Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Looks different and yet feels comfortably familiar
  • Large touchscreen standard on all models
  • Easy to get comfortable

The Octavia's interior is where the biggest steps have taken place over the older model. The dashboard has undergone a huge transformation and looks and feels a whole lot classier.

There are some shared components with the Volkswagen Golf, but manages to look very different. The simple look, which Skoda calls a 'multi-level' design, somehow comes across as more appealing – especially when it comes to the tasteful use of chrome and suede to dress up some of the surfaces.

Full digital dials (below) are available on most models while a large 10.0-inch central touchscreen comes as standard on all, with an up-to-date operating system.

As a driver, you'll struggle to input changes on the move, and will be forever wiping fingerprints off it, but the Octavia has two advantage over the Golf and SEAT Leon.

The first is the row of buttons running along the bottom of the screen for adjusting the climate control, with the second being a row of eight physical buttons positioned just above the centre air vents. This makes the Octavia much more user friendly than both SEAT and Volkswagen, but it's a shame the buttons themselves feel hollow and cheap.

At least the sweeping dashboard trim beneath the touchscreen acts as a ledge for your hand to rest on - something that's also desperately absent on the other two hatches mentioned above.

There is a touch-sensitive bar beneath the screen for the volume control, which again, can be quite tricky for the driver to use - you can tap or swipe it to adjust, but the latter move tends to risk deafening every occupant, so it's best reserved for the front passenger to use. Besides, this only encourages the driver to stick to the tactile, 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 gearlever for automatic models. Quality is otherwise good, with plenty of ambient lighting and different materials used.

We just wish the face vents for the air conditioning system were positioned higher – as getting them to cool you correctly in hot weather can be a touch hit and miss.

vRS models come with a sportier cabin

If you’re coming from the previous Octavia vRS, it’ll look and feel very familiar in here. The door pulls, air vents, thin-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and front seats are all very similar to what they were before, so it almost feels like home.

The heated, front cloth seats feel a little flat at first but prove to be as comfortable as ever with plenty of adjustment to find your desired driving position. Taller drivers might feel as though they’re perched a little too high compared with some other performance hatchbacks, but this sensation is also due to the low-topped dash – it’s hardly a complaint, though, as this helps give you a good view ahead.

Those sat in the rear may be less pleased, however, as the high front seat backs restrict their forward view, meaning they’ll feel a little more claustrophobic compared with a standard model. This also isn’t helped by the black headlining, which further darkens the interior.

The digital cockpit screen looks quite complex as it offers a wide range of displays, including a sportier one displaying torque output, a central speedometer and a full-width rev counter across the top of the screen.

It’s a good effort, being smart and easy to read, but it's almost ruined by how difficult it is to see what gear you’re in – this tiny figure hidden in the bottom left corner of the screen means you can’t easily glance at it when you’re in the mood to change gear using the steering wheel paddles.

Skoda Octavia comfort

  • Comfortable on long journeys
  • More wind and road noise than a Golf
  • Ride is impressively cushioned on rough roads

Long-distance driving comfort is where the Octavia excels. The roomy interior, excellent driving position and low overall noise levels make this a great car in which to reel off a 500-mile day of driving. The 2.0 TDI version we've tested passes with flying colours, although the supremely quiet Golf just pips it with lower overall wind and road noise levels.

Front-seat comfort is particularly impressive. The Octavia has been improved with new seats similar to the ErgoComfort ones you’ll find in the Volkswagen Passat range. A higher degree of adjustability with electric lumbar support and massage function is available as an option in a variety of fabrics and materials depending on the model you opt for.

Those in the rear are also very well catered for, with ample legroom, well-sculpted rear seats, and a lidded rear armrest. In short, this feels more like an executive car than a mainstream family hatchback.

Sporty vRS model remains comfortable

We’ve tried the vRS with optional adaptive suspension, which comes as part of the Dynamic Chassis Control package. This adjusts the firmness of the suspension depending on the drive mode, allowing you to favour a softer ride quality or better body control depending on your mood.

There’s a noticeable difference between the modes, which isn’t always the case with this option on some cars, and the Octavia isolates occupants from bumps well in its softest Comfort setting. It’s best to take advantage of this slightly softer ride when you just want to wind down, as it removes the smaller ripples that you’d feel in Normal mode on the motorway. Thankfully, Sport firms up the suspension without being too jiggly either.

There’s a fair amount of road noise from the 19-inch tyres, but the level of refinement in here remains good enough for long distance comfort. There are no vibrations sent through the steering wheel, seats or floor, and just the occasional a bit of wind noise fluttering around the windscreen pillars.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine always remains quiet, resembling the bigger and more grown-up Superb 280 with a similar engine in sound and volume. Our early test car didn't pipe any artificial engine noise into the cabin, which we thought was quite welcoming as it helped the vRS feel more hushed than before. We think it suits the Octavia’s nature, but we've since been made aware that all models will generate additional engine noise in the sportier drive mode for added theatre - as it did with the previous model.

The standard sound system is clear, but puts out very little bass, so the Canton system might be a worthy upgrade if you want a bit of punch to go with your music.