The revised 2017 Skoda Octavia remains the sensible choice for those wanting space and comprehensive equipment in a smart-looking, fine driving package.
In the Metal:
Skoda's bread-and-butter machine hasn't gone too radically off-piste in what's admittedly a mid-life refresh rather than a complete model replacement. There's the usual new head- and tail lights (those rears are all-LED across the range, now) for a start and while the rears are fine, the headlights are a bit fussy looking in our eyes. They frame a larger grille, under which sits a bigger air intake, the Octavia presenting a bolder face that's more in keeping with Skoda's current design language. Otherwise it's a case of business as usual, that business being a clean-cut look with fit and finish that's right up there with the very best of the mainstream cars it rivals. An Octavia then, only a new and improved one, which is exactly what buyers will want.
The changes inside move the Octavia forward in its technology offering. Borrowing its new generation equipment from the Kodiaq SUV there's a new touch screen, which, depending on model, manages everything from Skoda's extensive online services covering real time traffic, satnav, weather, parking information and fuel pricing as well as remote access. Obviously, it all links seamlessly to your smartphone, whatever fruit, galaxy or robot is your preference. There's improved ventilation, more colour choices and the same huge space as before; thanks in particular to that smart new touchscreen, it's now classier than ever. Even in hatchback form the boot is vast (the Combi estate is gargantuan) allowing even the most calamitous packers find space for everything, so family detritus like buggies, bikes and the likes are swallowed with no trouble at all.
No surprises with the driving experience, which, as with the car it replaces is the very definition of competent, is no complaint at all. The 2.0-litre TDI engine produces 150hp. That's enough to get the Octavia to 100km/h in 7.8 seconds, the slick-shifting DSG automatic making that as fuss-free as you'd expect, selecting its ratios with swift imperceptibility that's impressive. With its ample torque the engine needs few revs to make good progress, while the promised economy and low emissions mean it'll be inexpensive to fuel and tax.
The ride and handling remain in the same predictable sphere as the rest of the offering, the Octavia throwing up no surprises. It glides along comfortably enough, though if you want the most smothering ride comfort then the smaller alloy wheel choices (or 15-inch steel wheels of entry-level Active trim) will deliver it. Even riding on the 18-inch alloy wheels of the top-spec Laurin & Klement model the Octavia smothers bumps commendably, though. On the motorway the diesel engine is muted, though rev it harder on more challenging roads and there's a drop in refinement, but it's no worse than any of its rivals' units. The biggest refinement issue is wind noise around the wing mirrors, though it's arguably only noticeable because the rest of the car is otherwise nicely hushed.
The new Octavia is a relaxing, relatively un-taxing drive then, which does everything you'd want your family car to do, with real ease. Much like the old one, only with a bit more polish.
What you get for your Money:
Besides the sheer size for its class, the Skoda Octavia has traditionally brought with it a value proposition when it comes to pricing and equipment. That's true for 2017 too, as the mid-life revisions bring more equipment as standard and up the technology and connectivity extras as you climb the trim ladder or dip into the options list. Entry-level Active might be the introduction to the range but it comes with kit like Bluetooth and rear parking sensors, though Ambition is the best all-round offering adding alloy wheels, more speakers to the audio system that gains touch-screen operation and Smartlink+ for full smartphone integration. Style and Laurin & Klement trims add premium levels of equipment, none of which you really need, or will miss, over what's already offered in Ambition. Here's the full run down on pricing and specifications.
We love the Skoda Octavia; it's always been a 'head buy', but with some heart mixed in. It drives respectably, looks neat and has space that's in the class above its competitors. So long as you can ignore those new headlamps, its excellent value and generous equipment are enough for us to give it the nod in the family car class.