All of the received wisdom had it that Skoda’s new Octavia would be more expensive. The fact that it would become larger, more luxurious, more stuffed with high-tech options would surely push it, inevitably, in a pricier direction. Especially now that Skoda has the more compact five-door Scala hatchback sitting in its range, it would make sense for the bigger Octavia to put some pricing distance between the two cars.
But it hasn't. A new Octavia, freshly landed off the boat into Ireland this week, will cost from €23,950 for the most basic 1.0-litre TSI petrol model in Active specification. By contrast, a basic Scala, with more or less the same engine, will set you back €22,990 (according to Skoda's current online price list). The gap becomes even more ridiculous when you look at the monthly repayments on one of Skoda's finance plans. A Scala will set you back €229 per month. A new Octavia; €239.
To miss-quote Senator Lloyd Bentsen, we've served with the Octavia, we knew the Octavia. The Octavia was a friend of ours. And Scala, you're no Octavia.
The new Octavia is once again based on the same Volkswagen MQB platform as the VW Golf, the Seat Leon, and the Audi A3. Also once again, the new Octavia is the practical one. While the Golf and Leon can offer you a 380-litre boot, the Octavia can offer you 600-litres of luggage space. And that's just in the fastback saloon version. The even-more capacious estate (Combi, in Skoda-speak) now has 640-litres. If you're buying an SUV, almost any SUV, because you think it is a practical family car, we have some news for you…
Up front, the Octavia range will kick off with the 1.0-litre TSI turbo petrol three-cylinder engine, with 110hp and CO2 emissions of 122g/km. Average fuel consumption is quoted at 5.4-litres per 100km. There is also a mild-hybrid version of the same engine, which uses a small bit of electrical assistance to trim those figures to 120g/km and 5.3-litres per 100km, so could save you as much as €70 off your annual motor tax bill (you’ll have to pay extra for the DSG automatic gearbox though, so do your sums carefully).
There are, of course, also diesel options. In fact, Skoda claims that although its customers’ preference for diesel has fallen a little, still some 58 per cent of them go for black-pump models, in a kind of defiance against the zeitgeist.
Skoda, though, claims that its diesel engines - which it says are now as clean as can possibly be, thanks to a twin-dosing AdBlue system, although perhaps one should take such claims as not necessarily proven just yet - can still be relevant, not least because they do have lower CO2 outputs, at a time when carbon emissions are, or should be, on everyone’s mind.
Mind you, they’re not that much lower in carbon - the 115hp and 150hp versions of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine that the Octavia initially arrives with both have rated CO2 emissions of 119g/km and, spec-for-spec, carry a not-inconsiderable €3,000 price premium over the 1.0 TSI.
Raymond Leddy, Skoda Ireland's head of marketing explained the continuing diesel devotion to The Irish Times: "Next year we forecast 54 per cent of our Octavia sales will be diesel. This was 61 per cent back in 2017 so consumers are definitely becoming more aware.
"From experience and talking to Skoda customers, many of them still put great trust in the reliability and quality of our diesel engines and prefer the driving style and torque associated with diesel engines. There is a city-country deviation as well. For example, 50 per cent of customers in Dublin chose a diesel Octavia in 2020. That number was 70 per cent in Co Mayo. Whether the Octavia is petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid or plugin-hybrid we will provide the customer with the technical information and data in order to help them make their decision. The choice at the end of the day will be their own."
Incidentally, the base price of an Active model has gone up a bit too, by €1,925, but Skoda says that’s outweighed by the fact that the new model comes with some €3,200 worth of extra standard kit, including a big eight-inch touchscreen, LED lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, keyless entry, and lane-keeping assist.
Needless to say, the new Octavia can also be had with all manner of high-end options including a full digital instrument panel, a heads-up display, a built-in digital voice assistant (called Laura), birds-eye view parking assistance, pre-crash detection system, emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and active cruise control.
There will, in short order, also be a pair of plugin-hybrid models - one with 200hp and a full-on sports version, bearing the RS badge, with 245hp.
The Octavia is the king of Skoda in an Irish context. Last year, as the brand accelerated towards fourth place in the sales charts, 65 per cent of all Skoda sales in this country had an Octavia badge on the boot, and that was in a runout year. With new, somewhat more patrician, styling, more tech, and a barely-inflated price tag, don’t expect that to change very much.