Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3

Should you buy a Skoda Octavia Hatchback?

Yes, it's a highly recommended choice. Based on our early drives overseas and followed by a much longer test of the 115hp 2.0TDI version in the UK, it looks like Skoda has produced a very capable, likeable family hatchback with very little worth criticising. Tech and spec are now on the pace with the best of the rest, while its efficiency (certainly in diesel form) is highly impressive.

If anything, the interior has made a bigger step forward than the sharp-looking exterior, and the quality and usability are ever so slightly ahead of the Volkswagen Golf – which could be a bit of a shock for anyone with any lingering doubts about Skoda's car-building prowess these days.

If you don't mind driving a larger car for your money, it's a nicer vehicle to live with than the Ford Focus, and it just about outdrives the Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30, as long as you're not after the last word in driver precision. It's not perfect, though: the manual gearchange on the diesel model lets the side down, the front centre air vents are located too low to feel effective and some of the dash buttons are cheap. We're nitpicking, yes, but that's a measure of how good the rest of this car is.

Right now, we'd put this on a level pegging with the Volkswagen Golf for overall ability – and it could well be that the arrival of the cheaper 1.0-litre models will see the Skoda nose ahead.

Given that the Golf remains the benchmark for family hatchbacks, that's an impressive performance from Skoda. Aside from the ample interior room, the Octavia offers excellent long-distance cruising ability, even if there's a little more wind and road noise than you get in the Golf. It's also worth noting that the suspension is more biased towards ride compliance than handling accuracy – which isn't necessarily that easy to find these days.

This even applies to the sporty vRS model when specced with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control. The adaptive suspension makes for a great all-rounder, offering long distance comfort in one drive mode, before firming up for better body control in Sport when you want a bit more fun. It's not the most exciting out of the performance hatches, but that is beside the point with the Skoda, being a grown up and effortless way to get from point-to-point.

In fact, it's behaviour reminds us a little of the Audi S3 in the way the suspension deals with bumpy surfaces and devours roads without getting flustered. If you're not interested in wrestling a car while getting from A-to-B quickly, this needs to be on your shortlist.

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