Skoda marks the diamond jubilee of its most popular model with an all-new generation
Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic
2019 marks the 60th anniversary of the Octavia nameplate, Skoda’s most popular car, and the company has just unveiled the new fourth generation of the model’s modern reincarnation.
With close to seven million sold to date, Skoda calls the Octavia the “heart and engine” of the company, so you know it can’t rock the boat too much. That said, the new car moves the game on more than its predecessors did, and in a way marks the end of the Octavia as we know it. No longer is the Octavia merely a simpler, more austere Volkswagen Golf; this car makes a concerted push into more upmarket territory.
No official launch date has been announced by Skoda yet, but reports have suggested it’ll only go on sale in Europe around the middle of next year, so don’t expect a Singapore launch until the later part of 2020.
For now though, here’s what makes the latest Skoda Octavia better than ever:
Body & styling
Bigger and sleeker is the aesthetic order of the day for the new Octavia. Up front, the slightly awkward quad-headlamp arrangement is swapped for sleeker lights (LED as standard), while the grille now has a much bolder chrome bezel, a look introduced with the Scala hatchback.
Down the sides, the old car’s plain surfacing gives way to more sculptural flanks, which helps make the side profile look less dumpy, particularly around the C-pillar. At the rear, the taillights (also LED) are now wider and slimmer, while the brand’s logo has been replaced by “Skoda” script across the bootlid.
The standard Octavia gains 19mm in length (to 4,689mm), 15mm in width (to 1,829mm), and 9mm in height (1,470mm). The wheelbase is unchanged at 2,686mm, but there’s now an extra 5mm of legroom for rear passengers, as well as 10-litres more cargo space (610-litres).
The Octavia can also be had as a long-roofed Combi with the same external dimensions as the liftback, but with 30-litres more boot space (640-litres). No word though on whether the Combi will be coming here (Skoda Singapore if you’re reading this, pretty please?), as wagons are an unpopular body style. That said, as we found out recently, they’re definitely worth serious consideration instead of plumping straight for another SUV.
For the first time, the Octavia is available with a hybrid drivetrain (see below), but taking on the batteries does mean boot capacity for the liftback and Combi is cut to 450-litres and 490-litres respectively.
There’s a multitude of engines utilising various power sources, and almost all are shared with the new Golf.
Most relevant to Singapore though, are the 3-cylinder 1.0-litre with 110hp and 200Nm of torque, or the 4-cylinder 1.5-litre with 150hp and 250Nm. As an added bonus, all DSG-equipped versions of these engines also gain 48-volt mild hybrid technology that will allow engine-off coasting, extended engine shutdown during start-stop mode, and provide a small boost to off-the-line acceleration.
That’s great news as its improved economy and emissions gives the Octavia a shot at a better Vehicle Emissions Scheme (VES) score, something which hobbled the old 1.0-litre in the 2018 car.
Most intriguing, though unconfirmed for us, is a new plug in hybrid variant, the Octavia iV. It pairs a 75kW electric motor with a 1.4-litre engine, producing a combined 204hp and 350Nm of torque. Unlike the other models, this uses a six-speed DSG, and has the potential for up to 55km of electric-only driving.
Until the next hot RS model comes along, that makes the iV the most powerful Octavia available.
Skoda interiors have traditionally been slightly less premium to the touch compared to the equivalent Vee-Dub, but from the pictures at least, the new Octavia certainly doesn’t lose out on style. Like the new Mk8 Golf, the Octavia’s interior is minimalist to a fault, and goes the longest way in making it feel a more premium product.
The dashboard is now a two-tiered affair, with what appear to be higher quality materials. It’s bisected by a strip of ambient lighting, with a freestanding touchscreen taking centre stage that goes up to a full 10-inches in the poshest trims (8.25” is standard).
Below that is a more open lower console, with Type C USB ports and optional wireless charging. As the 7-speed DSG gearbox is now drive-by-wire, it’s now controlled by a tiddly little rocker switch instead of a traditional mechanical lever – incidentally, not dissimilar to the new 992-gen Porsche 911.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Skoda if the interior wasn’t also immensely practical, and to that end the Octavia features door pockets large enough for 1.5-litre water bottles, smartphone pockets in the front seatbacks, retractable rear window shades, umbrella holders, an automatic tailgate (kick under the bumper or gently pull on it), and nets and bag hooks in the boot.
With more minimalism and more premium comes more tech. Though most of it is optional, there’s nonetheless a bewildering array of gadgets and gizmos available to suit any budget.
Ahead of the driver, a 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit and head-up display (a Skoda first) allow more information to be presented in a more focused manner.
Similarly minimising distractions, the infotainment system can also be controlled by hand gestures (not our favourite) or a voice-activated assistant called Laura; this is in addition to good ol’ finger jabs, and a new touch slider for the volume and map zoom.
Finally, the tech onslaught extends to safety too, with systems that can detect oncoming traffic when turning across a junction, predict potential collisions with pedestrians and cyclists, and warn alighting occupants of any vehicles coming up behind.
The main highlight here though is Travel Assist, which combines two systems to provide semi-autonomous driving: Lane Assist, as well as Predictive Cruise Control, which can not only handle stop-go traffic and speeds up to 210km/h, but also use camera and navigational data to detect bends and adjust itself accordingly.