New Octavia rises to challenge
Skoda delivers in terms of value, space and refinement
Skoda’s new Octavia: the strong new contender from the VW-owned brand
Date Reviewed:March 15, 2013
Every car maker a has a centre of gravity, a point within the range of products that it makes around which all other pivot. It doesn't have to be the best selling model, but usually is, and its sales performance is usually the best indicator of the relative health of that company. For BMW it is the 3 Series, for Ford it's the Focus and without a single doubt for Skoda, it's the Octavia.
First launched in 1998, the Octavia stopped all the tiresome old Skoda jokes dead in their tracks and almost overnight elevated Skoda from Eastern European curiosity to serious family car player. Today, in Ireland, the Octavia represents 60 per cent of total Skoda sales. And those sales are at a higher level then ever, with Skoda having started 2013 with a strong performance, and is now the 6th best selling car brand. No pressure on the new Octavia to perform then.
The Octavia certainly seems to have the mechanical shoulders with which to bear such pressure. Much have been written about the Volkswagen Group's clever MQB component set that allows it to build a Polo or a Passat from the same basic box of bits. It’s a technological tour-de-force that achieves the supposedly oxymoronic feat of saving VW money when it comes to building the cars, while allowing it to also make them more sophisticated and technologically advanced.
The Octavia makes good use of it all, but while it would have been true in the past to say that an Octavia was a Golf with a different body, now the differences are much greater. The Octavia is a much more physically imposing car than the Golf, longer in the wheelbase for greater cabin space, and now competes as much with the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Toyota Avensis and Opel Insignia as it does with the likes of the Golf, Focus and Astra.
That may help to explain its pricing strategy. Skoda has, of course, always traditionally sold on offering better value than the competition, and that strategy will continue.
The Octavia's entry level 1.2 TSI petrol model costs an arrestingly low €18,995, which looks like conspicuously good value. But look harder and you'll see that the 1.6 diesel model, in Ambition trim (which you need to upgrade to to get such niceties as air conditioning and a Bluetooth phone connection) costs a much more serious €24,545.
Looked at from the perspective of a Golf buyer, that looks a touch pricey for a car wearing a Skoda badge. Looked at from the class above, the Mondeo class, and it starts to look like much better value. The move on pricing is part of an admission that it can't, and doesn't want to, compete on direct price with the bargain-bucket likes of Dacia and the Chinese car makers. Rather, it wants to offer decent value but to entice and retain customers with its quality, technology, equipment and sophistication.