Car Test   R0324
 
March 2003
  Skoda Octavia Estate
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.8T 4x4
There appears to be three main reasons why people choose four-wheel drive. The first is simply that they like the reassurance of being ‘in control’, sitting high and mighty in an off-roader – even if they never go off-road. Then there are those who do – and all-wheel drive enables them to keep on going, when others get stuck. The third reason is why the original Audi Quattro set a trend – big, powerful engines can become a handful, in terms of wheelspin and steering response, when all the driving force is applied to one end of the car.
  
   This is where this Octavia scores; its ground clearance is only marginally greater than the ‘ordinary’ front-wheel drive version and its cabin and seating are identical, too – so no sitting tall in this one. However, the significant power and low-speed urgency of one of our favourite engines (seen also in all VW Group’s brand-names) is harnessed impressively by the fully automatic, centre differential. It feeds the torque to whichever axle has the more traction and prevents unwanted torque-steer and fight at the steering wheel.
  
   Probably because such a set-up demands fully independent rear suspension, this Octavia’s ride over all except the sharpest road faults feels unflurried and the equal to any Octavia’s we’ve sampled.
  
   Admittedly, there’s some whirring and minor tremors from the drive line (underneath the centre tunnel) at times, but this engine’s silky flexibility and hush at any steady speed, from below 30 to over 70mph in top, are a sheer delight. So too, is its exceptional lower-speed acceleration.
  
   Of course, all that extra rotating hardware and its weight, sap some power. Our rivals table shows the performance and economy penalties are modest, however, and illustrates that ‘proper’ taller-built SUV’s tend to suffer an even higher deficit.
  
   Inside the rear load area there’s some loss of height – the normal Elegance’s ‘dummy’ load platform removes to reveal a fully trimmed, second level, which is the same as in the Ambient version. In effect, both load height and resultant interior load-sill intrusion of this 4x4 are midway between these other two levels. This is no real hardship because the Octavia has about the biggest load deck of any Focus/Golf-sized car. So long, in fact, that many people consider it (wrongly) as an upper-medium contender, whereas the reality is that it’s a Golf with an extended load area, but modest back seat legroom.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Space/practicality
Safety Euro NCAP
LIKES ...
  • lumbar and height adjusters on both front seats
  • rear cushion easily removed to take longer objects
  • replaceable bumper/door nudge strips (unpainted)
  • restraining net and hinged anchors for cargo/shopping
and GRIPES
  • sunroof's shade rattles - all Octavias' seem to
  • some background feel and hum from drive line
  • driver's left footrest too close for comfort
  • fore-and-aft seat adjustment notches too coarse
  • head restraints block rear view
VERDICT
We sampled this Octavia between the departure of a new Renault Megane and the arrival of an Audi A4. With six years experience of building Octavias in a state-of-the-art factory, Skoda’s workers have now established themselves as the producers of a reliable car of real quality. Living with the Octavia, despite some features that are beginning to date, feels a very reassuring experience, after the capricious Megane. As reassuring as the Audi, in fact, but for two-thirds of the asking price. And when the weather turns nasty, this 4x4 will be even more reassuring.


SPECIFICATION
engine 1781cc, 4-cylinder, petrol; 150bhp at 5700rpm, 155 lb ft at 1750rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 20 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, four-wheel drive; 21.7mph/1000rpm in 5th, 17.7 in 4th. Haldex electro-hydraulic centre differential for variable 4WD
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs
rear: independent multi-link (twin lateral/single trailing) with coil springs; standard cornering stability control (ESP)
  steering hydraulic power assistance; 3.1 turns lock-to-lock; 10.45m diameter turning circle between kerbs (15.6m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard anti-lock control (ABS)   wheels/tyres 6in alloy with 205/55R16V tyres (Dunlop on test car); full-size steel spare

THE OCTAVIA RANGE
body 5-door lower-medium hatchback and estate car   trim levels Classic, Ambiente, Elegance, Laurin and Klement, RS
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.4 litre/75bhp; 4/1.6/102; 4/2.0/115; 4/1.8/150; 4/1.8/180
diesel: 4/1.9/90; 4/1.9/110
  drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual; four-wheel drive estate, 4-speed automatic (with torque converter) on 2.0 and 1.8


HOW THE OCTAVIA 4X4 ESTATE COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Skodia Octavia 4X4 4/1781/150 3220 9.5 14.4/19.6 32/214 23/26 111 97/72 3.1/10.5 452
Subaru Forester 2.0X 4/1995/125 3280 10.9 18.0/25.9 31/204 18/28 109 96/69 3.1/10.8 445
Honda CRV 2.0 4/1998/148 3350 9.5 16.4/25.3 30/216 12/27 108 106/80# 3.3/10.8 457
Ford Focus 2.0 (2WD) 4/1989/130 3120 9.5 16.7/24.9 33/212 19/25.5 107 100/71 2.9/10.6 444
Renault Scenic 4x4 4/1998/140 3260 12.8 20.3/28.9 28.5/214 n/a 106 102/76 3.5/10.6 444
Octavia 1.8T (2WD) 4/1781/150 3040 8.5 14.4/19.7 35.5/192 24/27 111 97/72 3.1/10.5 452
  # back seat fully rearwards


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CONTROLS AND DISPLAYS
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HANDLING AND STEERING
*
Four-wheel drive arrangement cares for itself - no extra gear levers. Digital readouts for air-con and radio obscure but clear (if optimistic) displays. Medium-weight clutch and heavy-ish handbrake. Excellent lumbar thrust and ample seat adjusters - both sides.
*
 
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Steering's ideal weight and feel benefit from AWD, with keen cornering response and standard electronic stability control. Good turning circle and easier view aft than in hatchback - except for the bulky head restraints.
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COMFORT
*
Ride similar to ordinary 1.8T's - a bit jittery on 55-Series tyres, but good, firm damping. Superb climate control puts most to shame. Quiet cruising at any legal speed, although there's some sound and feel of activity from the centre drive line.
*



OVERTAKING ABILITY
What a gratifying engine this is - smooth, mostly hushed (when cruising) yet remarkably willing to pull strongly from really low speed. Probably the best reason for choosing this car against the alternatives.
  acceleration in seconds through gears* 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40mph 3.3 8.1 12.2
  30-50mph 3.3 6.8 9.8
  40-60mph 4.0 7.0 9.0
  50-70mph 6.2 7.6 9.8
  30-70mph 9.5 14.4 19.6
  max speed in each gear (* using 6000rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      29      53      80.5      106.5      128 (5875rpm)


FUEL ECONOMY
Again, more than satisfactory result when the acompanying, usable power plus four-wheel drive are both factored in. Larger tank than other Octavias' ensures a good range - despite alarmist warning lamp. Trip computer mpg 7% optimistic.
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 22
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 27
    motorway (70mph cruising) 31
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 32
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 38
    overall mpg 32
    realistic tank capacity/range 54/380
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 23.3/39.8/31.7
    CO2 emissions 214g/km
    car tax band E


SAFETY  
Not as completely sorted as the latest offerings, but a good overall crash test result and this Elegance has added side airbags. Brakes sensibly progressive, although no 'brake'assist' function to sharpen response in a panic situation, so a shade weighty.
    EURO NCAP RATINGS
 
 
 
    BRAKES
 
  from 50mph (with standard ABS)
 
front impact     63%
side impact     83%
overall     74%
overall safety rating    
pedestrian rating    
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     40m
sudden 23kg     26m best stop
+ 4kg ie 27kg     27m
 
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.



SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
More rear kneeroom than on earlier SLX we tested - still not as leg-stretchinly spacious as a Mondeo or Passat, though. Instead, load space is impressive, despite some height lost, to find room for rear-wheel drive; results in a very modest load sill.
  in centimetres (5-door estate car)
  outside
  length 451
  width - including mirrors 195
    - mirrors folded 173
  height (with roof bars) 150
  load sill height (inside/outside) 8/63
  steering
  turns lock-to-lock 3.1
  turning circle (metres) 10.45
   
  easy to park/garage?
  inside
  front - legroom 89-111
    - headroom 93-98§
  rear - typical legroom 97
    - typical kneeroom 72
    - headroom 96§
    - hiproom 127-132
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
526/18.6
  load length 99-169~
  load length to facia 268
  load width 101-123
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 47/78
§ with sunroof  ~ rear seat folded


SECURITY  
A simple, straightforward handset, operating deadlocking - but no alarm or peripherals like two-stage unlocking or global closing. Fuel filler and tailgate encompassed in key or handset action. Nice folding key-blade.
FEATURES/CONVENIENCE
NCSR RATINGS
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
deadlocks  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
self-locking (static + drive off)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of" not available
 
NCSR - "theft from" not available
 
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit www.thatcham.org for more details
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