Several weeks ago I attended the NZ launch of the new fourth generation Skoda Octavia where I was told that it was bigger, faster and simply 'clevererer' than ever - well now thanks to Skoda NZ, I've gotten to test that out.
Skoda has come a long way from the unrefined vehicles that I remember as a kid. Their entire range of hatchbacks, SUVs and wagons are great looking and as their marketing spiel says, 'simply clever' with a tonne of driver comforts and aids.
Specifically for this review piece, the very popular Octavia has improved over the years too.
The Octavia nameplate itself dates back to 1959 (way before the Czech auto-maker became involved with the Volkswagen Group) and has clocked up over 6.5 million global unit sales to date, and the RS has eked out quite a cult following.
Skoda NZ had organised back-to-back tests with the Style and RS models which was always going to be fun and (of course) the feature presentation would be the aforementioned RS, however, as we discovered the milder-mannered Style has a lot to offer too.
The 2021 or fourth generation Octavia is 22mm longer than before and 15mm wider, which equates to more space for those on the inside. The Skoda signature grille is far more pronounced and extends out to meet new, narrow headlights that are LED and in the RS's case Matrix.
DRL's are also LED and are straightlined with the 'Style' and L-shaped in the RS.
The new Octavia's profile sports new wheel designs, a sharper tornado line that runs from nose to tail and more aero-dynamic roof rails - in fact the entire wagon now slips easier through the air with a 0.26 Cd. Plus there are cool puddle lights that showcase 'Skoda' when you open the door at night.
The rear comes with an extended roofline spoiler, LED lights with crystal segments (a nod to the brand's bohemianess), SKODA lettering (moving away from the badge), virtual foot-pedal tailgate opening (to 640L-1700L of luggage space) and chromed exhaust tips for the RS.
The exterior is good, but the interior is better. The fourth-gen Octavia sports a whole new design and tech concept. The centre console is far less cluttered thanks to the Octavia's move to 'shift by wire' removing the bulky gearstick and there's an electronic park brake.
The buttons and switches are now haptic dials and sliders and the 10-inch infotainment screen takes pride of place in the dash, offering up a raft of apps and now with 'area view' for parking.
The infotainment is third generation MIB and can be controlled by gesture, proximity, touch, voice or by Laura.
"OK Laura" is the new Skoda voice assistant that will take care of your vehicle and navigation needs. Another cool (or hot) feature is the triple zoned A/C, it has a 'simple directions' screen that allows you to 'warm my hands/feet'.
To top off the tech, the instrument cluster is digital and personalisable with full screen navigation and data galore.
For the week behind the two-spoked wheel of the Octavia style, I concentrated on family use. Under the bonnet is a 1.4 TSI (110kW/250Nm) married to an 8-Speed Auto giving 9.1s 0-100km and 5.7L/100km.
I'm calling this a mild Octavia but in truth the power is much better than what's on paper. The front wheel drive wagon felt happy moving around the 'burbs and offered more than ample space for my small family network.
The denim style dash is a break from the norm and seat comfort is great for both short and more extended trips. Aside from football practice and groceries, we headed to Wenderholm Regional Park to stretch the legs of the family and the Octavia and even in normal drive mode it offered plenty of pick up and 5.6L/100km efficiency.
The Octavia Stye is great - however, the RS is the real deal. Under its (in my case steel grey) bonnet was a 2L TSI married to a 7-Speed DSG giving me 6.7s 0-100km and 6.6L/100km oh and 146g/km.
Again, it's front wheel drive but it seriously drives like an AWD. The engine growls constantly (sure it's not real but don't let that worry you) and it rev matches on downshift.
The RS seats are more bucket and bolstered than its stylish sibling and which is needed, as I did tend to drive this performance wagon with more vigour. And thanks to its RS Sport suspension, it attacks corners with glee. On the straights, the faster you go the more weighted the steering is and the three-spoke in RS badged wheel feels great in the hand.
Despite its multiple drive modes, I only really opted for Sport in the RS and took every opportunity to push on that accelerator, for which I was rewarded with great big dollops of smile-inducing grunt. The RS also has launch control for those moments where you want to test its (metal) mettle, and boy does it deliver.
The all new fourth generation Skoda Octavia is all the NZ team said it would be and then some. It's smarter than before (just ask Laura) and more drivable.
Sure the RS the model to go for (although the engine noise should be tempered when in normal mode), but the Style really was an eyebrow raiser. Can't wait for the fifth generation!
Why you should:
- Spacious, modern and not an SUV
- Your choice of performance or economy
- People stop and ask you about it
Why you shouldn't:
- It's not an SUV
- Fake performance engine sound
- Front wheel drive only
What else to consider: Cupra Leon Sportstourer, VW Passat, BMW Touring, Audi Avant.