Octavia is Škoda’s biggest selling model globally with 436,000 models sold in 2016.
In Ireland the five seat car is Škoda’s biggest seller too. Last year it sold 4,700 examples, that is more than double the sales of the Superb Škoda’s next bestseller. The reborn 1996 Octavia must be given credit for almost single-handedly rebuilding the historic carmaker’s fortunes under the guidance of the Volkswagen group. With each new model the car has grown in status and for many the Octavia is the perfect family car.
The refreshed third generation Octavia range is now complete with the arrival of the sporty RS model in hatch and estate form and the ultra practical all wheel drive Scout Combi. Despite both models being niche, the sporty GTI rivaling RS with 470 sales in 2016 represents a surprisingly large 10 per cent of Octavia sales. This is a huge figure for a performance variant. The Scout represents a more modest share of Octavia sales. The Scout is a 4X4 estate and with its off road pedigree and chunky styling attracted a more modest sales figure of 160 in 2016. While this number appears small we must remember that the Scout is an estate variant, in other words it’s a niche player within a niche market.
Like the face lifted hatch that has been on sale for a few months both variants feature a wider rear track and revised front and rear styling plus a host of new to Octavia driving safety aids like city emergency brake, lane assist, front assist with predictive pedestrian protection, blind spot detect, rear traffic alert and manoeuvre Assist.
The Octavia remains huge inside with ample legroom for passengers and a boot to shame cars in the class above it. You can almost hear an echo when you open the boot and the removable magnetic torch is handy to see in to the far reaches of it. There is 590 litres of space in the hatch and 610 litres in the estate. Fold the rear seats down and you could rent the space out to students. Inside there are some minor tweaks but the addition of an impressive 9.2 inch Columbus centre touch screen adds a more premium feel to the otherwise conventional cabin. Connectivity has taken a leap forward and now the Škoda can truly rival premium brands with its Wi-Fi hotspot and LTE data module.Škoda Connect features online traffic information and Google Earth. There is an emergency call function and remote services for smartphones with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Scout as the name implies is all about being able to venture off on new trails and it is remarkable how capable the five seat car is off road. The Scout is only 2mm longer than the car it replaces and features the same additional 30mm of ground clearance over the standard Combi. The standard 17 inch wheels are replaced with 18s plus there are now LED headlights that enhance the bohemian crystal inspired styling. The Scout is only available in four wheel drive so you can safely presume it can back up its rugged looks. Ireland will get a limited range of engines. Power comes from a 2 litre diesel that is available in two outputs, a 150hp, 6 speed manual from €35,495 that attracts €270 road tax and a 184hp, 6-speed DSG auto from €38,850 with an annual road tax of €280.
We ventured off road a Škoda drive camp located not far from Vienna. We experienced some extreme side slip angles with little drama and enjoyed the family car mimicking a serious off roader with axle articulation that saw us on three wheels only on the ground at times. Hill decent control worked brilliantly as it nursed my Scout down a hill leaving me to simply steer in the right direction. The speed at which I approach the brow set the defending speed that the car applied. The Land Rover Defender loving part of me felt more than a little sad as the Scout managed all aspects of the course without the need for any skill or serious input on my part. Approach and departure angles are improved, there is better under-body protection should you bottom out or scrape the ground while tackling the great outdoors.
On the smooth roads surrounding the camp the Škoda proved very comfortable and the slightly elevated driving position made for relaxed cruising. The Scout is a remarkably complete family car as it offers brilliant load lugging ability with chunky styling. It’s not garish to look at and isn’t following a fashion or trend. Dare I say for many buyers the fact it is not an SUV is a big part of its appeal. More equipment features and this goes some way to accounting for the circa €1,200 price hike. The Scout comes in one high grade with only a few options available for a premium. Fuels consumption is impressive for a 4X4. The Scout uses a haldex-like all wheel drive system to distribute power from the predominantly front wheel drive four cylinder engine to the rear axel as and when added traction is needed. A simple little off road button is all you need to press and the car does the rest. Trailer users will love the trailer assist function and of course big 2 tonne towing capacity (braked).
The 150hp will return an average of 5 l/100km (47mpg) while the 184hp is only slightly thirstiest with 5.1 l/100km (46mpg). 0-100 kph takes a reasonable 9.1 seconds and a brisk 7.8 seconds respectfully.
Under the RS’s skin is the essence of a brilliant Volkswagen GTI but with the added benefit of a much longer wheelbase. The longer gap between front and rear wheels means the RS is friendlier when cornering and less likely to swap ends when driving beyond your talent. A four wheel drive 184hp/380nm diesel RS is available too, with a 6 speed DSG auto gearbox. The diesel RS has been a massive hit but the latest 230hp/350nm petrol powered machine is the most fun. The good news is there is going to be a power increase to 245hp very shortly after the 230 arrives in Ireland so buyers should hold off for that version. DSG and manual gearbox options are available and like the scout the car comes in one high specification.
RS models get a sports chassis and DCC active dynamic chassis control that underpins a more purposeful look. New adaptive LED headlights, a wider grill and restyled bumpers feature. Leather or full Alcantara sports seats help deliver the most driver focused Octavia you can buy. Both fuel types make a nice sound when accelerating but it’s the petrol that delivers the most grins with the extra horses. The benefit of the 30mm wider rear track helps the RS feel planted under acceleration, the electronic XDS+ differential plays a big part in the car’s great and predictable handling. At the drive camp we were able to enjoy the new progressive steering that hustled us with mild under-steer through a series of slaloms and wet track tests. All the time the car felt planted and surefooted. A fast car is only as good as its brakes and the huge 17 inch front brake discs do a great job of scrubbing off speed. The standard drive modes included a sport setting and there were three levels of electronic stability control to select from. The sport setting allowed me express my full inner idiot on the test track without losing control. For me a petrol RS Combi is the ideal machine but the continued availability of a frugal diesel that is perfect for higher mileage users is a boon. The standard hatch RS cuts a very handsome dash too. RS diesel prices start from €34,450 and rise to €36,795 for DSG with the 4X4 DSG starting from €39,995. It’s another €1,000 for the estate version of each. Petrol powered RS prices are yet to be announced.