REVIEW DATE: 05 Feb 2010
Can Skoda's sizable Octavia get away with 1.2-litre petrol power? Steve Walker takes a look.
It might have a hatchback and it might ride on the same platform as that iconic family hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf, but the Skoda Octavia doesn't quite fit in the family hatchback class. The issue is size, even Vauxhall's latest supersized Astra falls short of the Octavia's grandiose measurements. What's the problem? You might ask. Well, in many respects big is beautiful but can a car of the Octavia's bulk really get away with a 1.2-litre engine? Skoda thinks it can because it's offering one in the latest range.
The Octavia's mechanical links to Volkswagen's Golf are well documented and have done much to bolster the Skoda's public image over the years. The Octavia, however, is a considerably more substantial proposition than its classy cousin with 370mm of extra length and a full 130kg weight advantage. That's a lot in car terms and even to the casual observer, 1270kg of Octavia might sound like a lot to move with a 1.2-litre engine. It's lucky that this is no ordinary 1.2.
The Volkswagen Group has had great success with its TSI turbocharged petrol engine technology. From the high-performance 2.0 TSI in cars like the Octavia vRS and Golf GTI to the less intense 1.8 and 1.4 litre units that are now fitted throughout the group's family car model ranges, the TSI powerplants have consistently impressed with their free-revving performance and smooth power delivery. Economy and torque are strong too. In fact, the TSI engines share many of the characteristics that buyers value in diesel engines and the TSI acronym is fast assuming the dominance in the VW Group petrol range that TDI has over the diesel side of things.
"The impressive 1.2-litre TSI unit punches far above its weight"
So, TSI turbocharged direct injection petrol engines are not units to be taken lightly, even with a 1.2-litre capacity in a vehicle of the Octavia's heavyweight dimensions. Despite its size, the 1.2-litre TSI unit achieves 104bhp and an even more useful 175Nm of torque. That torque is available across a wide expanse of the rev-range from 1,550rpm all the way up to 4,100rpm, creating similar flexibility to that which you'd expect to get from a diesel engine. Performance against the clock is far from lacklustre too. The Octavia 1.2 TSI can achieve 60mph from a standing start in 10.8s and will eventually hit a 119mph top speed.
The Octavia is a solid-looking, nicely sculpted car with more than a hint of Volvo in its design make-up. It's not one for buyers looking to make an impression with their choice of wheels but its size and quality will still secure the car its share of admirers. Enhancements to the switchgear, entertainment systems and trim on the latest facelifted cars work well. There's a smarter steering wheel, classier instrument panel graphics and the option of a hi-tech touch-screen sat nav. Overall then, the gap between this and the acclaimed interiors of Volkswagen and Audi products is not a big one.
The Octavia was always renowned for possessing a huge boot, given its family hatchback underpinnings, and so it remains. You get 560 litres with the seats in place and 1350 litres with the seats folded which is in the same ballpark as medium range models like the Mondeo and Passat. Go for the Octavia Estate and the respective statistics are 580 and 1620 litres. All these figures are massive improvements on what you'd get from the Golf and Focus-sized family hatchbacks that this Skoda is priced against. Passenger room is similarly generous - and that's important since the prodigious luggage space of the first generation Octavia required rear seat passengers to pay in kind. The long wheelbase of this second generation model endows it with admirable rear legroom, even when the front seats are occupied by long limbed adults.
Hatchabck or estate, S or SE trim: that's the scope of choice available to Octavia 1.2 TSI customers. Except to say that, while the standard car comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, there's also the option of Skoda's clever seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. This system has minimal impact on performance and economy but commands a £1,100 premium for doing away with the clutch pedal.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, central locking, electric front windows and a decent list of safety kit that unfortunately doesn't include ESP stability control. Buyers after a more comprehensive specification will pay the £1,000 extra for an SE and get a trip computer, a CD autochanger, 15" alloy wheels, remote central locking and split-folding rear seats. Despite the rather spartan appearance of the S models, you really can't argue with the pricing of the Octavia 1.2 TSI. Skoda is offering this spacious family car for the price of a moderately well-equipped supermini.
The 1.2-litre TSI Octavia should prove agreeably cost-effective to run for a car of its size with combined cycle fuel economy edging towards the 50mpg barrier and emissions of 134g/km. The DSG gearbox only increases fuel consumption by a single mile per gallon or so and should prove a popular option.
Octavia buyers can expect reasonable residual values (39-43% after 3 years or 36,000 miles). Compare that to 42-56% for the VW Golf but also to the 34-37% you'd get for a comparable Ford Focus. Insurance for the 1.2 TSI models will be amongst the most affordable in the range.
If there's a lesson to be learned from the Skoda Octavia 1.2 TSI, it's that in the modern car market, we needn't be as wary of the small engine, big car combination as we may have been in the past. The impressive 1.2-litre TSI unit punches far above its weight with strong performance and economy that belie its modest capacity. At the prices Skoda is asking for its large and roomy Octavia, this entry level model makes all kinds of sense.
The results below show the top OCTAVIA deals on buyacar
|Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDI PD Elegance 5dr DSG diesel hatchback|
|Skoda Octavia 2.0T FSI vRS 5dr hatchback|
|Skoda Octavia 1.6 SE 5dr estate|
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|For OCTAVIA 1.2 TSI|
|OVERALL||6.9 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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