Those universal Skoda jokes were just starting to fade from the collective consciousness of petrolheads when the Octavia appeared in 1996, as it became apparent how quickly the Czech company had adopted Volkswagen quality control standards. To ram home the point these ‘Volkswagens by another name’ were sold at extremely tempting prices for the high specification and level of finish offered, with the intention of swiftly re-establishing the Skoda marque as a born-again player on the international scene.
The first generation Octavia came as a five-door estate and also a strange hybrid saloon/hatchback combo that had a saloon-like back end and lifting tailgate. The styling was pleasant but unremarkable. The Octavia shared a platform with the Golf, Audi A3 and Seat Leon Cupra. The most distinctive Skoda option was four-wheel drive capability, available on both models, and these cars had a slightly higher ride height and a larger fuel tank. There was also a high-performance Octavia vRS. As with any model line having a German connection, there was a wide assortment of engines, all shared by other cars within the Volkswagen Group. There were five diesel variants, all at 1.9 litres, and twice that number of petrol engines, ranging in size from 1.4 litres to 2 litres.
The first generation was given a facelift in 2000, giving independent rear suspension and enhanced interior trim, and this remained on sale in some markets (as the Octavia Tour) after the second generation appeared in 2004. Again, many engine variants were offered (nine petrol and six diesel). There were changes to increase internal space and the new Octavia had a higher ride height to eliminate previous difficulties with tall curbs and ramps. The off-road Octavia Scout was announced in 2006, which is a reworked estate car featuring the Haldex Traction four-wheel drive system.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
Various, from 1,298 cc to 1,984 cc Straight Four; 1,896 cc or 1,968 Straight Four Diesel
With 2.0 I engine — top speed of 139 mph (224 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.6 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Octavia arrived in the UK during 1998 and was soon a staple of the taxi and hire car business, with its excellent build quality, roomy interior and competitive price.