By Ian Strachan
Time was when one litre engines were confined to city cars and superminis. Not any more writes motoring editor Ian Strachan. Engine technology has moved on so much that a one litre unit can provide more than enough power for a family saloon.
The Skoda Octavia is a case in point. The Octavia SE Hatch is powered by a 1.0 litre petrol engine that develops 115 bhp and has all the power you need, with a top speed, where permitted of 127 mph and a 0-60 time of around nine seconds.
You also get a very good car at a keen price, with high specification, good looking lines and a cavernous boot.
I test drove the Octavia Hatch in SE trim level, powered by an impressively smooth petrol power unit. I have to say it was a driving pleasure.
This Octavia moves Skoda about as far from its past as it’s possible to get. This is a very competent, well built, well-specified, well priced offering in the medium car segment and it’s every bit as good as other mainstream competitors. This car drives and handles superbly.
The first thing you notice about the Octavia is its smart appearance, with its sweeping headlights and deep body-coloured front bumper and grille. It has a robust look to it, even though lines are smooth and rounded.
Inside, the Octavia is roomy and pleasant with lots of features including good quality trim materials and touch screen instrumentation. It’s a bit dark and grey – as are the interiors of many cars in the Volkswagen Audi stable, but it’s clear and well laid out.
There are lots of storage spaces including a good size illuminated glovebox and central storage under the armrest. The door bins are a good size. Instruments are clear and controls are well arranged. Boot space is very impressive, with 590 litres of luggage space, which can be increased by folding the rear seats. Despite the generous boot, legroom for rear seat passengers isn’t compromised. I was also pleased to see a wiper on the rear screen. You sometimes don’t get these and rear visibility can be compromised.
The 1.0 litre petrol powered version is very pleasant to drive. It’s a smooth and extremely willing unit. At motorway speeds it cruises effortlessly and only when pushed hard feels under any strain. It’s linked to a pleasantly sprung six-speed manual gearbox. Fuel consumption is very good, at 60.1 mpg in mixed driving.
Ride and handling are cool and surefooted. The Octavia corners flat and confidently and there’s a good feel to the powered steering.
Specification levels are high. Standard equipment on my test car included 16-inch alloy wheels, front and side airbags for driver and passenger, remote central locking, all-round electric windows and door mirrors, multi-function steering wheel, acoustic rear parking sensors, rear window wiper, cruise control, driving mode selection, hill hold and a very good dual-zone air conditioning system. The SE comes at £19,095 on the road.
My test car was fitted with an uprated DAB radio and sound system including wi-fi, Bluetooth and touchscreen satnav (£810) and a full-size temporary spare wheel (£110)
Any residual prejudices about buying a Skoda should have long since gone, and this well-specified car is a very good buy. You can pay a lot more for a lot less.