That was the first leg of the UK launch for Skoda’s all-new medium class, but lower medium priced, range.
The second leg (similar distance, time and mixture of roads) showed that not all manufacturers’ economy figure claims should be treated with deep suspicion. We had switched from the 1.9-litre diesel to the 2.0-litre 140bhp TDI PD, which Skoda says can average 47.9mpg. It can, and it does: our test car, in top Elegance spec, returned 48.6mpg while we indulged in the standard press practice of getting from the free lunch point to the free tea stop in the shortest possible time.
Impressive, as are the new interior materials, improved specification with more storage compartments and cubby holes, extra rear passenger legroom (66mmn longer wheelbase), additional luggage space (up 36 litres to 560 litres), quieter engines, new electro mechanical steering, more rigid body, tweaked chassis and revised rear axle setup.
While Octavia is bigger and better to drive, the prices haven’t shifted too far skywards – they start at£10,750 for the 75bhp 1.4-litre petrol Classic – £490 more than the introduction to the previous Octavia. Most also have automatic transmission options and both Tiptronic and the DSG double clutch will be introduced in the remainder of this year and into 2005.
Trims remain Classic, Ambiente and Elegance, but take care – Classic also badges the carryover 1.9TDI 90bhp in hatchback and estate format, Ambiente SE covers the old style with 1.6 MPI 102bhp petrol, 1.9 TDI 90 and 1.9 TDI PD SE 130, while the 4x4 estate and hot vRS are also old-timers and will remain on sale in 2005.
Not surprisingly, the two new diesel variants will account for 70% of UK sales, with small businesses and fleets remaining very important customers. The least powerful is offered in the three trims – Classic, Ambiente and Elegance, starting at £12,780 – and the 140bhp in Ambiente and Elegance priced from £15,300.
Unless you drive like a complete lunatic/motoriing journalist there’s not a huge difference between the ride and drive characteristics of the PDs – obviously the 140bhp has more power and higher torque, but we found the 105bhp more than adequate for all road conditions…and it’s more economical.
Should dealers find a customer still unable to come to terms with the diesel phenomenon, in addition to the102bhp MPI, there are the direct injection1.6 FSI 115bhp and 2.0 FSI 150bhp petrol units to consider.
“The line-up is a little confusing while we have the carryover models,” a Skoda spokeswoman admits, “but it will have become much clearer as we move into 2005.”
Meanwhile, dealers should study that model list very carefully. Customers may just have done their homework.
Bodystyles: 5dr hatchback and estate
Petrol engines: 1.4 16v 75bhp, 1.6 FSI 115bhp, 2.0 FSI 150bhp.
Diesel engines: 1.9 TDI PD 105bhp, 2.0 TDI PD140bhp.
Carryover engines: 1.6 MPI 102bhp, 1.9 TDI 90bhp, 1.9 TDI 130bhp, 1.8T 150bhp