A wagon, estate, combi, whatever you call it, the Skoda Octavia in load-hauling form is a nicely packaged force to be reckoned with
In the face of the crossover SUV-everything trend, Skoda Singapore has decided that the more choice is still the better choice, and the new Skoda Octavia is available here as both a liftback and an estate. We covered the liftback in detail in an earlier review, but the short version is that it’s a comfortably competent car that punches well above its weight.
The estate version, called the combi in Skoda-speak, is very much the same car with even more carrying capacity. Both Octavia variants share the same 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine with mild-hybrid drive. It’s the same engine from the new Volkswagen Golf, as Skoda is part of the great big VW Group of companies. The Octavia can also be seen as an alternative to the Volkswagen Jetta, which was essentially a sedan version of the VW Golf.
The Octavia is very much its own car, but the ties to Volkswagen are too big to ignore and since the VW Jetta is no longer available in Singapore, the Octavia does fill the gap left in its wake.
First impressions count for a lot, and the Octavia doesn’t disappoint. It’s solidly built, nicely styled, and very contemporary. It’s also spacious and in combi form, extremely versatile with a multi-level boot.
Mild hybrid powertrains have been receiving plenty of stick for being somewhat useless at improving fuel economy in real-world driving situations, but the Skoda’s 48-volt system is really quite a revelation. The 1.5-litre engine will shut off automatically when coasting along on the highway, and while lesser mild hybrids will start to slow down quite a fair bit due to wind resistance and internal mechanical friction, the Octavia is quite capable of sailing on for some distance as though rolling on an infinite reserve of inertia.
There’s also two-cylinder mode where half the engine automatically de-activates in very low load situations, and like in the Volkswagen Golf, it’s only noticeable because the dashboard informs the driver that the car is only running on two-cylinders instead of all four.
It’s a very efficient car, especially on long stretches of expressway travel hovering around 90km/h. The combi’s body shape is more aerodynamic than the liftback, and this advantage is reflected in the car’s official fuel economy figure of 4.8l/100km against the liftback’s 5.3l/100km.
Achieving the somewhat optimistic fuel economy may seem quite a stretch, but it’s actually not impossible. A few long cruises along the expressway was enough to record an average fuel economy of 5.4l/100km in the combi. It’s an impressively efficient car.
It’s also very quick when compared to the Asian competition. Despite being more than 50 horsepower down on a Honda Accord, the Octavia combi is a faster car to 100km/h and more than capable of staying ahead in traffic. With an official 0 to 100km/h sprint time of 8.6 seconds, it’s just a tiny bit slower than a BMW 318i and faster than practically every mainstream Asian sedan available.
It’s a very capable cruiser and more than competent around corners, though it’s more of a well-sorted chassis than a car tuned for sporty driving. The cabin features a pair of USB-C charging ports and a wireless charging pad. Also, the customisable cabin mood lights and full-length moonroof really give the car a classy, upscale vibe. Active Safety features like the blind spot warning indicator and emergency city braking assist to avoid front end collisions are standard fit too.
Whatever you feel about owning a wagon, driving about in one for a couple of days will sell you over on the merits of it. From the driver’s seat it feels like a proper upscale family car, and only when you check out the back do you find the extra loading space.
There’s 640 litres of carrying capacity back here, and the boot helpfully comes with removable dividers on the floor, hooks along the sides for hanging stuff, and an easily retracted luggage compartment cover. Besides the obvious uses of a wagon to carry more stuff, it’s the kind of car that dog owners can easily come to appreciate the merits of, along with people who fly large model aeroplanes and need a car with enough space to carry one.
The Octavia Combi is unique in that station wagons have all but disappeared from the local car scene, replaced by SUVs and their ilk. Yet after a very pleasant three days driving one, we say that this really is a lot of car for the money. Sure it’s pricier than a Hyundai Avante or Kia Cerato, but it’s arguably arguably sleeker and a much better drive than an SUV like a Toyota RAV4.
It’s S$9,000 costlier than its liftback sibling in the identical Style trim variant, which in the grand scheme of things is really quite reasonable. It’s also clean enough that it gets in under the A2 band of the VES rating, which earns the car a S$15,000 rebate already factored into the price. As it stands, Skodas occupy that space just above bread-and-butter mainstream cars but a rung under the start of the real luxury brands. It’s in the same space, price wise, as products like the Peugeot 3008.
For what it’s worth though, the Octavia’s overall refinement and drive character is quite a big step up from cars priced just below it. If you like your cars to be smooth, confident, quick, efficient, and spacious, then this is one of the best choices in this price segment.
Skoda Octavia Combi Style
|Engine||1,498cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||150hp at 5000-6000rpm|
|Torque||250Nm at 1500-3500rpm|
|VES Banding||A2 / -S$15,000|
|Agent||Skoda Centre Singapore|
|Price||S$140,900 with COE|
|Verdict:||Comfortable, well-sorted, and roomy, it’s a car that exudes plenty of confidence and maturity in its execution|