If you find yourself needing a car with ample carrying capacity, the latest Skoda Octavia Combi could be the car for you. With the arrival of its fourth iteration, the Skoda Octavia is posher than ever and appears to have the quality to back it up. Along with the best choice of engines it has ever offered, the Skoda Octavia Combi has become even more appealing.
In the metal
The Skoda Octavia is a perfect example of how if any class of car were deemed underrated, it is the humble estate. Traditionally the boxy and more utility-focused design, these days estate cars have begun to look much sleeker, and this is true of the Skoda. It measures 22mm longer than its predecessor, but this difference is down to the design of the bumpers adding a little more length. The wheelbase (distance between the front and rear wheels) remains unchanged on account of Skoda sticking with the same core architecture as the last model, but it is now wider by 15mm. The main benefit of that coming to the rear passengers in the form of better elbow room.
Skoda claims it offers the best in segment luggage capacity at 640 litres. However, for all the visual difference that the estate body style brings, that figure is only 40 litres more than what the Octavia hatchback offers. Fold the rear seats down and that space increases to 1,700 litres. For reference, the Volkswagen Passat estate offers only 80 litres more, and that's one class size up, so the Skoda is punching well above its weight in terms of practicality. One further plus is those rear passengers get an additional 15mm of headroom due to the longer roofline of the estate over the hatchback.
Those already familiar with the previous Skoda Octavia will be most aware of the uptick in cabin design and quality. Not only is it visually a more attractive interior, but the materials used throughout most of it are also improved. Yes, you will find some harder plastics if you go looking but for the most part the Octavia interior is now better.
The 10.25-inch digital instrument display is nothing new these days, but this time it does get different screen designs that make more sense and are all easier to read at a glance. The option of a colour head-up display is also a first in the Skoda Octavia. In conjunction with the car's navigation, you can have turn-by-turn instructions delivered directly into your eye line.
Equally good is the latest 10-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system. That too gets a fresh look with a new operating system that is complemented by Skoda's 'Laura' voice assistant.
Ample storage space around the centre console (thanks to the removal of a gear selector in the automatics), between the seats and in deeper door bins maintains Skoda's solid reputation for practicality.
Let's start by getting this important point across. SUVs or crossovers by their very nature cannot drive with the same stability or dynamics as an estate car. It's simple physics. Having all that weight paired with a higher centre of gravity means it will roll more in the corner, create more air resistance and therefore burn more fuel and put out more emissions.
By the time the full Octavia range is on sale, buyers will have a choice of up to 14 different powertrain options. Here we're driving what could be one of the most popular versions: the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel. This TDI engine has come in for a significant overhaul that results in quieter and smoother running and a more effective emissions reduction system through twin dosing of AdBlue.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers a crisper throttle response and is an ideal pairing for the dual-clutch automatic transmission. The latter does seem to upshift more quickly through the gears when pulling away in a bid to help fuel economy and minimise emissions. For the most part, the DSG transmission provides an almost faultless performance, with only the occasional hesitation from accelerator input. At speed, the Skoda's interior is appreciably quiet thanks to better sound insulation, and the ride comfort draws few reasons for complaint, despite this 150hp model featuring a torsion beam rear end. How that performs with a laden boot and full accompaniment of passengers remains an unknown until we get the car for a longer period in Ireland.
With 360Nm of torque available from low down in the rev range, the Octavia Combi sets itself up as an ideal load-lugger that is more than capable of serving a travelling salesperson or transportation for a family holiday. By and large, ride comfort seems adequate, and there is a clear sense of greater refinement in how this generation drives in comparison to its predecessors. Through bends it manages to retain plenty of composure and communicates enough feedback through the steering wheel to give you a real sense of confidence in what the front end is doing. Where it feels most at home is devouring long distances of motorway driving, giving the diesel engine a prime opportunity to prove itself as a very efficient package.
What you get for your money
The Combi carries a €1,500 price premium over its equivalent hatchback model. Still, considering that there are only more significant space gains to be had when the rear seats are folded, it is worth considering how much you're going to use that feature. In a slight realignment of the product offering, Skoda will no longer offer the most basic Active model. Instead, the Octavia will start with the Ambition version, followed by a Style model. In time, there will also be Octavia RS and Scout variants of the Combi and the range is also expected to include Sportline and Lauren & Klement specifications in due course.
Peugeot 308 SW: often overlooked, the Peugeot 308 is a spacious estate car that also features some quite efficient engines.
Ford Focus Estate: like the Skoda, Ford offers its Focus estate in a range of different guises, but whichever you choose you'll get a decent chassis and some improved diesel engines
Kia Proceed: this sportier take on the estate car concedes some space but makes up for it with superb handling and ride quality
With its generous interior space, large boot and good road manners, the Skoda Octavia Combi makes an excellent case for why you don't need to buy a taller and more compromised crossover or SUV. It goes about the task at hand in a seemingly effortless fashion and is now better than ever.