Driver's choice: Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI 140 PS SE 5dr

  • 0-62mph in 8.4s, 134mph top speed
  • Lighter and more balanced than diesel models
  • SE trim offers Skoda's driving modes

For driving enjoyment the new Skoda Octavia isn’t exactly up there with the likes of the VW Golf or even the Ford Focus, but the 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol version still has enough in the handling department to make it reasonable fun when you are out on the open road.

In a straight line the 1.4-litre is acceptably quick, accelerating from 0-62mph in 8.4s with a top speed of 134mph. It is only one tenth faster to 62mph and 1mph quicker at the top end than the versatile 2.0-litre diesel version, but it feels much more urgent thanks to the linear and smooth power delivery.

It’s 75kg lighter than the 2.0-litre diesel too: at 1,255kg it’s better balanced, giving extra agility around the corners. That extra poise on tighter bends means it should be the choice for keener drivers who want just a fraction more composure and cornering ability to go with better performance.

There are three trim levels: S, SE and Elegance and if you opt for SE or Elegance there are three driving modes that you can choose from: Normal, Eco and Sport. You can also set the car up to your own individual requirement, delivering the desired mixture of all three. The three modes adjust the steering and throttle responses according the driving situation and if you are on a twisty B-road you might want to set it to Sport, while Eco is best for town driving and Normal is best for cruising on the motorway.

The Sport mode is by far the best for performance although it doesn’t affect the suspension set-up. The Octavia does lean a bit when pushed and there’s not much in the way of steering feel on whatever model you choose.

You can choose from a manual six-speed gearbox or six or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes, but we think the six-speed manual is the correct choice for driving enthusiasts: it’s smooth and we don’t feel the DSG is particularly rewarding. The DSG version are also fractionally slower, have higher CO2 emissions and are less economical.

The new Skoda Octavia offers plenty of standard kit right across the range but we would opt for the SE version because it offers the three driving modes and the extra equipment ont the Elegance isn't that necessary. Standard equipment on the SE includes includes 16-inch alloy wheels, intermittent wipers, a 6CD autochanger with DAB radio, Bluetooth, leather steering wheel, split folding rear seats, electric front windows and door mirrors, air-con, two ISOFIX child seat fittings in the rear and an alarm and immobiliser, driver fatigue warning, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors. The only notable absences on the SE kit list are sat-nav and leather upholstery.

You have to accept that the Skoda Octavia isn’t aimed at the driving enthusiast and those that want real excitement will wait for the vRS model that will come later. Still the 1.4 is a decent enough car but not quite as good on the road as the Golf and Focus.