In a new car market seemingly dominated by crossovers and other models filling niches we didn't know existed, it's refreshing to see a manufacturer launch a solid example of that old UK favourite, the estate car. Skoda, a brand inextricably linked to practicality since its VW group takeover, has unveiled a new estate version of its brilliant Octavia hatchback. AOL Cars headed to the Austrian ski resort of Kitzbuhel to see if it's any good.
What is it?
If you need even more rear load space than the cavernous Octavia hatchback offers, Skoda has you covered, with the quite frankly massive (internally at least) Octavia estate. Unlike some of its contemporaries, the Octavia wears its practicality trump card like a badge of honour, so it comes with a class-leading 610-litre boot (1,740 litres with the rear seats folded) and has a folding front passenger seat, allowing for items up to three metres in length to be stowed safely. It's also littered with design touches that fulfill Skoda's 'simply clever' strapline. It's got rubbish bins in the door panels, an ice-scraper built into the fuel-filler cap and enough cup holders to service a mobile Starbucks.
>What's under the bonnet?
Customers will be able to choose from the usual 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels as well as 1.2 and 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines. CO2 emissions fall as low as 99g/km in the 1.6 diesel, for road tax free motoring. They'll get even lower, too, once the eco-biased Greenline editions come to market. Even in its most polluting guise (the 2.0 diesel), the Octavia manages emissions of just 124g/km.
What's the spec like?
Even the basic S models are equipped with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, slots to hook up your MP3 player and an eight-speaker stereo system. Move up to mid-range SE and you'll be greeted with dual-zone climate control, electric rear windows, voice control and a Drive Mode selector, which changes steering and engine parameters based on three separate settings: Normal, Eco and Sport. Top-spec Elegance models are further kitted out with rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, headlight washers, electrically folding door mirrors and a very impressive built-in sat nav system.
The Octavia is also optionally available with some premium kit, ranging from an automatic parking assistant, to radar-based adaptive cruise control. Never before has a work-a-day estate from a value manufacturer felt so upmarket.
Offering vast amounts of passenger and load space, while being keenly priced means that the Octavia estate straddles traditional market segments. Not only does it undercut and outperform (in practicality terms at least) the Ford Focus estate, it is also some £2,000 cheaper, spec-for-spec, than the Volkswagen Passat estate, a car ostensibly from the class above. The amount of tech kit it can be specified with means it's also somewhat muscling in on the territory normally occupied by more premium models, such as the BMW 3-Series estate and Audi A4 Avant, both of which are considerably more expensive.
What's it like to drive?
Being a family oriented car, Skoda has made ride quality and comfort the focus for the Octavia estate. It shares the same suspension setup as the hatchback and as such, is as comfortable as anyone in the market for this sort of car could hope for. That's not to say it's a pudding in the corners. While it won't set your hair on fire, the Octavia is more than willing when you're in the mood, changing direction positively and feeling no way near as staid as it's exterior visage would suggest.
While fine for everyday use, the 1.6-litre diesel can feel a little breathless when asked for its all. The extra shot of power and torque from the 2.0-litre unit is welcome, and with it, the Octavia feels muscular enough to make light work of even the longest drives.
The diesel models are also available with a twin-clutch DSG automatic gearbox. Although it is one system, it can vary in its operation from car to car. Thankfully in the Octavia it is at its best, being snappy on both up and down shifts and with only the merest hint of interrupted momentum with the selection of each new gear. In all, the Octavia is an impressively well rounded package to drive and will tick all the boxes for most customers.
The AOL Cars verdict
As painless a car to live with as it is possible to get, the Octavia appeals with its premium feel, ultimate practicality and anonymous image. That it is comfortable at a high-speed cruise as well as hacking around town only adds to its versatility as a flawless family companion. The Octavia estate is the sort of car you could imagine keeping for years, only giving it up when it finally breathes its last. It really is that good.
Model: Skoda Octavia estate 1.6 TDI 105PS Elegance manual
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Power: 104bhp 250Nm
Max speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 11 seconds
Emissions: 99g/km CO2