Offering luxury and performance in a great package is what the Octavia was known for. It’s now a little sharper looking and more feature rich.
When the Octavia badge was launched back in 2001, it soon garnered quite the fan following for itself. In 2013, these emotions were rekindled when Skoda reintroduced the third generation Octavia, having discontinued the first generation model in 2010 and the second generation (Laura) soon after in 2013. The new look was well received and it was lauded for the feature rich package it brought to the segment. It’s time for a midlife facelift and Skoda have taken this opportunity to add a few more features and make a few dynamic tweaks as well.
Design & Styling
I’ve always liked the styling of the Octavia. It’s always had clean and simple lines and this time around too, the update is an improvement on the third-generation look. The biggest change is clearly the new split headlights. They split the high and low beam functions into two separate sections with the inner section almost blending in with the grill. The units themselves are all new full LED units that are both brighter and consume lesser power than their predecessors.
The bumper is also new and now allows more air into the engine bay, while also housing the fog lamps whose design has also been tweaked. As far as the side profile is concerned, the only change has been the new 16-inch alloy wheels and a slightly larger rear wheel arch to accommodate the wider rear track that the new cars are running on. In the rear, there are a few subtle changes to the design of the tail lamps and the bumper has also received a subtle tweak.
Step into the cabin and you will be greeted with that familiar clean dash design and that’s because little has changed in terms of layout. There are some subtle differences like the new brushed finish aluminium insert in the door panels that replace the old faux wood ones and the new piano black gloss finish to the climate controls and the top of the gear shift knob. It’s hard to miss the new 8-inch touchscreen that replaces the old 6.5-inch unit. It also now comes with capacitive touch that makes it super responsive and a pleasure to operate. It features the full set of smart phone applications like Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink and Android auto and also features navigation support. The multi-info display inside the instrument cluster has also been redesigned and is brighter and offers better resolution than before.
Along with the updates to the new infotainment system, the new Octavia also gets a new parking assist. This is a hands-free system that guides you into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot by doing all the steering for you. Through visual and audio aids, you are guided when to brake and shift between drive and reverse gear as the car steers itself into the vacant parking slot. For a little added bling, there’s also a new mood lighting function that allows you to highlight the interiors with up to seven different colour accents, similar to what we’ve seen in the latest Superb. For those owners who like to travel in the comfort of the rear seats, there is also a BossConnect function via the Skoda Media Command smartphone app that allows passengers to control all media and navigation functions from their smartphone. And further promoting the use of technology from the backseats, are the two new usb charging ports just under the rear air con vents.
The powertrains on offer haven’t changed though and there are three engine options available - the 1.4 TSI, 1.8 TSI and 2.0 TDI. All three are available with either a 6-speed manual or a 6/7 speed DSG automatic transmission. We managed to drive the 1.8 TSI and the 2.0 TDI diesel. The 1.8 TSI is clearly the enthusiast’s pick of the lot, delivering a delicious 180PS of power every time you decide to push hard on the ‘go’ pedal. The motor is responsive and powerful and it makes for easy, fast progress out on the open road. The slightly widely spaced ratios mean that this car really likes to stretch its legs out on the highway. It’s also super refined and you can hardly hear it ticking over at idle or when cruising with the revs below 2000rpm.
The 2.0 TDI is the other car we had the pleasure of driving and, going by past performance, it’s also the car that’s likely to be the best seller in the range. While the 2.0 litre engine makes only 143PS, it’s the 320Nm of turning power available that gives this car its character. Mated to a 6-speed DSG, the 2.0 is just as rewarding to drive as the top of the line petrol. Its creamy torque delivery also makes for fairly brisk progress when you’re in a hurry and it’s equally responsive when driving around town at a more sedate pace. It’s also fairly quiet as well with very little of the engine noise making way into the cabin.
The claimed fuel efficiencies have increased slightly and now stand at 15.1kmpl for the 1.8 TSI, 21kmpl (manual)/19.5kmpl (auto) for the 2.0 TDI and 16.7kmpl for the 1.4 TSI motor.
Comfort and handling
The only dynamic change to the package has been an increase in the rear track of the cars. With the top of the line 1.8 TSI, that receives an independent multilink setup at the rear, the track has increased by 30mm. While the other two variants, which receive a more conventional torsion beam axle rear setup, show a 20mm increase in their rear track. This wider footprint should add more stability to the package overall but it’s a subtle change, one that you wouldn’t notice unless you drive both variants back to back. The Octavia still remains an engaging car to drive. The steering is fairly light in city conditions and weighs up nicely when speeds increase. There is also very little body roll to upset passengers and still the suspension gobbled up any small undulations that the roads threw at us. On the highway too, the car always remained perfectly planted and stable.
Be it on the subcontinent or internationally, the Octavia has always been a popular model for Skoda. Having had a look at this new iteration, it’s sure that this facelift is only going to move things further forward. What is significant though, is that Skoda has also just undergone a complete overhaul of their complete after sales service system. They are now promising a much better experience as well as lower prices for spares and services. A four-year service package costs just Rs 40,000/- and gives you four periodic services. There is even an app based tracking system for your car’s maintenance that comprehensively tracks scheduling and service history. There’s more good news - with the new GST pricing, we expect the new models to cost a little lesser than the outgoing ones. We expect the pricing to begin around the Rs 15 lakh (the outgoing model is priced just below Rs 16 lakh) mark and go up to Rs 22 lakh with a launch date sometime in July.
Words: Alan Richard