The Skoda Octavia: 60 years of value-packed family motoring

Skoda’s range of models offer an excellent price-performance ratio, and the Octavia is the backbone of that promise for good reason. Here, we take a look at some of the astounding achievements in the Skoda Octavia’s model history that have culminated in the latest Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI


Skoda, the Czech carmaker, has more than a century’s experience in building automobiles and remains strongly in the game, even after such a long time at it.

The Skoda brand is centered around quality, honesty, fitness for purpose, and above all, a great value proposition.

These are traits you’ll also find in all of Skoda’s cars, naturally. Case in point: The new Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI.

Despite having a significantly more powerful engine than before at 150hp, it still costs under a hundred grand.

That’s right, for under S$100,000, or barely any more than popular Asian rivals, it’s possible to get a large saloon car with a Category B Certificate of Entitlement (COE), replete with sophisticated European engineering and style.

For your money, you’d be getting one of the most generous mid-sized cars in terms of legroom (2,686mm wheelbase), certainly the roomiest in terms of boot space (590-litres, or 1,580-litres with the rear seats folded), and the most economical non-hybrid saloon car (official fuel consumption of 5.2L/100km).

And in case you were wondering, Skoda didn’t make the Octavia so reasonably priced by skimping out on equipment; as standard you get seven airbags, a parking camera, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel, and a crisp and colourful 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

That’s in addition to Skoda’s trademark Simply Clever features that make day to day life more convenient, such as a chilled glove compartment, an umbrella compartment under the passenger seat, and hooks in the boot to secure your shopping bags.

But the Octavia didn’t get to where it is now purely by chance. In fact the Octavia has had a long history of laudable milestones and impressive achievements; here are some of the more astounding figures from throughout the Octavia’s past:

1959: The first Octavia was born

The Octavia may be the bread-and-butter model of the modern Skoda lineup, but did you know that its nameplate actually goes back much further in time?

The very first Octavia actually rolled out of the factory in Mladá Boleslav, Czechoslovakia 60 years ago, in January 1959.

This original Octavia was a robust, reliable and comfortable two-door saloon and three-door estate car available with either a 1.1-litre engine with 40hp, or a 1.2-litre with 45hp. There was also a sport model, called Touring Sport (TS), with a souped-up 1.1-litre engine that produced just over 50hp.

That may not sound like much, but the Octavia TS was light and nimble, and featured sophisticated independent suspension for better comfort and handling, which made it great for rallying.

Competing in the under-1,300cc category, the Octavia TS took home the class victory in the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally in 1961, 1962, and 1963, and even managed two overall podium finishes in the 1,000 Lakes Rally in Finland, against competitors with far more power and outright speed.

1996: The first modern Skoda

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Czech government sought a strong foreign partner for its national carmaker, and thus Skoda became a part of the Volkswagen Group in 1991. It wasn’t until 1996 however, that the first Skoda to be developed with shared technology from Volkswagen was born. That car was the modern Octavia as we now know it.

With clean, subdued styling and hardy mechanicals shared with the VW Golf Mk4, the liftback-bodied Octavia was an instant success thanks to its solidity, refinement and – what else?- value for money. The rest, as they say, is history.

Almost 7,000,000: The total number of Octavias built to date

As the core of the Skoda lineup, it’s no surprise that the Octavia is also its most popular model.

In 2018, almost one third of Skodas sold worldwide were Octavias. Not only that, but it’s also the brand’s best-selling model ever, with 6.8 million Octavias (including the 1950s original) finding loving homes.

The current car, the third generation modern incarnation, looks set to be the best-selling Octavia yet, with 2.5-million units produced – already exceeding the figure set by its immediate predecessor.

8: Where the name “Octavia” is derived from

For those of you familiar with Latin, you’ll recognise “octa” as the number 8, as in octagon, or octopus. “8” is also how the 1959 Octavia got its name, as it was the eighth Skoda model manufactured after World War II, as well as the eighth Skoda model to feature sophisticated independent suspension, which the marque had introduced way back in 1933.

365km/h: The fastest Octavia ever

photo credit: “SKODA Octavia vRS Bonneville” by Andrew Basterfield, under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0

What? A Skoda that can outrun any Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche? It’s mad, but oh so very true. In 2011, a team from Skoda UK took a highly modified Octavia vRS to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA, setting the record for the fastest 2.0-litre production car, with a two-way average of 365km/h (its peak speed was 368km/h).

photo credit: “SKODA Octavia vRS Bonneville” by Andrew Basterfield, under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0

How modified, you ask? Well, the interior was fully stripped to bare metal, a massive roll cage was installed, a parachute was stuck onto the boot, skinny wheels and tyres were fitted, and the front brakes were removed (since they’d simply lock the tyres on the salt, hence the parachute). Oh, and there’s also the small matter of 600 horsepower being forced out by the 2.0-litre TSI engine.

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