The Skoda Octavia is back in India in its third iteration. The D segment sedan holds a lot of promise with a complete overhaul to both the exteriors and interiors based on the Vision D concept. The new car from Czech carmaker has a seeming resemblance to the 2013 European Skoda Rapid, but is premium of the two and also a brand in itself.
Skoda has moved towards softer lines and more rounded edges to give the new Octavia a classier, premium and more modern feel. It gets LED DRLs and front grille with vertical stats that make the front look aggressive. The all-new Octavia is also substantially longer and wider compared to the Laura, which also means that it has more cabin space for the passengers. The tailgate has the two diagonal lines that we first saw on the Rapid along with C-shaped tail lamps and reversing lamps and turn-blinkers in the middle.
The interiors have significantly improved with faux wood trim and beige theme, but the overall design is standard and like any other VW group car. The top-end variant gets touchscreen music system, front and rear parking sensors, six airbags, ABS-EBD, ESP, traction control, steering mounted audio controls, power seat for the driver with memory function, rear AC vents and rear sunblind. The rear row gets better leg room; however, like before the under thigh support is not optimum. There are ample cubby holes that double-up as bottle holders at the front, while the space in the rear armrest can be adjusted to fit any size of bottle or even cup. We are glad that Skoda has retained the feature that lets you access boot space from inside the car, hopefully few more cars in India get this feature.
The Skoda Octavia is available in three trims– Active Ambition and Elegance. The 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel TDI producing 141bhp and 320Nm of torque is available across all trim levels. The Elegance version with an oil burner gets a six-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox as a standard fitment, while it is an optional extra for the Ambition trim. The Active and Ambition petrol are powered by 1.4-litre TSI unit that has a power rating of 138bhp and 250Nm coupled with six-speed manual transmission. The Elegance petrol on the other hand gets a 1.8-litre TSI that is good to churn out 177bhp and 250Nm through seven-speed DSG transmission.
The Elegance petrol is also the only variant to get the independent rear suspension, which drastically improve the ride and handling of the car. The rest of the lineup get two torsion beams at the rear that are actually sufficient in most situations. The decision to use independent suspension on the Elegance petrol hints that Skoda plans to bring the vRS Octavia to India soon, as it uses the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder mill.
Skoda has ditched the hydraulic steering from its predecessor for a new electrically assisted one – it is light and precise but the feedback is not that great. The ride is tuned for comfort, so there is a certain amount of body-roll at high speeds but the Octavia takes care of undulations and small potholes with ease. The ground clearance of the luxury sedan is also decent to manage mountainous speed-breakers and jumbo-sized potholes, but entry has to be slow to avoid the bumper hitting the ground.
The handling of the Octavia is positive; you can push this car through the corners really hard. It grips through the corners at high speed and there is minimal under steer, despite this being a heavy front-wheel-drive car. The only issue is that the body-roll will make rest of the occupants a little uncomfortable. Overall, the Skoda Octavia is a competent product which offers European quality and technology, but with a slightly premium price tag – especially for the top-end variants.
Skoda has strategically launched the car before the start of the festive season with a competitive starting price. It competes with the Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla Altis, Chevrolet Cruze, Renault Fluence, Volkswagen Jetta and others in the D-Segment. Also the new car will have to face competition from SUVs and MUVs like the XUV500 and Toyota Innova that are slotted in same segment.