New Skoda Octavia review | Business Line

12 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on New Skoda Octavia review | Business Line

New Skoda Octavia review

The Skoda Octavia is back. Will it shake off its past and rise up again?

One of the most talked about marketing case studies in the Indian automotive scene of the last decade was that of the Skoda Octavia. How did this premium sedan manage to rake up the kind of sales it did without any advertising or with only minimal promotion for a brand which was completely new to India.

Unfortunately, the power of #8216;Word of Mouth#8217; not only led to the Octavia climbing up the sales chart, in what was then considered the luxury sedan segment, but was also evident in the way the Skoda brand slid down from its pedestal later due to the poor quality of after-sales service. Many of the original Octavia owners who were stung by the appalling service quality and indifference amongst a big bunch of Skoda#8217;s dealers will, however, still swear by the car#8217;s reliability and quality.

Of course, during the last few years, Skoda has been on the road to amend the mistakes that its erring dealers made. A lot of effort has gone into reversing the slide in trust amongst buyers. It is not really there yet in terms of having restored full confidence, but its customers are clearly again warming up to the brand.

And this is good news, because Skoda has now brought the new Octavia.

The Laura, when introduced here as an independent model, was essentially the new Octavia worldwide. The Laura will continue to be sold in parallel (for now) and together with the Yeti and the new 2013 Octavia, Skoda will now have three models in the Rs 14 lakh to Rs 19 lakh price range.

Design

The new Octavia#8217;s design has classic Skoda lines all over. There are the understated, sharp-edged styling cues of a Volkswagen group company car too. But it is still unmistakably a Skoda.

Though the Laura (previous-generation Octavia) still looks quite fresh, the new Octavia#8217;s design is clearly indicative of progress in design.

This is the third generation Octavia and it is built on the same versatile MQB platform of the VW group. Other cars built on this platform include the Audi A3 and the VW Golf. The overall design language of the new Octavia is one where its trademark rectangular elements haven#8217;t been dumped, but it still manages to offer more merging lines and now a slightly more rounded look.

The previous generation Superb and the first-generation Octavia had a lot of resemblances when looked at from the rear. Similarly, the new Octavia now has a lot of resemblances, but with the smaller Skoda Rapid. The C-shaped configuration for the tail-lamps and the diagonal fold lines on the face of the boot lid (above the number plate) make it look very much like the Rapid when viewed from a distance.

Get a bit closer and the larger dimensions will give it away as the new Octavia.

There is none of that over-familiar DNA evident from the lines at the front. The new Octavia looks fresh and quite robust. The headlamps are the simplest and yet the most attractive part of the front.

I was test driving the top-end Elegance diesel variant and these featured the Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights.

The bonnet grille shaped like a butterfly is now a little narrower, but the airdam is larger. The bonnet ridge lines that end nose-like with the Skoda logo at the top of the grille are a classic Skoda design cue. The gradually raked roofline, the sharp shoulder line and the flared wheel arches are all classic VW design elements. Only, unlike most other models, in the Octavia the rear of the roof culminates in a notchback style boot-lid.

This means that the rear glass opens upwards since it is part of the boot lid and in the new Octavia the lid feels heavier than in the previous generation.

The new Octavia is longer, wider and has a bigger wheelbase than the Laura and certainly more than the previous Octavia. In fact, with a wheelbase of 2,688mm, the new Octavia is 55mm bigger than the VW Jetta. It is also wider and much of that increase in dimensions show up in the more spacious cabin.

However, the one feature that doesn#8217;t do any justice to its increased proportions is the rather small 16-inch wheels that have been shod with 205/ 55 tyres.

Cabin

The new Octavia#8217;s cabin is clinical, clean and very German. The amount of space available also hits you immediately when you step in. A cream-beige and grey interior colour theme is pleasing to the eye and also gives it an airy feel, though there is no dearth of light streaming in.

Fit and finish quality and the material quality is perfectly matched to the best in the segment and there is a general feeling of solidity to the cabin, except the faux wood trim in the centre console, which felt that too faux. The controls and knobs are all within easy reach for the driver and there was enough electrical and manual adjustability to the seats and steering for me to get the most comfortable driving position.

Touch-screen infotainment system, nicely bolstered leather seats, panoramic sunroof, chunky steering wheel and the auto-dimming rear view mirrors were features that I liked and helped me during my test drive in New Delhi. The thick centre tunnel going all the way to the rear seat means that the passenger in the middle at the rear has to sit astride and the Bluetooth pairing with my handset just didn#8217;t work with the infotainment system in the new Octavia.

Performance

The new Octavia is offered with three engines #8211; two petrol mills and one diesel. The test mule I had for a few days was the 2.0 TDI (there was no badging to distinguish it from the others).

This is the same tried and tested diesel engine that VW uses in quite a few other models too, including the Jetta and the Laura. This 1,968cc turbocharged diesel engine produces just a shade more power than in the Jetta and the Laura at 143 PS available from 4,000 rpm. In the new Octavia, the engine#8217;s torque range has also increased to 1,750-3,000 rpm, though peak torque generated remains the same at 320 Nm (compared to the Jetta).

Also, the 2-litre diesel unit is mated to the same 6-speed DSG (dual sequential) automatic transmission as in the Jetta. The powertrain is quite the winner, with refinement levels being a benchmark. Skoda also seems to have used new insulation material to keep noise levels really low in the cabin.

With the new Octavia being almost 100 kgs lighter (thanks in part to the MQB platform), the power available seems to have gotten a distinct boost. The car does feel a bit lighter too.

The powertrain manages to leverage the engine#8217;s prowess, though the bit of delay in the turbocharger kicking in can be felt. As you can see from the picture the engine idles at 1,000 rpm. The delay is felt more in fully automatic mode due to the short time lag in the DSG gearbox detecting driver demand.

In triptronic mode, the gearbox is much more responsive and can be quite addictive to drive in.

The new Octavia is offered with the same 1.8 TSI petrol (1,798cc) engine that the Laura is offered with. Peak power gets a 10 per cent boost in the new Octavia, compared to the Laura, and the turbocharged petrol engine also manages to get a wider torque range. The 1.8 TSI is paired with a 7-speed DSG gearbox.

Both these engines now manage to offer higher mileage than in the Laura.

The 2013 Octavia is also offered with a 1.4 TSI petrol engine. This is smaller (1,395cc) displacement engine offers a peak power of 140 PS and peak torque of 250Nm. This engine also offers a higher rated mileage of 16.8 kmpl.

The new Octavia#8217;s ride quality is very reminiscent of the Laura#8217;s, not surprising since the set up is the same. The general expectation can be a fair mix between firm and accommodating.

The steering feel and feedback makes it worthy of the VW group association.

Bottomline

A key metric for the original Octavia#8217;s success was its reliability. While it might be too early to comment about the India-spec Octavia, globally the new Octavia has received points for its solid build quality and reliability.

The lower-end Active variant packs in quite a few features as standard equipment, but step up to the mid and top trim variants and the features list in the new Octavia really shoots up. Adaptive lighting assistant, cornering lights, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers, stability control, multi-collision braking, six-airbags, electronic differential lock, tyre-pressure monitors etc. make the new Octavia really feature rich.

Priced in the range of Rs 14 lakh to Rs 19.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new Octavia will be a headache for the competition in this price segment and even for other VW group cars including the Jetta, Passat, Laura and the Superb.

muralidhar.s@thehindu co.in

(This article was published on November 5, 2013)

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