Family choice: Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI SE road test

  • Huge boot, plenty of interior space
  • Free road tax, and 74.3mpg average
  • SE includes DAB and two ISOFIX fittings

This latest Skoda Octavia is tailor-made for buyers with a family. This new version is 90mm longer and 45mm wider and the wheelbase has grown by 108mm meaning more legroom, shoulder room and, more importantly, boot space.

There are four engines available: 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels and 1.2 and 1.4-litre petrol versions. Later on in the year Skoda will offer an ultra-economical ‘Greenline' version that emits 89g/km of CO2 with an average economy of 83mpg. This model will be extremely popular – the fuel efficiency stats alone should ensure that – but we think the best choice for families now will be the 1.6-litre diesel that emits a road tax- and congestion charge-busting 99g/km. Fuel efficiency is also impressive with a claimed average of 74.3mpg.

The 1.6-litre model offers reasonable performance – the 103bhp achieves 0-62mph in 10.8s with a top speed of 120mph, but its maximum torque figure of 250Nm is important because that is delivered between 1,500 and 2,750rpm which means there’s plenty of pull for overtaking on the motorways and single-lane carriageways.

So, you won’t feel shortchanged in terms of power, and because it’ll seat five adults with ease your kids won’t feel cramped in the back. Added to that there’s a cavernous boot with 590 litres of cargo space that extends to 1,580 litres with the rear seats folded down. That makes the case for the Skoda Octavia even stronger especially when you consider that its main rivals all have smaller loadbays: the VW Golf (380 litres), SEAT Toledo (550 litres), Honda Civic (477 litres), VW Jetta (520 litres) and the Ford Mondeo (528 litres).

Both manual and semi-automatic DSG gearboxes will be available on the Octavia but we think the six-speed manual is good enough for the job especially when you consider that the automatic blunts performance, increases CO2 emissions and slightly dents fuel economy.

Three trims are available on the Skoda Octavia: S, SE and Elegance. We think the SE model is good enough for families because it includes enough kit to make life easy for the demands of everyday life. Standard equipment on SE includes 16-inch alloy wheels, intermittent wipers, automatic post-collision braking that brakes the car after an accident, a six-CD 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, as well as driver fatigue warning, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors. If you want sat-nav and leather upholstery you’ll have to go for the Elegance version but it will cost you around £2,000 more.

SE also includes Skoda’s driving mode selection system that features three driving modes that you can switch between depending on the situation. There’s Normal, Eco and Sport and you can also set the car up to your own individual requirements with a mixture of all three. These modes adjust the steering and throttle responses. Usually, if you are out on the open road you’ll switch to Sport, while Eco is best for town driving and Normal is best for cruising on the motorway.

In terms of handling the Octavia is competent but not quite as composed as say, a VW Golf or Ford Focus. It is comfortable and it cruises nicely, however. The diesel engine can get a little noisy, but it’ll settle down once you are up to speed.

There are some nice touches too: the Octavia has a double-sided floor covering – one side carpet and one side rubber to protect the boot from muddy shoe prints or wet dogs. There are plenty of cubby-holes in which to store bits and bobs, while the Octavia also comes with an ice scraper placed inside the filler flap. As a family car, that’s practical, affordable and comfortable the new Octavia is hard to beat.

Plenty of boot space and that's before you fold the rear seats down

Ice scraper is placed inside the filler cap - very useful in winter