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Is a used Skoda Octavia a good buy?
Summing up the Skoda Octavia is surprisingly difficult, as it is a car that can be so many things to so many different types of driver - a cheap-to-run commuter car, a comfy family vehicle or an affordable, big-booted machine for transporting dogs, flat-pack furniture or even larger loads.
It's great value as a new car, but if you are after the most for your money, going used can get you a better engine, higher specification or more desirable optional extras for your budget.
The reason the Skoda Octavia has such a wide breadth of talents is largely down to Skoda producing a lot of different engines, gearboxes and trim levels. There are also hatchback and estate body styles to choose from. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a super-frugal and relatively affordable hatchback or a fast and spacious estate, there is a Skoda Octavia for you.
The Skoda Octavia is also good value for money. A lot of the major components like the steering, engines and media systems have also been used in more expensive cars such as the Volkswagen Golf. The reason for this is that Skoda, VW and Audi are all part of the same company, so share much of the engineering across their cars.
Skoda recently revealed an updated Octavia, but this article is focused on the previous Skoda Octavia that was sold from 2013 to 2020. Not everything remained the same during that time, though, as Skoda refreshed its Octavia to keep it competitive with rivals such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai i30.
Which used Skoda Octavia should you buy?
In general the Skoda Octavia is quite a conservative looking car, especially in S, SE and SE L trims. There are some bright paint colours available which can add to the visual appeal plus features such as LED headlights and larger alloy wheels - although the Octavia is more of a car you'll choose with your head rather than your heart.
Standard equipment levels are generally quite good with the Skoda Octavia and even entry-level cars come with a decent sound system, a cooled glove box and Bluetooth. There are a number of optional extras that are well worth hunting down - such as Park Assist, which is a bit of clever software that enables the Skoda Octavia to park itself in certain types of spaces.
Skoda also made sure the Skoda Octavia came with plenty of safety features, which helped the Skoda Octavia achieve a full five star safety rating from crash test authority Euro NCAP. Even though many of the standard safety features are expected on modern cars, such as ESC (software that helps stop a car from skidding) they are nonetheless important to have.
What used Skoda Octavia trim levels are available?
Below is a closer look at each of the main Skoda Octavia trims (S, SE, SE L, Laurin & Klement, Scout and vRS), to help you determine which one is best for you.
Skoda Octavia S
Although S is the entry-level Skoda Octavia trim, it ticks a lot of boxes for those wanting an affordable-to-run, practical car. There are Isofix points on the two outermost rear seats for safely securing child seats, the boot in hatchback models is able to carry a substantial 590 litres of luggage and there are plenty of cubby holes to store odds and ends.
Skoda restricts S trim to the least powerful petrol and diesel engines in its range. Unless you are likely to be doing lots of motorway driving or are looking for a fast car, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Skoda throws in some important features to help make the Octavia feel like a quality product. Take the leather steering wheel, which is standard across all models. It is a small detail but makes a big difference to how high-quality the car’s interior feels.
Skoda Octavia SE
SE trim sits one rung above S in the Skoda Octavia hierarchy. Visually there isn’t much to tell the two apart (aside from different alloy wheel designs) but usability takes a significant leap forward.
Standard equipment includes climate control (which is a more high tech version of air-conditioning that allows a car’s temperature to be regulated more precisely), electric rear windows and rear parking sensors.
There is also a good amount of small details that have been added which help with the everyday grind of driving. These include an overhead storage compartment for sunglasses, an illuminated glove box and storage pockets on the rear of the front seats.
As part of the updates to the Octavia in 2017, cruise control became standard, though it could be specified as an optional extra prior to that. Unlike S models, SE spec Skoda Octavias were available with the slightly larger, more powerful 2.0-litre 'TDI' diesel engine.
While not as economical as the 1.6-litre diesel, the extra power makes this version effortless to drive at motorway speeds. A 2.0-litre diesel engine paired with a DSG automatic gearbox is the ultimate easy-to-drive Skoda Octavia version thanks to the diesel engine being able to deliver strong acceleration from low engine speeds.
If you are planning to go off-road occasionally, or you happen to live down a farm track, four-wheel-drive was available with SE models for a few years, although only with some diesel estate versions. When Skoda updated the Octavia in 2017, the option was dropped.
There are also a number of extra practical touches which include an ice scraper stored behind the fuel filler cap and in some models there is an LED torch that recharges itself when the car is being driven. As these are removable items, they can sometimes go astray, so it is worth checking that they are still with the car.
Skoda Octavia SE L
Upmarket SE L trim joined the Skoda Octavia lineup in the middle of this version's time on sale. Since it joined the lineup, it has been hugely popular thanks to it being a sweet spot between equipment and affordability.
Technology such as a touchscreen media system with sat-nav, cruise control and automatic headlights is all standard. Another noteworthy feature is the leather and Alcantara interior. While the Alcantara looks great, like many suede and artificial suede products, it can be harder to maintain than full leather - especially if you have kids who constantly spill things over the seats.
SE L models are available with a good range of engines - similar to those on offer in SE models. The main difference is that the smaller and less powerful petrol engines are not available. Similar to SE models, four-wheel-drive was only an option with diesel estate models.
As part of its 2017 updates, Skoda launched a new media display which it called the ‘Columbus’. It is 9.2 inches in size - compared with 8.0 inches for the unit used in other Skoda Octavias - and it is much more smartphone-like in its operation than Skoda’s previous screens in that flicking and pinching functions are included. It wasn’t standard for SE L specification but it's well worth finding a model with it added as an optional extra if you value having the slickest possible media system.
Skoda Octavia Laurin & Klement
Laurin & Klement (sometimes shortened to L&K) trim sits at the top of the Skoda Octavia range. From the outside these versions look like a classy option, thanks to the large 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome around the windows but it is the technology and interior where the best features are found.
Standard equipment includes keyless entry, park assist, an uprated sound system, door mirrors that can automatically dim themselves when bright light are behind, a 9.2-inch touchscreen media display, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and adaptive cruise control.
Adaptive cruise control uses sensors and computers to maintain a safe distance behind the car in front, slowing the car if the vehicle ahead brakes and accelerating you back up again to your original speed if it then pulls in.
The majority of Laurin & Klement models come with a 2.0-litre diesel engine but petrol models were also on offer for a shorter time. You have the choice of hatchback and estate models plus manual and automatic gearboxes. If an upmarket L&K model appeals to you, the hardest part will be finding a suitable second-hand one, as they were sold in much smaller numbers than SE and SE L models due to their higher list price when new.
Skoda Octavia Scout
The Skoda Octavia Scout should appeal to people who need a car with a bit of off-road ability but don’t want to drive around in a big four-wheel-drive SUV. Its recipe is simple, Skoda takes a standard Skoda Octavia Estate, raises the ride height slightly - so there is more clearance between the bottom of the car and the ground - adds some rugged-looking styling (such as cladding around the wheels), and provide extra protection for the underside of the engine.
In terms of equipment, Scout models are based on SE trim with some added extras. The equipment shared with SE models includes leather and Alcantara upholstery, automatic wipers and rear parking sensors. Over and above this, Scouts come with an off-road mode, unique fog lights and on Scout models made after Skoda’s 2017 updates, heated front seats were included. Scout models are only available with a diesel engine and all come with four-wheel drive.
Skoda Octavia vRS
The vRS badge is Skoda’s name for its performance cars. True to Skoda’s core values, even its fast cars are very practical and very easy to use on UK roads. There are two main types of Skoda Octavia vRS - diesel and petrol.
While the performance of the diesel models has stayed relatively constant throughout the Skoda Octavia’s life, the petrol models have seen some performance upgrades as time has gone by. Early models from 2013 left the factory with 217hp but a couple of years later a 227hp model was launched. Both offer strong acceleration, so there's no need to worry if you can't find a suitable 227hp model within budget.
Skoda later released the vRS 245, which is the most powerful Octavia from that generation as it produced 245hp. Compared to other practical yet fast cars, such as the Ford Focus ST and excellent Hyundai i30 N Performance, the Skoda Octavia vRS isn't the fastest car you can get for the money, but it is one of the most practical. The Skoda Octavia vRS 245 can accelerate from 0-62mph in just under seven seconds, which is still speedy enough for most drivers.
Visually, Skoda Octavia vRS models stand out thanks to their large alloy wheels, vRS-specific bumpers and a vRS-specific spoiler on the boot. There are also some particularly attention grabbing paint colours available, although overall the Octavia vRS never looks too in-your-face unlike high-performance hatchbacks such as the Honda Civic Type R.
vRS models also come with sports suspension, sports seats and a performance mode - the latter is designed to help drivers make the most of their car’s power and roadholding. There are both hatchback and estate versions of the Skoda Octavia vRS as well as the option of four-wheel drive on some automatic diesel models. There is a ‘vRS Challenge’ edition, which is best thought of as a standard vRS with lots of optional extras fitted.