Costa Rica is a tiny country in Central America. There are roughly five million people who live in Costa Rica. What’s the relevance? Well, if Skoda had sold only Octavias in Costa Rica, by now, every single person in that country would have been driving one. I’m just trying to make a point – the Octavia is Skoda’s most popular model ever. It’s also one of the best-selling cars in the world! And that’s been true for India as well. Ever since it was first introduced here, the Octavia has had immense amounts of success. It’s always been a great driver’s car (remember the vRS?) with all the creature comforts you could ask for. But now, there’s a new Octavia on the block. Does it have what it takes to replicate the same kind of success? To start with, the front end is all new.
New air-dams, new headlights, new fog-lamps, new hood. The overall idea was to add some muscle to the design and this has worked. The sculpted bumper and other minute design changes give the car more character. The most glaring change is the headlight. The new unit gets a split design that separates the high and low beams. The DRLs are still present and so are the fog lamps that double up as cornering lamps. The design itself is rather polarising and will take some getting used to. That said, it isn’t bad to look at and will stand out in a crowd. The rear too gets minor tweaks and while the overall design stays true to the family style, there are small changes to the tail-light and bumper. The sides too remain largely unchanged except for some fresh lines and chrome bits.
Inside, the cabin hasn’t changed much. The materials are still top notch and the design makes it a very pleasant and classy place to be in. The infotainment unit is new with an 8-inch touchscreen system that integrates CarPlay and Android Auto. It also comes with built-in navigation. The Octavia now gets a panoramic sunroof and also an ambient lighting function that lets you choose from ten different colours. Like before, only the driver gets electrically adjustable seats. The seats themselves are comfortable as always and rear passengers have adequate space.
The Octavia comes loaded with all kinds of tech too. It gets automated parking, a fatigue alert system, eight airbags, ABS, EBD, stability control and enough sensors all around to put some airplanes to shame. In terms of chassis spec, there have been some changes in the new car. The Octavia now gets different suspension options across variants. Only the top-end petrol variant will get independent suspension at the rear. All other variants will use a compound link crank axle at the rear. We drove the petrol with the independent suspension and it felt as great as always. The car is very responsive and has immense amounts of traction.
Turn-in is quick and there isn’t any significant body roll. One complaint though is that the steering now feels quite dead. It responds to inputs well, but there isn’t a lot of feedback coming at you. This, along with the lightness, affects confidence at high speeds. Still, the car remains well behaved. What is wonderful is that despite being such a great-handling car, Skoda has managed to endow the Octavia with excellent ride quality. It glides over our roads without ever letting the occupants know what they’re travelling over. The Elantra has set the benchmark in this department but the Octavia might just be a bit better. Skoda will bring the Octavia with two petrols and one diesel motor with a choice of two automatics and one manual gearbox. The 1.4 TSI motor will be available with the six-speed manual while the 1.8 TSI motor will only get a 7-speed DSG ’box. The 2.0 TDI will be available with a six-speed manual or DSG ’box.
We drove the car with the 1.8 TSI motor and it proved to be as incredible as ever. With no changes made to the engine, the 1798cc turbo petrol motor makes roughly 180bhp and 250Nm of torque. There’s no noticeable lag in power delivery and the engine is raring to go right from low down in the rev range all the way up to the redline. The gearbox too is great for driving fast with the shifts arriving super quick with a pleasant kick when shifting up at the redline in the first few gears. That said, if you’re in the mood for some relaxed driving, this engine does that extremely well too. The motor is so smooth and silent when driven peacefully that you can almost not tell it is running. The gearbox too adapts very well to this kind of use. The shifts are smooth and there is no break in acceleration through them.
1798cc, 4-cyl, 7-speed DSG, 177bhp, 250Nm