Motoring

Skoda Octavia: Bigger, better, and more accomplished

Having pulled the plug on the third-gen Octavia last year when India transitioned to the stricter BS6 emission norms, Skoda’s executive sedan has now returned with the new fourth-gen model with prices now ranging from ₹ 25.99 to 28.99 lakh (ex-showroom). So does the new fourth-gen model back up its premium pricing? We find out.

The new Octavia comes at a time when the executive sedan segment has all but collapsed but there is little doubt that this car, in this gorgeous shade of blue, will have all eyeballs on it. The focal point of the design is the new grille, now placed lower down, and the distinctive pair of LED headlights with their twin L-shaped DRL pattern. As on its big sister, the Superb, skinning on the fenders, doors and flanks is tight, with plenty of attractive creases and cuts, making the new Octavia look lithe and muscular.

The strong belt-line gives it a more confident stance while around the rear, the upside-down L-shaped tail-lights add to the overall appeal. However, some will find the blackened wheels, with their webbed detailing, a bit over the top.

The India-spec car has also been raised to better handle our road conditions and this means there is plenty of daylight between the wheels and wheel arches. While this does spoil the overall stance, there is an appealing richness to the design and that really does make it stand out.

The fresh new look carries on inside too, where you are greeted by a very modern cabin with quality levels a big step up over its predecessor. The doors shut with a solid thunk and there is a satisfying heft to how things function.

Skoda has also successfully managed to give the insides a rich feel. There are both, brushed metal and chrome inserts that brighten up the cabin. Alcantara has been used on top of the dash, the door pockets are felt lined and the two-spoke steering wheel, with its metallic knurled controllers is beautifully built. Even the stubby gear selector — no traditional gear lever here — is well crafted. Interestingly, the Octavia uses shift-by-wire tech, which means communication between the selector and gearbox is via electronic signals and not mechanical linkages.

The latest Octavia is well equipped too. With the 10-inch touchscreen, which is crisp and responds well to the lightest tap, there are physical shortcut buttons for the ESC, fatigue alert system, climate control and park assist. The climate control system however feels fiddly to use with all controls now via the touchscreen. What is also a hit and miss is the volume control panel below the touchscreen.

You also get a fully digital instrument panel with configurable modes. The layouts are user friendly and it even relays navigation instructions from Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so drivers will not need to look away to the main touchscreen.

Ventilated seats are not part of the package, though a bigger miss for potential buyers is a sunroof — the latest Octavia is not engineered for one.

What occupants will appreciate, however, are the big, comfortable front seats. They are electrically adjustable, broad enough to seat large occupants in comfort with excellent back and thigh support, and even feature lumbar support adjustment and a memory function.

Comfort at the rear is excellent too, and the new Octavia is now an even better car to be chauffeur-driven in. Space is up as compared to the third-gen sedan, the seats are better contoured for more lateral support and the backrest is now set at a more comfortable angle. There is even a decent amount of space for the third passenger though they will have to straddle the wide central tunnel.

The large, 600 litre boot space means there is plenty of space for luggage. The boot can be accessed through the rear armrest; it gets a hands-free opening function, and powered operation too. You even have the option to fold the rear seats electrically.

The last-gen Octavia bowed out of India in grand style, in full-blown RS245 avatar. The new Octy features the same 2.0 TSI turbo-petrol engine, albeit in lower 190hp and 320Nm state of tune — up 10hp and 70Nm over the old 1.8 TSI. A 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox is standard fit and channels power to the front wheels. A lesser 1.5-litre petrol version is a possibility and Skoda has confirmed the new Octy RS will come to India in due course, but there will not be any diesels.

Fire up the Octavia and it settles into a smooth, refined idle. The car responds smartly to a tap on the throttle, and past 2,000rpm there is a strong tug that makes performance feel effortless. This, backed by the extremely smooth and inaudible engine, means that the Octavia can be a capable highway cruiser. Push harder and you are rewarded with an even stronger push coming in post 4,000rpm. This is particularly pleasing when conditions allow, and what helps is the twin-clutch gearbox that is quick to dial up the next gear and responds super quick to inputs at the paddles.

In town, however, the 7-speed DSG does get tripped up on occasion. Sudden changes in throttle input can elicit a slightly delayed reaction, though it is never too harsh.

Drivers with a sportier bent will miss drive modes, but you do get launch control. Put your foot down and launch it does, the engine pulling strongly as soon as you are off the line. 100kph comes up in 8 seconds flat, with 160 coming up in 18.9 seconds. However, compared to the last Octavia, there is really very little difference in terms of performance.

The new Octavia also rides well and while the 106mm laden ground clearance figure was worrying, it was able to clear large speed breakers with ease. The Skoda also tackles large potholes effortlessly. The ride can be busy at times too, especially on concrete roads, where there is also a bit of tyre noise. However, keep to a steady pace on the highway and the Octavia feels solid and settled.

Like the earlier-gen car, this one too has a steering that is light, easy to twirl and accurate. This helps make the car feel smaller than it is from behind the wheel. Even nicer is that the steering remains pin-sharp and accurate even at higher speeds, and since the Octavia’s front end has a fair amount of bite, and it does not roll too much, agility is good. So, it is no surprise that this neutral handler feels safe and composed even in fast corners. It is only when you push hard into a corner that the 205/55 R17 tyres seem out of depth.

Bigger, better, and more accomplished, the new Octavia feels like a more upmarket and luxurious sedan. The cabin is extremely comfortable, quality levels have taken a clear step forward and apart from a few misses, Skoda has equipped the Octavia generously too.

If there is a hurdle, it would be the price. The new Octavia is considerably more expensive, and that could make some buyers baulk. But, once you get over the shock and look closely at where your money goes, it is fair to say that with the Octavia’s unimpeachable build quality, it is money well spent.


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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 9:25:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/skoda-octavia-bigger-better-and-more-accomplished/article34848466.ece

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