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29 Oct, 2019 8:45am Sean Carson
A drive in a pre-production version of the next-generation Octavia Estate shows that Skoda is on to another winner
So the firm has a lot riding on this fourth-generation version then. But after sampling a pre-series production car we’re pleased to say that Skoda is on to a winner again.
That’s because it’s not strayed too far from familiar territory. The car is still based on the MQB platform, but it’s 50mm wider and 3mm taller, mostly due to styling changes.
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Ignore the camouflage. Take it from us that the Octavia is sharper, has more presence but still looks recognisably like a Skoda. And inside there are big changes, too; the materials feel plusher, they’re of a higher quality, and the dash’s design has been divided into horizontal extended elements to accentuate its width, with zones split up by new LED ambient lighting that can be customised with different trim inserts.
The Octavia Estate is known for its cavernous boot, which is now bigger than ever, at a claimed 640 litres – although much of this 30-litre increase is down to a change in the measurement method Skoda uses (it’s also up to 600 litres in the hatch). As before, there’s more than enough leg and headroom for rear-seat passengers.
The big difference is the new level of connectivity and infotainment that this Octavia offers. Mid and higher-spec cars with Amundsen and Bolero infotainment systems will get a 10-inch touchscreen that controls everything, including the climate control. Skoda’s new voice-activated personal assistant, called Laura, makes its debut, alongside wireless Apple CarPlay.
We tried a 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI petrol manual and a 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. The petrol is smooth and refined, revving fairly sweetly and without much fuss, while the manual transmission’s shift action is quite light but mechanical enough to enjoy. The 2.0-litre TDI motor feels grunty and eager, and is incredibly refined for a four-cylinder diesel.
That’s because while the Octavia’s body-in-white has hardly changed, there’s much more soundproofing and absorption material to stop those nasty, vibration-causing frequencies getting into the cabin.
It also means there’s less suspension noise. All four cars we tried rode on 18-inch wheels, with adaptive dampers fixed in their ‘normal’ mode. The ride was plush, controlled, forgiving and comfortable, yet the Octavia didn’t feel like it lacked body control. It steered with the same precision but vague connection to the front axle it’s always had, though. The dual-clutch auto gearbox was fine, including the new and intuitive drive-by-wire gear selector that will open up more possibilities for fully autonomous driving in future Skodas.
Our taste showed the new Skoda Octavia is very much evolutionary and not revolutionary. There’s nothing wrong with that given how good the Mk3 was. This is a thorough optimisation and enhancement of what went before it and we’re looking forward to trying it in full production form soon.