REVIEW DATE: 07 Dec 2008
Skoda's Octavia 4x4 estate offers more of just about everything. Andy Enright reports
It's always fun listening to the reasons 4x4 buyers come up with in order to justify their purchases. Some are truly desperate but others have a modicum of pragmatism. Although very few 4x4s are bought because of their all terrain grip, hats off if to those who will admit their 4x4 was purchased on the grounds of image. There's honesty.
Many buy 4x4s because they believe they'll come off better in the event of a crash with a smaller vehicle and because they enjoy the elevated seated position. For those who genuinely do need a little extra capability but could do without the social opprobrium, the wallowy handling and the catastrophic fuel economy, help is at hand. Skoda's Octavia Estate has long been offered in 4x4 guise and has filled a very profitable niche, but the latest version is bigger and better than ever. Could this be the car to tempt people from their 'barbie trucks'?
It's certainly a manageable size. Although it's a good deal bigger on the inside than the old Octavia Estate, the external dimensions have been kept in check and the wheel at each corner stance hints at very good packaging. It's no mere impression either, as there's a massive 1,620 litres of space available and even with the seats fixed into place there's 580 litres available to stuff with bags. That's fully 32 litres more than the old car despite the latest model looking a good deal sportier.
Three engines are offered in 4x4 Estate guise, catering to both petrol and diesel buyers. First up is a 105bhp 1.9-litre TDI PD diesel unit that offers strong torque and excellent economy. The engine is lively, accelerating the hefty Octavia body through 60mph in 11.6 seconds, and is supremely economical as well. Expect to notch up combined economy figures in the 50mpg ballpark. Combine that with a 55-litre fuel tank and you've got a car that can cruise over 600 miles between refills. Behind the wheel, it's a more mixed story. Skoda have done a very good job smoothing the TDI unit's notoriously spiky power curve. Older Volkswagen TDI installations felt as if you were driving a bungee cord, the lag and surge characteristics hardly assisting dignified progress. This one is a bit better but still nowhere near as linear as the newer next generation 2.0-litre TDI unit that delivers 140bhp and is well worth stretching the budget for.
"If you want the go-anywhere security of all-wheel drive but could live without the grasping social connotation of many 4x4s, this Skoda could be the solution"
Petrol buyers get the 1.8-litre TSI engine. The 1,798cc petrol engine uses Fuel Stratified Injection (FSI) technology and turbocharging so its nearest VW group relative is the 2.0-litre T FSI unit found in the Golf GTI, the Audi S3 and the Octavia's own vRS. The smaller capacity means there's 158bhp of grunt available here instead of the 198bhp from the 2.0-litre turbo unit but it still makes for an eager feeling Octavia that retains the silky-smooth power delivery of the more powerful unit. The full 250Nm maximum torque is available from 1,500rpm up to 4,200rpm so between those engine speeds, a flex of the throttle brings instant results. The turbocharger remains largely anonymous with the power flowing seamlessly through the gears and very little trace of lag even from a standing start. The 0-60mph sprint takes 8.2s and the top speed is 138bhp.
Unlike some rivals, the Skoda Octavia 4x4 features a permanently available all-wheel drive system. This doesn't mean that the car runs in all-wheel drive mode all of the time, merely that its functioning is completely transparent. You don't need to press any buttons or manhandle any levers inside the car to switch to four driven wheels. In normal operating conditions, 100 per cent of the drive is directed to the front pair of wheels but as soon as the Haldex coupling system detects any slippage, a proportion of drive is shared with the rear wheels to offer improved grip. Full integration with the traction and braking systems mean there's not the tiresome loading of the steering that many 4x4 vehicles suffer from during parking manoeuvres.
The Estate 4x4 is based largely upon Skoda's plush-ish Elegance trim but adds a number of additional features including Climatronic dual zone air conditioning, a leather trimmed steering wheel, gearknob and gaiter, ESP stability control and front fog lights. The suspension is raised to help clear modest off road obstacles and there's a sump guard fitted as standard for when the obstacles weren't quite modest enough. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard and both models are equipped with a slick six-speed manual transmission. If the 4x4 models aren't quite butch enough for you, there's always the Scout which emphasises its offroad ability more strongly through its styling.
The load bay is not only large but also sensibly shaped. Instead of the wheelarch intrusion that so many estate models suffer, the Octavia Estate features a large, flat load space, carpeted and trimmed with rails so that heavy items can be slid into place. Lashing eyes mounted on the floor ensure that heavy objects can be firmly stowed and all the fixtures and fittings look beefy enough to last the course. The sheer attention to detail is impressive. The low loading lip is thoughtfully contoured so that heavy items can be rested there for a moment without danger of slipping. Beefy gas struts keep the tailgate well out of your way so you've got plenty of room to manoeuvre.
Overall, the Octavia Estate 4x4 is keen value, well engineered and resolutely pragmatic. If you value the security of all wheel drive and the practicality of a decent estate, the Skoda is a very canny buy.
The results below show the top OCTAVIA deals on buyacar
|Skoda Octavia 2.0 TSI vRS 5dr hatchback|
|Skoda Octavia 2.0 TSI vRS 230 5dr DSG estate|
|Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI 150 SE L 5dr hatchback|
|Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI CR S 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Skoda Octavia 1.2 TSI S 5dr hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT OCTAVIA DEALS|
|For OCTAVIA 4x4 ESTATE|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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