You might imagine the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine would struggle to haul around a car as big as the Octavia, but it’s easily up to the job; it's great around town and on the motorway. It’s so good, in fact, that if you rarely carry lots of passengers or luggage, you could live without the costlier, higher-powered engines.
However, when you're travelling with the car loaded up, the punchier 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 petrol copes better. In normal use, it’ll crack the 0-60mph dash in as little as 8.4sec (tested by us) – that is pretty sprightly and far quicker than the similarly priced Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost 125 can manage. All in all, we reckon it’s the pick of the range.
Performance from the 1.6-litre diesel is adequate, but the most recommendable diesel option is the 148bhp 2.0 TDI 150, which is strong and flexible. The sporty vRS models (you can read a review for that here) come with a choice of 2.0-litre petrol or diesel engines that are both effortlessly quick.
A quick-changing dual-clutch automatic gearbox is available on all engines.
For the most part, the Octavia is comfortable. That’s particularly the case at higher speeds, making it an easy-going, long-distance cruiser. However, around town, it fidgets over rippled or undulating surfaces, and a harsh pothole or expansion joint can send a noticeable thump through the interior. The Octavia is never outright uncomfortable, but it’s not as accomplished as rivals such as the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.
Skoda does offer adaptive suspension as an option on the Octavia (although not on the 1.0 petrol and 1.6 diesel models). This helps to settle the car over edgier bumps, although the impact of sizeable imperfections will still breach the interior. So while the system does deliver an improvement, its impact isn't big enough to justify the extra cost. We’d also save money and avoid enlarging the alloy wheels; the bigger they are, the brittler the ride becomes.
The sporty vRS models ride more harshly than the standard cars. As a result of their stiffer suspension and bigger wheels, they can be quite crashy and jarring over certain surfaces.
The Octavia is exactly what you’d want from a big family car – and nothing more. Even when being driven quickly, it’s stable, precise and inspires confidence. Meanwhile, the steering is light enough to make town manoeuvres and parking easy, but confidence-inspiring at speed.
With the exception of the 1.0 model, all versions beyond entry-level S trim have variable driving modes called Eco, Normal and Sport. They influence the accelerator and, where fitted, auto gearshift responses, the weight of the steering and power of the climate control. However, we find the Octavia’s steering and accelerative reactions feel most natural when in Normal mode.
The vRS models offer good body control but don’t turn in to corners as keenly as some rivals, such as the Golf GTI and Hyundai i30N. So, while they’re quick, anybody yearning for a hot hatch with the purest driving dynamics should look elsewhere.
The Octavia’s four-cylinder petrol engines are smooth and quiet, while the 1.0 three-cylinder petrol is pleasant to rev out, but has more of a rasp. The diesels, on the other hand, are a little noisy compared with the same engines in the Golf, and you feel more vibrations through the pedals, although this mostly applies to the 1.6 rather than the 2.0.
There’s also more suspension noise (noticeable inside as a deep, resonant boom in the background over town roads) than in most cars in the class – this is one of the Octavia’s most annoying traits. There’s some wind noise on the motorway, too, but road noise is reasonably well suppressed. The brakes, manual gearchange and clutch are slick, aiding smooth driving. The dual-clutch auto 'boxes are smooth through the gears, but a bit abrupt at parking speeds.
All models come with firm but supportive seats that have a large range of adjustment, including driver’s seat height and steering wheel rake and reach. The pedals are well placed, too, leading to a natural seating position that’s perfectly comfortable on a long trip. It’s worth stepping up to mid-spec SE trim, though, because this brings adjustable lumbar support for a little extra fine-tuning and a front centre armrest. The vRS models get even more supportive bespoke seats that are especially comfortable on long journeys.
The top-spec Laurin & Klement version has a powered driver’s seat, while the standard manual seat adjustments of the other models are perfectly fine and easy to use. As is using the Octavia’s main functions – the dashboard has a logical layout and the switches and buttons are clearly labelled.
Forward visibility is good; the windscreen pillars rarely obscure your view at junctions or roundabouts, while SE L models and above come with LED headlights that are super-illuminating at night. Over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t great, though, because the car’s chunky rear pillars restrict your vision when parking.
That said, rear parking sensors are standard from SE trim upwards (they’re optional on S), and you can add front parking sensors and a rear-view camer as options on most versions. Parking assist is another feature that can be added – this will find a suitable parking space and help you move into it. Trailer assist, which is an extension of parking assist and – as you may have guessed – helps you park a trailer, is on the options list, too.
The standard 8.0in colour touchscreen is extremely high-definition and is the medium through which you control the Octavia’s infotainment system. The system includes a digital radio, Bluetooth and audio streaming. Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink are standard, allowing you to use some of your smartphone’s apps through the touchscreen, including Google or Apple Maps. The touchscreen is responsive, has logical menu layouts and the big icons are easy to prod when you’re on the move.
An upgraded system with factory-fitted sat-nav and onboard wi-fi is standard on SE L, SE Technology, vRS and Laurin & Klement trims. You also get a year’s subscription for Infotainment Online, which delivers onboard connectivity for web browsing and live data access, including traffic and weather reports and the availability of local parking spaces. Laurin & Klement trim also includes a bigger 9.2in touchscreen.
With eight speakers as standard, the stereo’s sound quality is okay by class standards, but still a little tinny. An upmarket 10-speaker, 570W Canton system is an option on most versions and standard on Laurin & Klement.
As with a Seat Leon, some of the materials around the lower parts of the interior and around the seat bases feel more durable than upmarket, but the plastics in more prominent areas are nicely textured and pleasant to the touch. It’s not up to Volkswagen Golf standards, even though some of the switches are shared between the two models, but it's leagues better than the Ford Focus for overall quality.
To enhance the perceived quality, SE trim and above get contrasting trim highlights on the dashboard. It brightens things up over the entry-level car’s slightly dourer and darker finish.
There’s buckets of front space in the Octavia; a very tall driver will certainly be able to get comfortable and the interior feels more spacious than most rivals. Storage is very good, too. The door pockets are big enough to hold a 750ml bottle and the glovebox is a practical size. Behind the gearstick are two cupholders that will hold a large takeaway mug and, thanks to a special grip, allow you to open a bottle of water one-handed.
Skoda’s so-called Simply Clever package is a worthwhile and reasonably priced option and adds convenience extras including a removable phone holder that sits in one of the cupholders and a lidded waste bin that fixes into a front door pocket. SE models and above also get a central armrest that doubles up as extra storage space.
The Octavia has the best rear space of any family hatch bar the Ford Focus, which matches it for leg room. Behind a tall driver with their seat pushed back, even a long-legged rear passenger will be able to lounge in comfort. There’s loads of head and elbow room, too; even more than there is in the Focus, in fact. Unfortunately, the middle rear occupant has no choice but to straddle the car’s large raised central tunnel. At least with generous under-seat foot space, there’s plenty of room for their feet, and the Octavia is still one of the more comfortable cars in the class for carrying three rear passengers.
A central armrest with two cupholders is an optional extra on SE models, but standard on SE L and upwards.
Document pockets on the backs of the front seats are standard and the deep door pockets are roomy enough to hold a 1.0-litre drinks bottle. Skoda's inexpensive Simply Clever package also provides tablet holders for the enjoyment of the rear passengers – and perhaps you, if that means the kids are occupied.
The Octavia’s seating flexibility is fairly conventional. Levers on the top of the rear backrests release the 60/40 split-folding seats, although for added convenience you can opt for a second set of levers placed handily just inside the tailgate opening.
All but entry-level cars get a height-adjustable passenger seat with lumbar adjustment. A fold-flat passenger seat is a well-priced option but on only SE models; it will allow you to carry seriously long items if you need to.
The Octavia’s huge boot is a big selling point. Despite its sloping lid, it’s as tall as the boots in most squared-off hatches, such as the Focus or Volkswagen Golf, but much, much longer. So long that it can fit 11 carry-on suitcases, while most cars in the class fit around five.
It also has neat touches, such as Velcro restraints that are clipped neatly to the side of the boot; when you want to prevent items from shooting around, you simply unclip them and stick them to the boot floor to lock an item in place. You can also add various practical add-ons, including a double-sided boot floor, which has carpet on one side and a washable rubber surface on the other to dump muddy boots on, as well as various boot nets and dividers.
You can't add a height-adjustable boot floor, though. Not only does that mean you cannot create a separate compartment, but there's also nothing to level out the sizeable step left in the floor when you fold down the rear seats.
The Octavia is very competitively priced against its rivals and is about the cheapest way into a car of this size. Don’t discount the entry-level petrol. It’s remarkably cheap and well suited to low-mileage drivers. Resale values, while not as good as those of a Volkswagen Golf, Kia Ceed or Audi A3, are still good by class standards and will better or match those of rivals such as the Ford Focus. PCP finance deals and leasing costs are competitive, if not class-leading.
The whole range delivers extremely competitive fuel economy. The 1.6 TDI 115 diesel is the one to go for if you really want to maximise this, while the 1.0 TSI managed an excellent 46.0mpg in our real-world test. But for something with a bit more zip as well as good MPG (38.3mpg in the real world) and low company car tax, the 1.5 TSI 150 petrol is our top tip. The 2.0 TDI 150 diesel is also good.
For speed demons, the vRS models are great-value performance models, although not the best hot hatches around.
Use our True MPG calculator and see what your car really does to the gallon
The Octavia is available in S, SE, SE Technology, SE L and Laurin & Klement trims. Hot hatch models are badged vRS.
All versions come with air conditioning, alloy wheels and the excellent infotainment system we detailed in the earlier section. There are a few key options you can’t add to S trim, though, so it’s worth stepping up to SE.
SE is our favourite for private buyers, because it adds rear parking sensors, manual driver and passenger lumbar adjustment, a front centre armrest, a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and rear electric windows. Despite having all this, it remains competitively priced.
SE L trim is also worth considering for some nice additonal extras, including privacy glass and power-fold door mirrors, as well as the lovely touch of an umbrella under the passenger seat – perfect for a rainy day.
The one to go for if you’re a company car user is SE Technology. It includes Infotainment Online connectivity with a wi-fi hotspot, plus front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.
Some of the options we think are worthwhile considering include metallic paint (for better resale values), a rear-view camera, a spare wheel and the Simply Clever package. This adds a double-sided rubberised and carpeted boot floor, rear-seat tablet holders and a waste bin.
The Octavia’s standard three-year, 60,000-mile manufacturer’s warranty is pretty average these days. Kia offers seven years or 100,000 miles on its equivalent Ceed model. You can pay to extend the Octavia’s warranty up to five years and 100,000 miles, and fixed-cost servicing is available to cover the first three years.
Skoda as a brand does well for reliability, though, appearing in seventh place out of 31 manufacturers examined in our 2018 reliability survey – that’s above premium brands including Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, as well as Volkswagen and Seat. The Octavia itself also did well, with the diesel version finishing third in the family car class.
The Octavia received the full five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, although there are rivals that scored higher marks in the individual sections of the test.
All versions have seven airbags as standard and rear-side airbags are available as an optional extra. Other standard safety features include stability control, hill hold assist, tyre pressure monitoring (which alerts you to a slow puncture) and a system that automatically brakes the car in the immediate aftermath of a collision to avoid a second impact.
Disappointingly, only SE L and Laurin & Klement models get automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection (badged front assist) as standard. This important feature is standard on a number of competitors and should really be across the Octavia range, but at least it isn't an expensive option.
Blindspot detection, lane-keeping assistance and rear cross traffic assist, which automatically stops you if you’re about to reverse into something, became available from 2017 models onwards.
An alarm and engine immobiliser are fitted to every model and security experts Thatcham Research has rated it highly for its resistance to theft and break-in.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here