Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Huge revamp for this generation
  • Technological uplift as well as material
  • Easier to use than equivalent Golf

When it comes to this Octavia's cockpit, it appears as though Skoda have opted for the 'continuous improvement' approach: the cabin feels comfortably familiar with the biggest change sat right in front of you. The door handles and the outer air vents are recognisable from the previous generation model, but the dashboard has undergone a transformation; borrowing heavily from the Golf Mk8, there’s a very simple look, which Skoda calls a ‘multi-level’ design.

2020 Skoda Octavia vRS Estate interior

Full digital dials and a large central touchscreen (up to 10.0 inches in size) come as standard on almost every model, with an updated operating system compared with the previous car. There's also the new touch-sensitive bar for the volume control and a row of actual physical buttons beneath for shortcuts. This will please those who find the SEAT Leon and VW Golf’s entirely touch sensitive set-up a bit fiddly.

The climate controls have migrated to the screen though and this might take a bit of getting used to – on the whole we found the infotainment screen innovative in approach and quite successful in use, but some settings require you to now work deeper into the submenus, and while driving, this can be a bit of a distraction. Skoda’s voice control system is just as good as in the VW, though.

You can tap the touch-sensitive volume bar to adjust the stereo incrementally, or sweep across for larger adjustments, but we found this tricky to manage - this would be better controlled by the front passenger, leaving the driver to stick with the steering wheel controls instead.

Other changes include a new two-spoke steering wheel with plenty of buttons, and a rocker switch to select gears instead of the traditional gear lever for automatic models. There are big improvements in quality, with plenty of ambient lighting and different materials used.

All-in-all, the new car now feels significantly more modern inside. The reduced button count has tidied up the cabin, but not necessarily made it easier to use, even if it betters the Leon and Golf.

Small changes for the iV plug-in hybrid

In terms of PHEV-specific styling touches though the only obvious change is a battery level meter on the left-hand side of the digital cockpit where the coolant temperature used to be.

2020 Skoda Octavia Estate iV gauges

Positioned opposite the petrol gauge, this gives a clear and instant view of your remaining fuel and charge.

vRS features subtle styling upgrades

There's not a whole lot to mark out the vRS from the run of the mill options save for a pair of sporty bucket seats and a load of red stitching everywhere.

You also get a three-spoke steering wheel that's a slightly different shape and the pedals have an aluminium finish, but otherwise this is a hot hatch that doesn't shout so much about its performance potential.

Comfort

  • New ergonomic chairs
  • Three zone climate control
  • Still a bit of road noise

A big selling point from the previous Octavia was the high level of comfort it provided the driver and passengers, and on the whole this has improved this time around.

Long-distance driving comfort is improved with new seats similar to the ErgoComfort ones you’ll find in the VW Passat range. A higher degree of adjustability with electric lumbar support and massage function is available in a variety of fabrics and materials depending on the model you opt for, along with ventilation and heating built in, but even the standard chairs are supportive and comfy.

You can also get three-zone climate control in an Octavia now, meaning all passengers can set the level of heating or cooling they want without adversely affecting others.

Some areas that require improvement remain – there’s more road noise than we’d like on the move, with most of it either resonating behind you from the boot, or from the windows.

The engines are otherwise hushed - including the diesels with only a hint of diesel clatter when cold and during certain times of acceleration. The vRS TDI we tested wasn't even spinning at 1,750rpm at motorway speeds, which is great for minimising engine noise as well as fuel economy.

The 1.5-litre petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox is also reassuringly quiet and remains so until right at the top of its rev range.

The ride on the (admittedly bigger-wheeled) cars we've tested have been a little firm around town. Thankfully, even the most sporting vRS isn't jittery or harsh over bumps, but the constant little imperfections that make themselves felt could become annoying on longer journeys.

Lower-spec models with smaller wheels and more tyre sidewall are better in this regard, so make sure you arrange a long test drive to get the lay of the land. Those tempted by the adaptive damping system found on the optional Dynamic chassis control will benefit from the additional Comfort drive mode on offer, as it softens the ride and further isolates the cabin from rougher surfaces.