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Skoda Octavia Estate long-term test

2020 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by Keith Adams Published: 23 July 2021 Updated: 2 February 2024

Skoda Octavia Estate long-term test review - Energy Blue 1.5 e-TSI DSG, with boot contents and cj hubbard

This is the Parkers long-term test of the Skoda Octavia Estate – going beyond the usual short-term press loan to find out what it’s really like to live with one these if you have a small family.

Reports by cj hubbard

Report 1: Octavia Estate long-term test specifications and options

Hello, and welcome to the latest step on my journey to find the perfect car for a young family. Starting with an electric SUV (the VW ID.4), then swapping to a seven-seater van-style MPV (the VW Multivan), then moving to a seven-seater SUV (the VW Tiguan Allspace), I’ve now ended up at the most traditional choice so far: a Skoda Octavia Estate.

A long-standing legend of the school run, the Octavia Estate promises great value as well as great practicality – but what does it actually deliver? I’ve got the kids as well as the keys (for a few months) to find out.

What kind of Octavia Estate are you long-term testing?

Rather unusually these days, I was able to spec this car from scratch – so I’ve only got myself to blame for any poor decisions when it comes to living with this Octavia. The car I’ve concocted is based on that extensive recent experience with Volkswagen Group products, however, and at least on initial impressions I think I’ve got it about right. For my preferences, anyway.

Under the bonnet is the latest 1.5-litre TSI e-TEC turbo-petrol engine. This is a mild-hybrid version of this modern 150hp motor that’s only available in combination with the seven-speed DSG automatic – which suits me just fine as this car will spend most of its time driving the children around town or taking me down the A1 to the office and back.

The colour is the no-cost option Energy Blue, which I picked specifically for its jolliness – and because it reminds me of the Mariner Blue of my first Mazda MX-5. The trim level is SE L, which is the top regular trim, sitting just below the sporty vRS halo model. This might seem indulgent, but the extensive standard equipment list makes it excellent value.

Skoda Octavia Estate long-term test review - Energy Blue 1.5 e-TSI DSG, with boot contents and cj hubbard, boot open

Highlight items for me here include the keyless entry – which crucially works on the rear doors as well as the fronts, something I now consider utterly essential as a parent – and the heated door mirrors, which also auto-dim on the driver’s side. And useful on my regular long-distance journeys (my commute is 164 miles each way at present) are the comfort front seats, adaptive cruise control and headlight washers – all standard on SE L as well.

Other essentials include the built-in wireless Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay), tyre pressure monitors, dual-zone climate control, variable-height boot floor and DAB radio. I don’t really care for digital instruments, but you get those too, plus an additional airbag – for the driver’s knees.

What about options?

Glad you asked. I’ve been quite specific…

For instance, I’ve consciously avoided the press-fleet-popular adaptive suspension – I generally much prefer a car to have been subject to a definite set-up, rather than a variable one that surely demands compromises. Similarly, I’ve avoided tangling with Travel Assist and its predictive cruise control due to poor experiences of this in the Tiguan.

However, I have gone for all-season tyres, as I now live in the North East of England and am very aware of the approaching winter and how bitter it can be up here. I also have a head-up display, blind spot monitors, and full matrix LED headlights – all intended to maximise real-world driving safety.

I’ve opted for a space-saver spare so we can keep moving in the event of a puncture, too, while ‘crew protect assist’ prepares the car for impact should the worst happen.

Skoda Octavia Estate long-term test review - Energy Blue 1.5 e-TSI DSG, with boot contents and cj hubbard, shutting boot

Comfort and convenience are covered by the Winter Pack, which adds rear heated seats to the standard front heated seats, and the Sleep Pack, which gives you comfier rear headrests and, slightly oddly, a blanket. Both of these packs are basically for my wife, who often travels in the back with our smallest child. The interior LED lighting boosts night-time visibility inside.

The Simply Clever Pack adds a reversable boot mat – vital for muddy boots and pushchair wheels – as well as a tablet holder for one backseat passenger and a bin in the front door pocket. There’s also a set of cargo-management equipment for the boot.

Wireless charging saves wear and tear on my phone’s USB port (although whether this can cope with long journeys without overheating remains to be seen) while the optional Pulsar Aero 17-inch alloy wheels replace the standard 17-inch Rotare alloy wheels because the look appealed to me.

What’s the total bill?

At the time of ordering, a 1.5-litre DSG SE L Skoda Octavia Estate had a list price of £31,750. My options have sent that up to £37,740 – which I admit is a lot for a conventionally-powered family load lugger. But I reckon my choices will be worth every penny when it comes to ultimate usability.

Report 2: Oh heck, what’s that hiding in the snow…

I want to preface the first bit of this second report on long-term life with the Octavia Estate by pointing out that I already think it’s quite a brilliant choice for a family. It’s not perfect – nothing is – but there is some really sensible thinking throughout, and I don’t just mean Skoda’s trademark ‘simply clever’ features.

But there’s still no getting away from the fact that the car under the snow in the picture below is missing a vital part of its rump. Which tells you that for a little while I found myself unexpectedly driving an Octavia hatchback. Which is another way of saying that, rather surprisingly for an almost new car, the Octavia Estate broke down.

Skoda Octavia long-term test - hatchback covered in snow

Wait. What happened to the Octavia Estate?

Nothing terminal. But still a little troubling. As mentioned previously, I’ve had a few VW Group long-termers on the bounce now, and the current crop of infotainment systems have always been a little flaky. So when the Octavia’s started crashing, I didn’t think too much of it.

Until one evening when I was driving home, and it happened several times in a row, finally culminating in a total failure that also caused the car to throw a wobbly about some other systems you wouldn’t automatically think to be related. Namely the rear traffic alert, the exit warning function, the parking sensors and the emergency call system. Odd.

Skoda Octavia long-term test - blank infotainment screen

Since it was showing no signs of recovery, the Estate ended up going back to Skoda, and a ended up being able to an impromptu comparison with the hatchback in a totally unplanned fashion.

What’s the spec on the hatchback?

The most conveniently interesting thing about the hatchback – aside from the boot seeming almost more practical than the estate’s – is that it’s a 1.5-litre TSI with the manual gearbox. The less expensive, not-quite-as-similar-as-you’d-think alternative to the 1.5 TSI e-Tec DSG fitted in the long-termer.

As a motoring writer, I’m supposed to go all gooey-eyed about manual transmissions – and, yes, in the right circumstances they provide a much greater connection between car and driver. But for daily transport that does mostly town and long-distance motorway driving, I’d choose a good, modern auto almost all of the time. And the Skoda’s DSG is a good, modern auto.

It’s also bolted onto an engine variant that has a mild-hybrid system, which the manual gearbox car does not. Given the difference in transmission I’d be lying if I could overwhelmingly detect the small performance boost the electric motor delivers but with an extra gear ratio as well the Estate does feel a touch punchier.

Of more relevance to most people, the motor certainly helps give the estate one of the smoothest stop-start systems I’ve ever encountered, and you do definitely notice the difference with the non-hybrid engine there.

Then there’s the lengthy throw of the manual gearlever. I was hardly expecting a quickshift kit in a family car, but I actually bashed my hand on the protruding edge of the dashboard on a couple of occasions. Apparently that’s the price for Skoda still giving buyers some physical buttons.

Skoda Octavia Estate long-term test review - Energy Blue 1.5 TSI e-TEC DSG, half covered in snow

Only other slight amusement about the whole situation is that, as explained, I specced the estate with all-season tyres, anticipating inclement weather in the North East during my time with the car. And of course, as you can see, almost as soon as the estate departed, it snowed.

So what was wrong?

I’m told diagnostics showed a single fault in the end, and as a result the ‘information electrics control module’ was replaced – under warranty, of course.

The estate is now back, and working flawlessly. More soon.

Skoda Octavia Estate 1.5 e-Tec DSG
Latest mileage2,820 miles
Real-world average fuel economy43.92mpg (latest report)
Official combined fuel economy (WLTP)50.6mpg
Parkers miles per pound calculation (mpp)6.2-8.0 (across all petrol engines)
Car on Parkers fleetNovember 2023