Skoda Octavia Hatchback Review
While the world goes SUV crazy, Skoda’s Octavia is out to prove that there’s still life in the humble hatchback, and that anything these high-riding newcomers can do, it can do better. Its USPs are space, quality and some very clever features, while still representing excellent value for money. With a 2020 overhaul to keep it bang up to date in terms of technology, it’s a car that should at the very least be on everyone’s long list when it comes to mid-size family cars.
Select's rating score* - 4.2 / 5
Over the years, Skoda has quietly built itself up to become a brand for “those that know”. It doesn’t shout about its cars, but it’s been putting out quality product after quality product, and perhaps none of them represent that as well as the Octavia. It’s always been a car for those that value clever thinking, quality and efficiency over styling and a fancy badge, and all for a hugely appealing price. And it’s got better and better over the years.
This is the latest model, released in 2020 and very much keeping with the ethos that’s proved so successful thus far. Although it counts its rivals as cars like the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla, it’s larger than those, reflecting its desire to offer customers as much interior space as possible. But with that it also boasts better interior quality than ever before, a choice of efficient engines, a sporty version for those that want a bit more dynamism and a range of trim levels.
If you want a car to show off with, then the Octavia probably isn’t for you; unless, that is, you want to show off to people that know about cars. This is a machine that says you’re comfortable with your priorities, and you know a quality vehicle when you see one. And as an added bonus, the leasing prices are extremely attractive.
Customers will get a well-made product with an interior design that’s surprisingly stylish if you’re more used to previous models, but the build quality of its forebears carries over. All models ride on alloy wheels and include an impressive level of standard equipment including a new state-of-the-art infotainment system controlled through a big 10.0-inch touchscreen. Space for rear passengers is excellent and the boot is vast, although if you need even more space, there’s an estate version available too.
A sporty vRS model is also included in the range, and is available as a plug-in hybrid model, which could satisfy both those looking for extra fun and those looking to drive on electric power only for short distances.
At the time of writing the latest Octavia had only just been released, but there’s already a solid range of engine choices. The petrol line-up starts with the 1.0-litre TSI with 108bhp, which might not sound like much oomph, but it’s punchier than you’d expect and, for a lot of people, will be entirely sufficient for everyday driving. You can also get this engine with a mild-hybrid system, called the 1.0 TSI E-Tec. This has the same power, but can recover small amounts of energy while driving and redeploy it under acceleration to save fuel. The E-Tec is a bit more expensive than the regular 1.0, but you could recoup the extra in fuel savings.
If you do want extra pep, there’s also a 1.5-litre petrol with 148bhp that’s impressively quiet and has all the grunt that most people will ever need. The sporty vRS is available with a 2.0-litre TSI engine with 242bhp.
Should you be after a diesel – and it still makes sense for those doing longer journeys, thanks to the better fuel economy – then there are two 2.0-litre TDIs to choose from. The first has 114bhp, while the second has 148bhp. The diesels are a bit noisier than the petrol models, but for some the fuel savings will be worth it.
The plug-in hybrid model, known as the iV, combined a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, which together produce 201bhp, or 242bhp in the vRS model. Neither power figure is small, which should make for pretty zippy progress, but with the added bonus of being able to cover up to 43 miles on battery power alone. However, you’ll need to make sure you have somewhere to plug in and charge the battery regularly. If you do, and you mostly do short journeys, you should be able to hardly use any petrol at all. But if you do longer journeys or don’t charge the battery, you’re just using the engine to haul the extra, heavy electrical tech around, using more fuel and getting no benefit.
On the road, you’ll find that, vRS model aside, the Octavia is designed to cruise rather than thrill. It’s got an impressively calm ride quality, even on bigger wheels, and will dispatch uneven road surfaces before their impact makes it to the passengers. The steering is light enough to manoeuvre around town easily while being heavy enough not to feel skittish on the motorway. It’ll stay nice and composed through corners, but don’t expect it to put a smile on your face; if that’s what you’re after, a Ford Focus might be more up your street. That said, the vRS model, with its lowered, stiffened sports suspension and upgraded steering, should be much more exciting behind the wheel.
One of the biggest attractions of the Octavia is that it’s remarkably affordable to lease. You’ll struggle to find more bang for your buck, especially in the mid-spec models, with monthly costs starting at well under £200. That would be appealing for any car, let alone one as good as this.
When it comes to fuelling costs, the most affordable will be the plug-in hybrid iV model, with the repeated caveat that it’ll depend on how you use it. Official fuel consumption figures promise up to 282.5mpg. For diesel drivers, the less powerful 114bhp model should give up to 65.7mpg, while the 148bhp version will return up to 61.4mpg.
The petrol models start with the 1.0-litre TSI, which will give you up to 54.3mpg while the E-Tec mild hybrid boosts that to up to 55.4mpg. Plump for the more powerful 1.5-litre petrol, and that should give you up to 50.4mpg.
The vRS petrol model will be the least efficient, as it’s geared more toward performance. Having said that, an official fuel consumption figure of up to 40.9mpg isn’t bad, although if you drive it in a spirited manner that number will be considerably lower. The plug-in hybrid model promises up to 256.8mpg, and the same caveat applies.
The 1.0-litre TSI petrol model with a manual gearbox emits between 117 and 138g/km of CO2, depending on the model, putting it in the 26% to 30% bracket (2020/21) for benefit in kind company car tax. If you opt for the E-Tec mild hybrid version with its automatic gearbox, it’ll be between 115 and 143g/km. Meanwhile the 1.5-litre TSI model has emissions of between 127 and 153g/km, meaning BiK brackets of 28% to 33%. The less powerful diesel emits between 113 and 135g/km, which means 25-30% BiK, while the more powerful 148bhp model, with emissions of between 123 and 141g/km, sits in the 27-31% brackets.
The non-vRS iV plug-in hybrid is by far the cleanest when it comes to emissions, with between 22 and 33g/km. Its electric range sees it in the 6% BiK bracket.
At the other end of the scale, the vRS plug-in hybrid could prove very popular with company car drivers, with emissions of between 26 and 36g/km putting it in the 10% tax bracket. The petrol version has CO2 emissions of 157g/km, putting it in the 34% bracket.
Skoda gave the Octavia a pretty thorough interior overhaul for this latest model, with a much sharper design than before. The materials feel like they’re from a much more premium model and they’re all well screwed together, which mixes nicely with the very slick-looking infotainment system screen in the middle of the dash, and the digital instrument panel that you get in every model, in place of traditional analogue dials.
Comfort has always been a large chunk of the Octavia’s appeal, and it’s as good as ever in this version, with lots of support in the standard chairs, and more fancy heated and ventilated versions in the higher trims.
On most models, the big 10.0-inch screen in the centre of the dashboard dominates the interior, and it’s certainly more visually impressive than the system that came before it. Some might find it a bit fiddly to adjust settings on the move, as you have to navigate through touchscreen sub-menus to find, for example, the air conditioning controls. But there are physical buttons with some shortcuts on them below, and you can control a lot of the features via the steering wheel or using voice control. The entry-level SE model gets a smaller 8.25-inch touchscreen and, unlike the rest of the range, doesn't feature sat-nav.
The Virtual Cockpit digital dials look great too, and let you tweak the information shown depending on your preferences. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included on every model, letting you connect your smartphone and use various apps through the screen. In addition, there are no less than five USB ports for charging your devices. They are the newer Type C ports though, so you may need to stock up on adapters.
Away from the entertainment and information, the top-spec model gets clever matrix LED headlights that let you keep high beam on at night, even when there’s oncoming traffic, as it places other vehicles in shadow to avoid dazzling them. Very nifty, and helps you keep maximum visibility of the road ahead. If you value your music, you can also spec an optional Canton sound system, which gives you 12 speakers and a beefy subwoofer in the boot. Adaptive cruise control is included in most models, which will automatically keep a set distance from slower cars in front and then speed up when they’re out of the way.
The Octavia is just about the most practical car of this size that you can get. There’s a huge amount of legroom and headroom for rear seat passengers and, at 600 litres in volume, the boot is bigger than a lot of estate cars. Fold the rear seats down, and you’ll get a whopping 1,555 litres of space in which to carry, well, almost anything short of a sofa.
Skoda is noted for its “Simply Clever” features, which are plentiful and designed to make everyday life just a bit easier. There’s an umbrella stored in the driver’s door. An ice scraper sits inside the fuel cap. The washer fluid filler cap doubles as a funnel to stop excess sloshing. Nice.
There are lots of places dotted around the cabin to store odds and ends, including a big space between the front seats, and large door pockets. All models get rear parking sensors, and front sensors and a rear view camera are also available.
Safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded a maximum five-star score to the Octavia, with particular praise given to its adult and passenger safety performances. All models get automatic emergency braking and a lane departure warning system, while top-spec SE L models get a blind spot monitoring system that will warn you about adjacent vehicles you may not have seen.
All versions of the Octavia get front, side and curtain airbags, and you can opt for extra rear side airbags too.
At the time of writing (November 2020) the Octavia is new on the market, which means customers can choose some celebratory First Edition trim levels that will subsequently be replaced or updated. Right now, the range starts with the SE First Edition, riding on 16-inch alloy wheels and boasting LED front fog lights, an eight-speaker sound system, cruise control and dual-zone air-conditioning.
Upgrade to the SE L and you’ll get 17-inch wheels, a synthetic suede upholstery and heated seats, as well as the big touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav. Front and rear parking sensors are included, as is adaptive cruise control and keyless entry and start. The SE L First Edition adds an electrically adjusted driver’s seat and the blind spot detection system, as well as ambient interior lighting.
The vRS model has a sportier bodykit with various black elements adorning the exterior, a different steering wheel and sports seats. Matrix LED headlights are standard, as is adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors.
Options include a range of alloy wheels up to 19-inches in size, leather upholstery, the upgraded Canton sound system and a wireless charging pad, as well as a rear-view camera and a head-up display that projects driving information onto the windscreen, meaning you don’t have to glance away from the road.
There are plenty of mid-size hatchback rivals for the Octavia, ranging from volume brand offerings like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Corolla, through to more premium badges like the Audi A3. All of those are good cars and will have the Octavia beaten in certain areas, but can any of them offer something so well-rounded for such a low price? We don’t think so.
Because the Octavia is so big, you might also want to consider cars that are technically in a larger category, such as the Ford Mondeo or Audi A4. But if you’re doing that, make sure you check out Skoda’s Superb model as well, as it’s also a great car and even bigger inside.
If you’re interested in the vRS models, you might also want to check out the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Cupra Leon, which use the same plug-in hybrid system as the Skoda. Or for more traditional hot hatches, your choices are plentiful, from the Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane RS to the Hyundai i30 N and Honda Civic Type R.
The Octavia is not the perfect car, and there are rivals that do select things better. The Ford Focus is more fun to drive. The Audi A3 has a more prestigious badge, and you could argue that quite a few other cars look a bit more special.
But there’s very little that can beat the Skoda Octavia as an all-round proposition. It does everything well, and excels in plenty of areas, chiefly practicality and value for money. There’s a range of versions to suit different needs, and we’d expect to see more options in the future. Until then, we challenge you to find a better new car of this type for less outlay; we reckon plenty of customers would be very happy with their Octavia even if they were paying a good chunk more for it.
Where to next?
- View latest Skoda Octavia Hatchback car leasing deals - from just £173.45 per month**
- Looking for a great car lease deal? Check out our incredible range of Special Offers
- New affordable family hatchback? Read our latest Car Reviews and find the right model for you
- Want to know more about leasing? Take a look at our comprehensive Leasing Guides
- Interested in everything motoring? Why not catch up on all the latest Car Leasing News.
*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top six leading independent car website reviews of the Skoda Octavia Hatchback
**Correct as of 18/11/2020. Based on 9 months initial payment, 8,000 miles over a 24 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1,561.03 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.