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Opinion: OK, Laura – make sure the new Skoda Octavia is good

New Skoda Octavia design sketch

Skoda’s new ‘Laura’ digital assistant has mastered six languages, is comfortable with natural voice and doesn’t mind being interrupted. OK, Laura, I have one request: please make sure the new Skoda Octavia is up to scratch.

The design sketches look positive, although talk of a ‘coupe-like roofline’ could rob the Octavia of its enviable USP: practicality.

Whether in hatchback or estate form, thanks to its cavernous boot, the Skoda Octavia has always delivered. Why buy a Golf when you can buy a Golf-based hatchback with a 590-litre boot? That’s more than the BMW 3 Series Touring, Audi A4 Avant or Volvo V60.

Opt for the Octavia estate and you have access to 610 litres with the rear seats up and 1,740 litres with them folded away.

All creatures great and small

Skoda Octavia paramedic

Little wonder the wagon has become de rigueur for those who put common sense above fashion. Paramedics, rural vets, the St John Ambulance, police forces and fire and rescue services are just some of the groups and organisations that have come to rely on the Octavia.

Only last week, we had to call the vet to deal with an animal emergency at home. He arrived at 1am, in a previous-generation Octavia estate plastered in mud and loaded to the rafters with veterinary equipment. The car just gets on with it – no fuss, no glamour, no bother.

That’s the Octavia way. Even the performance vRS has understated and under-the-radar appeal. Before the arrival of my first child, when it was time to ditch the Vauxhall VX220 in favour of something with more seats, I chose a nearly-new Mk1 Octavia vRS. My son was driven home from the hospital in it – I’ve never driven with more care and attention.

It was a terrific car, with the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine providing plenty of poke, plus boot able to cope with all the paraphernalia that comes with parenthood. I can’t remember why I sold it, but it was almost certainly for something less practical and less sensible.

The Octavia is one of those rare cars I’m happy to recommend to friends and family. It’s a dangerous game – giving advice is a risky business. What if your recommendation leads to an expensive mistake? You’d be better off giving a tip for the 2:45 at Kempton Park.

But I know of two people who have taken a gamble on an Octavia on the ‘strength’ of my opinion. Fortunately, they’ve lived happily ever after.

All things wise and wonderful

Skoda Octavia Scout

Savvy motorists know a good thing when they see it, which is why the Octavia Scout seems to attract a premium on the used car market. There’s something ‘old money’ about the Scout: a soft-road wagon for those who are confident in their own skin. The thinking person’s Audi Allroad. The less ostentatious Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain. The only rural wagon you’ll ever need.

Check this out: a 2019 Skoda Octavia Scout for £24,000. That’s nearly £10,000 less than the price of a Karoq Scout. The Octavia is more practical, better to drive and will look better parked outside the farm shop. There’s no contest.

I guess there’s a wider point to this post, and it concerns the diminishing appeal of the Skoda brand. Granted, it’s a personal opinion, but I believe it’s worth sharing.

Like all volume brands, Skoda has thrown its might behind a range of SUVs. The Kodiaq was followed by the Karoq, with the Kamiq the latest crossover to hit showrooms. All worthy, all a match for their immediate rivals, all bang on trend.

But there’s a danger that Skoda is losing sight of what made the brand so appealing to free-thinkers and those not swayed by fashion or trends. The SUVs are great and are what the market demands, but Skoda needs to maintain a gap between it and the Volkswagen mothership. Some clear space to leave room for individuality.

It’s this space that gave us the Felicia Fun, the Fabia vRS diesel, the Roomster and the Yeti. Much as I adore the Superb, especially in 272hp 2.0-litre petrol guise, I miss the cars that made Skoda feel like Volkswagen’s quirky Czech mate.

Let’s hope the new Octavia continues to major on practicality, with a keen price and an acknowledgment of what has made the first three generations so successful. The alternative is more people migrating to Skoda SUVs, and that’s a future we can all do without. 

‘Laura’ will tell Skoda drivers where to go

Skoda Laura in-car assistant

At the rate things are going, in-car digital assistants will require their own union or WhatsApp group. Laura is the latest virtual PA to hit the road, and ‘she’ is coming to a Skoda near you soon.

Skoda says Laura has mastered six languages, is quite comfortable with natural voice and doesn’t mind being interrupted. Ask nicely and she’ll even turn on the TV and put out the trash. Probably.

For now, Kamiq and Scala models equipped with the top-of-the-range Amundsen infotainment system will come with added Laura, but other models will follow.

Say “Okay, Laura” to activate the voice control system and Laura will spring into life. There’s no need to press a button or to use a set of predetermined commands or phrases.

Think of Laura

Laura Skoda digital assistant

As well as six languages, Laura is also comfortable with accents and dialects, which should come in handy for Skoda customers in some of the UK’s rural outposts.

Digital assistants are nothing new – many people use them at home or in the car – but Skoda’s decision to use a girl’s name is a little different. Mercedes, for example, uses the company name for its MBUX system.

Why Laura? It’s a name Skoda has used before, with the second-generation Octavia rebadged Laura for India

Laura-equipped models will come with an on-board eSIM card included as standard, meaning cars are always online. Skoda says the transition between online and offline services is “so seamless that occupants are never aware of it”.

Tell Laura I love her

Skoda Laura digital assistant

You can interrupt Laura at any time, with the radio or media player volume lowered rather than muted completely to give a “sense of having a natural, relaxed conversation”.

Thanks to Laura, lonely motorway commutes will be a thing of past – Skoda says that Laura will evolve to engage in a “kind of digital small talk”.

Much will depend on how Laura performs in ‘person’. We will report back once we’ve tested the system in the real world.

2019 Skoda Kamiq from £17,700 – prices and specs

2019 Skoda Kamiq prices revealed

Skoda has revealed the prices and specifications of the new Kamiq compact SUV. End to end, it’ll cost you between £17,700 and £25,130. The Skoda Kamiq will arrive in dealers in November this year.

The Kamiq comes in four trim levels, while four different engines are available. The S opens up the range with that £17,700 starting price, while SE and SE L flesh out the range through to £25,130 – all before options. Monte Carlo specification will join the lineup later in the year.

Touchscreens, from 6.5 to 9.2 inches

2019 Skoda Kamiq prices revealed

All Kamiq models will come fairly generously equipped as standard, regardless of what spec you plump for. Standard S spec comes with front and rear LED lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, DAB radio and a 6.5-inch touch screen. SE buyers get an upgraded 8-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay. Added too are rear parking sensors, dynamic indicators, cruise control, auto lights and auto wipers. They’ll also get body-coloured bumpers and 17-inch wheels.

Top-end SEL spec adds 18-inch wheels, sat-nav, a 9.2-inch touch screen, keyless go and blind spot detection.

A sporty touch with the Monte Carlo

2019 Skoda prices revealed

The Monte Carlo will add a sportier touch with gloss black detailing and badging, as well as 18-inch anthracite alloy wheels. Prices haven’t been released.

Engines – petrol only

1.0, 1.5 and 1.6-litre petrol engines are available, with either a manual or dual-clutch transmission. The 1.0-litre comes with either 95hp or 115hp. There are no diesel engines available at the moment. 

CO2 output for the Kamiq ranges from between 112g/km for the 1.6-litre TSI and 116g/km for the 1.0-litre TSI – not a great deal of variation. The 150hp 1.5-litre is yet to be rated in terms of CO2, tax band and pricing. At every level, the Kamiq costs just over £1,000 more than the equivalent Scala hatch.

Our personal perfect specification would be an SE with the 115hp 1.0-litre engine and a DSG transmission for £21,185. 

Full Skoda Kamiq prices

2019 Skoda Kamiq prices revealed

Kamiq SCO2 (g/km)VED BandRecommended OTRBiK 2019/20P11D Value
1.0 TSI 95 PS116G£17,700.0027%£17,475.00
Kamiq SE     
1.0 TSI 95 PS116G£19,135.0027%£18,910.00
1.0 TSI 115 PS116G£19,935.0027%£19,710.00
1.0 TSI 115 PS DSG113G£21,185.0026%£20,960.00
1.5 TSI 150 PSTBCTBCTBCTBC£21,110.00
1.5 TSI 150 PS DSGTBCTBCTBCTBC£22,360.00
1.6 TDI 115 PS112G£21,835.0030%£21,570.00
1.6 TSI 115 PS DSG112G£23,085.0030%£22,820.00
Kamiq SE L     
1.0 TSI 95 PS116G£21,180.0027%£20,955.00
1.0 TSI 115 PS116G£21,980.0027%£21,755.00
1.0 TSI 115 PS DSG113G£23,230.0026%£23,005.00
1.5 TSI 150 PSTBCTBCTBCTBC£23,155.00
1.5 TSI 150 PS DSGTBCTBCTBCTBC£24,405.00
1.6 TDI 115 PS112G£23,880.0030%£23,615.00
1.6 TSI 115 PS DSG112G£25,130.0030%£24,865.00

New Skoda tech spies on your kids when they borrow your car

Skoda geofencing tool for young drivers

Skoda has revealed new technology that lets you limit where your kids are allowed to drive.

The ‘geofencing’ function within the Skoda Connect infotainment system can also keep you updated about where young drivers are taking your car.

Skoda geofencing tool for young drivers

More than half of 17-24 year-olds rely on their parents’ cars after they’ve passed their test. Car sharing can be the best solution in financial terms, which is where the app comes in. It’s ‘ideal for when the parents are on holiday this summer and don’t want their offspring at home racking up the miles driving up and down the country,’ says Skoda.

The app will send phone notifications if the car steps outside of a ‘green area’ on the map. You can select regions on the map that are ‘green’ or ‘red’. The former is where drivers can go and the latter is where they can’t. 

Skoda reckons this spells the end of vague explanations like ‘just popping to the shops’ that previously might have resulted in unsanctioned joyrides…

Skoda Kamiq dials

Geofencing can be active on specific days and times, keeping at bay arguments about who gets the car and when.

Skoda Connect also allows you to keep an eye on fuel levels, driving data, whether the car is locked and its exact location when parked.

While the app itself is free via Apple AppStore and Google Play, the Skoda Connect online services package is an option.

New Skoda Kamiq: everything you need to know

New Skoda Kamiq

The Skoda Kamiq is the Czech company’s newest – and smallest SUV – and it sits below the Kodiaq and the Karoq in the range.

It has to face some serious rivals, such as the Renault Captur, Volkswagen T-Cross and the soon-to-be-launched Nissan Juke. But given the excellence of its larger siblings, it stands a good chance of being a smash hit.

We’re still waiting for Skoda to confirm UK specs and prices (we expect it to start from around £17,000), but in the meantime, this is what we know so far.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Kamiq is pronounced ‘Ka-Mick’.

Skoda Kamiq: sizes

New Skoda Kamiq details

At 4,241mm long, 1,793mm wide and 1,553 high (including roof rails), the Kamiq is by far the smallest SUV in the Skoda range. For context, the Renault Captur is 4,122mm long, 1,778mm wide and 1,566mm high.

The boot offers 400 litres of space, which can be extended to 1,395mm by folding down the 60:40 split rear seat. This means it’s less practical than the Scala, which offers 467 litres extending to 1,410 litres.

Skoda Kamiq: engines

Skoda Kamiq dials

Four engines are available: three petrol and one diesel, with a choice of five- and six-speed manual gearboxes and a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission.

At launch, a pair of 1.0-litre TSI petrol engines producing 95hp and 115hp will be joined by a 1.6-litre TDI producing 115hp. A more powerful 150hp 1.5-litre petrol will join the range before the end of the year.

The Kamiq offers 39mm more ground clearance than the new Scala hatchback and can be fitted with Sports Chassis Control, which lowers the ride height by 10mm.

Skoda Kamiq: specification

Skoda Kamiq interior

We don’t know the Kamiq trim levels, but they’re likely to be similar to other Skoda models, so could include S, SE, SE Technology and SE L.

Some models will get split LED headlights with daytime running lights above (a Skoda first), while cars with full LED lights will get dynamic front and rear indicators. A panoramic roof will be optional.

Other options include a 10.25-inch virtual cockpit, a heated windscreen and steering wheel, an electric tailgate and a retractable tow bar. Standard features should include manual air conditioning, DAB radio, 16-inch alloy wheels and a 6.5-inch infotainment screen.

Skoda Kamiq: prices

Skoda Kamiq Apple CarPlay

Right now, this is the great unknown. The Volkswagen T-Cross starts from £16,995, so we’d expect the entry-level Kamiq to follow suit. Most buyers will opt for the SE model with the more powerful 1.0-litre engine, which should come in just shy of £20,000.

Skoda Kamiq: what else do we need to know

Skoda Kamiq infotainment

Skoda doesn’t make a bad car. Each one offers great value for money and is loaded with neat features. The Kamiq will be no exception.

Skoda is promising a range of ‘Simply Clever’ features, such as door-edge protection, a tip-to-close electric tailgate, a removable LED torch, an integrated funnel in the lid of the windscreen washer tank and, of course, an umbrella.

We’ll bring you full details of prices and specifications as soon as they’re announced, along with driving impressions when we’ve driven the car in the UK.

Line of duty: new Skoda Scala joins police force

Skoda Scala now available to Police and other services

The police and other emergency services can now place orders for the Skoda Scala hatchback.

The Scala is the latest model to join Skoda’s ‘blue-light line-up’. The larger Octavia, along with the Karoq and Kodiaq SUVs, feature prominently in existing emergency fleets.

The fully-converted Scala comes with a range of gear that readies it for service. LED signal lights let everyone know the Skoda is in pursuit, as does a 100-amp three-tone siren.

Skoda Scala now available to Police and other services

Built-in active safety features such as blind-spot detection, side assist, front assist and lane assist all lend themselves to work with the services. A spacious cabin and 467-litre boot help, too.

The Scala went on sale earlier this year as a rival to the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Kia Ceed.

 

“Our partnership with emergency services teams stretches back over a century,” said Henry Williams, head of fleet at Skoda.

“It’s that extensive knowledge in the sector that makes Skoda a reliable partner for both technologically advanced cars and value for money, and Scala, our most connected car to date, more than fits the bill.”

Read more:

2019 Skoda Scala 1.5 DSG review: reality Czech

Skoda Scala review

The Skoda Scala is here to tempt you away from a Ford Focus, Hyundai i30 or even a Volkswagen Golf. Can it stand out in such a congested sector?

The Scala is the underdog in Volkswagen Group’s family of mid-size hatchbacks. Next to the premium Audi A3, dependable Volkswagen Golf and sporty Seat Leon, it’s the cheapest of the set.

It starts from £16,595 for the entry-level ’S’ model, although the savings are more ‘premium bond’ than ‘lottery win’ once you reach a desirable spec. The ‘S’ isn’t available yet, anyway.

The Scala is handsome car with its fair share of double-take visual quirks. The way the black roof slopes down to end atop the number plate is neat. The lighting is a sleek and classy affair, too.

Inside, the cabin is familiar as you might expect, although the dashboard is distinctive enough to avoid VW Group déjà vu. It’s certainly a step on from the old Rapid, but remains a bit bland.

The tablet-style touchscreen has a more premium look than some German executive cars with a similar setup. As standard, you get a 6.5-inch display, but SE specification is worth the upgrade for the eight-inch version. Stepping up to SE-L brings a nine-inch screen with sat-nav and digital dials (pictured below).

The interface has slightly aged, hand-me-down Golf visuals, but is intuitive and responsive. MR’s Richard Aucock did experience a few system crashes, though, so it’s not perfect.

The Scala’s cabin is spacious and easy to see out of. Its rear seats will accommodate two adults with ease, although three might feel a little cramped. The broad boot holds 467 litres.

Skoda Scala review

Quality is better than most rivals at this price, and not too far off its premium Group-mates. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics and it feels well made.

Fire up the Scala – with a traditional key – and the 1.5-litre TSI thrums into life. Our car came with the automatic gearbox, so a smooth glide into D set us on our way.

A ride out to Kings Lynn from the Suffolk border to see The Lion King is exactly the sort of journey a family hatch like the Scala should excel at. We saw more than 50mpg from the little TSI petrol motor on the run. Who misses diesel?

Skoda Scala reviewIts performance is more kitten than big cat, but those keen for more can wait for the forthcoming vRS version.

The Scala could swap between ratios with a little more grace and its automatic gearbox is easy to confuse at lower speeds. It even juddered like it had a slipping clutch, on multiple occasions. Not so ‘Simply Clever’, then.

There are no steering wheel paddles, but a bump of the shifter to the left allows you shift gears manually. 

Skoda Scala review

Also irritating was the lane-assist steering system. For reasons unknown, it would bleep, rumble and flash as if we were driving ‘hands-off’. This happened unprompted on multiple occasions.

In terms of handling, the Scala is inoffensive, but the Mazda 3 and Ford Focus are possessed of more poise. The ride is exceptional, though. Small wheels and soft suspension make it refreshingly doughy.

Body-roll that sees the door handles reaching for the tarmac is a side effect to note, so beware when transiting kids with tummies full of popcorn.

Skoda Scala review

Overall, the Scala makes a good go of being a practical and well-equipped family car. It’s a little rough around the edges, though, and not as affordable as you might hope

Indeed, climb the Scala ladder and the price gets very Golf-ish. Ours topped £20,000. Go for the six-speed manual gearbox and a petrol engine and it’s a fine little car. But it doesn’t stand out.

Skoda Scala review

2019 Skoda Scala 1.5 DSG: specification

Price: From £16,595 (£20,000+ as tested)

Engine: Four cylinders, 1,498cc turbocharged, petrol

Transmission: Seven-speed, dual-clutch auto

Power: 150hp @ 5,000rpm

Torque: 184lb ft @1,500rpm

0-62mph: 8.2 seconds

Top speed: 136mph

Fuel economy: 40.9-45.6mpg (50+ as tested)

CO2 emissions: TBC

Boot space: 467 litres

Kerb weight: 1,200kg

Verdict: 3.5 stars

Skoda offers £1,000 off SUVs in summer deal

Summer Skoda SUV offer

Fancy a Skoda Kodiaq or Karoq? The company’s summer SUV event could save you £1,000 off the purchase price.

All Kodiaq and Karoq models are included, with the exception of SE Technology variants. With the saving, buyers can drive home an entry-level Karoq for £20,945, or a Kodiaq for £24,775.

Those signing up for PCP finance will also get a £2,000 contribution towards a Kodiaq, £1,950 towards a diesel Karoq and £1,250 for a petrol Karoq.

Summer Skoda SUV offer

Skoda will also offer 15 percent off accessories like roof boxes, bike carriers and boot mats for the duration of the deal, which runs between 25 July and 7 August.

Skoda introduced the Kodiaq as its first SUV less than three years ago, but has since added the smaller Karoq.

A supermini-sized Kamiq SUV is due to join the line-up before the end of the year.

Parents drive an extra 1,648 miles a year for their kids

Parents drive an extra 1,648 miles a year for their kids

Parents are driving approximately 1,648 additional miles a year ferrying their children around. That’s according to a study conducted by Skoda.

Mums and dads in Northern Ireland appear to be the hardest working parents, racking up a total of 2,142 miles a year. That’s an average of 41.19 miles a week.

Dropping the children off to see friends is the most common reason for travel (42 percent), followed by birthday parties (40 percent), sporting activities (36 percent) and swimming (34 percent).

Six percent of the 1,723 parents surveyed said they provided a lift for their children for no particular reason.

Nearly half of the respondents admitted to using the time in the car to catch up with their children, while 44 percent are pleased to do the extra miles as it means their kids are out doing things.

Mum and dad taxi

Skoda Parent Taxi app

Skoda reckons this ‘unpaid taxi service’ is an excuse to encourage the kids to do a little extra work around the house, which is why it has launched the ‘Parent Taxi’ app.

The smartphone app works like a real taxi meter, allowing parents to exchange miles for chores, such as cleaning the car, feeding the dog, tidying the bedroom or doing the washing up.

The app tracks the car journey via GPS, with parents able to set how many miles equate to a single chore. 

You know, like one mile for washing up. Two miles for drying up. Three for feeding the cat. Four for repointing the chimney. Five for grouting the bathroom. Six for laying a new patio. That kind of thing.

Children tidying bedroom

The driver can share the journey details to their offspring’s smartphone, with the option to share the details on social media. Because the world needs more needless info on its social channels.

Does the app seem a little harsh? After all, parents should be responsible for their children, and driving them to and from sporting activities is part of their parental duties.

What’s next, an app that calculates how much time a parent spends watching their child from the sidelines on a Saturday morning? An app for time spent changing a nappy?

As for the chores, unplugging the wi-fi router normally gets things done… 

‘The app I’ve been waiting for’

Using the Skoda Parent Taxi app

A delighted mummy blogger, Jo Middleton, said: “This is the app I’ve been waiting for!

“It’s true that kids generally have a better social life than adults and as result that can mean a lot of car journeys each week.

“Although I love encouraging them to get out and do more, I think it’s a great idea to swap miles for some help around the house in return.”

Average additional miles driven by parents in a year

RegionMiles travelled
Northern Ireland2,142
London1,789
South West1,760
Scotland1,759
East Midlands1,654
Wales1,635
East Anglia1,550
North West1,515
North East1,481
Yorkshire and the Humber1,425
West Midlands1,399

The Skoda Kamiq small SUV has gone into production

Skoda Kamiq small SUV goes into production

Skoda’s entry into the lucrative small SUV segment is finally ready. The Kamiq is going into production at Skoda’s plant in Mlada Boleslav ahead of deliveries beginning later in 2019.

It joins the Octavia, Fabia, Scala and Karoq online at the plant. Skoda recently invested 100 million euros into infrastructure for the manufacture of the Kamiq.

As the smallest and most affordable SUV in the range, the Kamiq ought to do gangbusters in the showrooms. At least Skoda thinks (hopes) so, hence the investment.

The result is a 400-car daily production number of Kamiqs at the pant.

The Kamiq sits below the Karoq and Kodiaq SUVs in the range. It is based on Volkswagen’s MQB platform. Similar models have been on sale at Skoda’s sister marques for some time.

The Seat Arona debuted two years ago, with the Volkswagen T-Cross following a little while later. 

Skoda Kamiq small SUV goes into production

“For us, the start of production for a new Skoda model is always a special time,” said Dr Michael Oeljeklaus, Skoda Auto Board Member for Production and Logistics

“Over the past few months, we have made all of the provisions in production and logistics to successfully launch the Kamiq in the city SUV segment. We are convinced that – in typical Skoda style – the Kamiq too will impress our customers with its excellent quality and many practical features.”

The Kamiq is available with a range of engines, including the excellent 1.0-litre TSI lumps. A larger 1.5 TSI and 1.6-litre TDI are also available. A sporty vRS is likely not far off.

Prices should start from around £17,000 and deliveries are expected to begin in the autumn.