Skoda Octavia: car review | Technology | The Observer | Catalog-cars

Skoda Octavia: car review | Technology | The Observer

26 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Skoda Octavia: car review | Technology | The Observer

Skoda Octavia

: car review

Pole position: Skoda sets the pace as Christian Prudhomme, the general director of the Tour, gets the race under way.

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MPG up to 74.3

Each year, driving on and around the Tour de France throws up new challenges for man and machine, beyond the imagination of factory testers. This year’s ultimate car challenge came on Dutch Corner on the Alpe d’Huez. when a van was brought to a standstill by drunk fans dressed as carrots who surfed on the roof, while others rocked the vehicle to provide the waves.

Team Sky ‘s car supplier Jaguar also found that the Tour throws up unlikely surprises. Theirs was an issue that could have proved costly. All teams carry massive coolboxes in the boot to keep their cyclists’ drinking bottles cool.

But when the valve at the bottom of Team Sky’s box failed, the boot was flooded. This fused the battery, which disabled the car. The upshot was that on the Tour’s toughest climb, Chris Froome didn’t get fed and ended up with hypoglycaemia.

This year’s test for the new Skoda Octavia. which I drove, was rather more mundane. The day after the race ended the key went missing. Eventually I found it in the mountain of washing that always has to be done on returning home after three weeks on the road.

But I can conclusively reveal that Skoda’s electronic fob can survive total immersion among sweaty journalistic undies – a full cycle after watching Froome cycle.

I first drove an Octavia on the Tour back in 2004, when Skoda began sponsoring the race. Then, I wrote, both Skoda and the Tour faced a challenge updating their respective pasts, the Tour trying to escape doping, Skoda looking to get away from those old jokes. Ten Tours later and Skoda wisecracks are a thing of the past; sadly for Froome, who faced continual questions over doping, the Tour has struggled to move on as rapidly in that area.

Race leader: the lean, clean lines of the new Skoda Octavia estate. Photograph: Observer

I also mentioned in 2004 that the Skoda was the equivalent of Lance Armstrong in its leanness and economy. This doesn’t seem like the compliment it did back then, although it has to be said the 2013 Octavia remains a lean machine. Rather than dwell on miles per gallon, I prefer to look at it this way: a single tank of diesel took me from Burgundy to Bracknell.

The latter may not be your first-choice destination but it’s far enough to feel you haven’t been cheated.

This year’s model has a more sophisticated feel. The automatic gearbox does some complex stuff that means, for economy reasons, it coasts out of gear on downgrades. This might get a bit terrifying descending the hairpins of Alpe d’Huez were it not for a clever device that means a dab on the footbrake tells the engine to get itself into gear and help with the braking.

The boot net to hold bottles of free wine has gone since 2004, sad to say, but it has been replaced by a secret underfloor compartment to fill up with gifts. Très James Bond. The rear cargo space is big enough for a racing bike, with the wheels out.

One expects nothing less from the Tour’s official car supplier.

There are some slightly fussy touches: the dashboard alert that tells you a passenger in the back seat has taken off their belt is a tad Big Brother, while the reminder to take your mobile phone with you is pure Aunty Mabel. After all, it’s not like a Tour de France journalist to lose anything, is it? The key, lest we forget, is completely washproof.

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