If you are having trouble picking the right car for you and your family this new machine blends the attributes from three different types.
Don’t want an SUV but can’t decide between a sedan, wagon or hatchback?
Skoda’s Octavia liftback might be the car for you.
It looks like a sedan, but the boot lifts like a hatchback, making it easier to load big items into the back.
The innovative approach delivers almost as much boot space as the brand’s Kodiaq family SUV. If that’s not enough, the Octavia wagon carries an even bigger load and costs just $1500 more.
More for less has become a mantra for the Czech brand since it re-entered the Australian market in 2007.
The sales pitch is simple: “European quality, without the European price tag”.
And the approach is bearing fruit. Sales are up by almost 80 per cent in the first three months of the year, largely on the back of booming SUVs.
Unlike some rivals, though, the brand is not turning its back on sedans and hatchbacks.
Managing director Michael Irmer says there’s still demand for traditional cars.
“As other (brands) go, people have less to choose from and it increases your opportunity,” he says.
The new Octavia range consists of eight models — four sedans and four wagons — and prices range from $32,990 drive-away for the Ambition to $52,990 drive-away for the sporty RS wagon.
Prices are up slightly on the cheaper models, but Skoda says equipment worth $6250 has been added.
Changes in the cabin include a larger 10-inch centre screen, a fully digital driver display, ambient lighting, wireless charging and smartphone mirroring, an electric park brake and auto tailgate.
Standard safety fare across the range runs to auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, but disappointingly you can’t option blind-spot alert or rear cross-traffic alert on the Ambition model. On the Style model, they are part of a $5800 luxury pack that includes heated leather seats and three-zone climate control. Some rivals have both as standard equipment across their ranges.
Style buyers can also option a $3200 tech pack with adaptive suspension, a head-up display, premium audio, extra USB ports and three-zone climate control. A combination of both packs costs $7800.
Irmer says roughly two-thirds of buyers pick at least one option pack.
At the top end of the range, the RS price is up by almost $8000. Skoda says equipment that was optional on the previous model is now standard.
Despite the higher price tag, Irmer believes the RS will make up roughly 40 per cent of sales.
Three engines are available. The Ambition and Style have a 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder putting out 110kW, while the Limited Edition model has a 2.0-litre turbo with 140kW and the RS’s 2.0-litre turbo has 180kW. The 1.4-litre is matched to a conventional 8-speed auto, while the 2.0-litre has a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
We tested the RS sedan and came away impressed by its poise, performance and cabin presentation.
Snug bucket seats with red diamond stitching combine with splashes of Alcantara and carbon fibre on the dash to create a sporty flavour, while the digital cockpit display differs from the rest of the range, glowing a menacing red.
The RS doesn’t have the power of the current crop of hot hatches, but plenty of low-down torque makes for effortless acceleration off the mark. It also does a great job of balancing comfort with cornering prowess.
Around town it soaks up bumps impressively, but flick the switch to sport mode on a twisting country back road and the car comes alive.
Throttle response is sharper, gears are held longer, the steering is meatier and the adaptive suspension hunkers down to deliver excellent control and drive out of corners.
We could live without the artificial growl pumped into the cabin through the speakers, but thankfully you can turn it off.
Overall, the RS delivers an attractive blend of performance and panache.