. So now you’re in the know.
Thrum roll: what’s the engine like?
Unsurprisingly, the familiar three-cylinder thrum is evident from the moment you pull away, with a small amount of vibration transmitted through the pedals and gearstick. In fairness, Skoda has done a good job of insulating the cabin from the joys/pains (delete as applicable) of a three-cylinder engine and it settles down nicely when cruising.
You need to press on to get the best from the engine — at which point it starts to sound a bit harsh — but for steady progress the 1.0-litre unit is more than up to the task of hauling the Octavia. It’s an unlikely marriage, but it works. And with prices starting at £16,660 for the Octavia S with a manual gearbox, it’s also terrific value for money.
By comparison, an entry-level Octavia S 1.6 TDI costs £18,575, meaning the 1.0 TSI saves you the best part of £2,000 and leaves you free from the clouds gathering over diesel engines.
We should point out that our time behind the wheel was rather limited, but in town the Octavia 1.0 TSI delivered a decent turn of pace and was more than comfortable at motorway speeds. The six-speed gearbox certainly helps, while a seven-speed DSG transmission is also available for a £1,250 premium.
Run DCC: walk this way
Order a new Octavia 1.0 TSI and you won’t be able to take advantage of the new Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC). First seen on the Superb, the system — available as a £850 option on models with 150hp or more — allows drivers to cycle through a number of different driving modes.
Put simply: you can opt for Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport or Individual, depending on your mood or the state of the road. Ideal if you live in Bruges. Or along any British street. The system adjusts the suspension and steering accordingly. Sport mode won’t turn your diesel-powered Octavia hatch into a dynamic legend, but the adjustment is welcomed.
Octavia vRS owners are likely to find the most benefit, especially if riding on the optional 19-inch rims, as the Comfort setting might make help to create a more rounded car. Even vRS drivers aren’t ‘on it’ all of the time.
Crucially, the DCC is intelligent enough to switch automatically from Comfort to Sport mode, should it detect a hazardous situation. Skoda claims Sport mode provides greater stability, more grip and shorter braking distances. On the face of it, £850 could be money well spent.
So what else is new?
Skoda’s Climatronic climate control now includes an allergen filter, while cars equipped with the optional rear-view camera will find a washer jet is on hand to keep things clean. Hashtag firstworldproblems.
A £300 Phonebox option will offer wireless smartphone charging for anyone with a suitably-equipped handset, while iPad mounts can be attached to the front seats’ backrests. This is the Skoda Octavia embracing the modern world.
Not as exciting as an umbrella though, is it? Oh, so that’s just us? Right, moving on…
The final news of note is the arrival of a so-called Aero package, which, despite its name, won’t allow your Octavia to take flight. Instead, it includes active air flaps, a tailgate spoiler and low rolling resistance tyres to shave a further 1g/km off the CO2 figure.
A small but significant difference, which neatly sums up the improvements to the 2017 Skoda Octavia. Just enough to keep the Octavia on the front pages of the motoring press, giving Skoda time to perfect its new seven-seat SUV.
And you can bet your bottom koruna the Kodiaq will feature at least one umbrella. The best industry forecasts: we’ve got it covered, rain or shine.
- DCC not available on 1.0
- Three-cylinder won’t appeal to all
- 1.0 offered only on S and SE trim
2017 Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI
Price: from £16,660
Engine: 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Torque: 148lb ft
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 126mph
Fuel economy: 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 103g/km