Skoda believes it will sell as many new Octavias in a full year as it does with the current model (around 15,000 cars), but with a broader range and a higher level of technology, the company's executives might replace their quiet confidence with pleasant surprise. Overall, the styling of the new Octavia seems an evolution of the old model, albeit with a neater and more dynamic front end and more elaborate rear light clusters.
In profile, the Octavia appears to straddle the border between lower-medium and upper-medium sectors, perhaps only lacking the width of upper-medium rivals which ensure three people can sit more comfortably in the rear, while its 560-litre luggage compartment is better than many larger cars.
Skoda had made great leaps forward in the perceived quality of the interior in the Octavia. There are soft-touch materials on the top of the dashboard and the door trims and the glove compartment has a damped action when opening.
Only the grab handles spring back sharply, betraying the company's 'value' heritage, but apart from that the Octavia feels every bit as well finished as the new Volkswagen Golf.
Skoda no longer needs to point to a price advantage over mainstream rivals as a basis for choosing its cars. The all-round competence of the Octavia is impressive, and it can easily be judged alongside the best in its class, with quality to match.
Strengths: Quality build, equipment, ride
Weakness: Cramped rear quarters
Opportunity: Upper medium car at lower medium price
Threat: Sorry, Skoda. It's still the badge
The USP: VW with Czech flavouring
Prices: £10,500- £17,000
Engines: 1.4, 1.6, 1.6 FSI, 1.9 TDI, 2.0 TDI
Transmission: 5sp, 6sp, 6sp Tip, 6sp DSG, fwd
Performance: 0-62mph 15.5-9.6s, top speed 106-129mph
Efficiency: 38.2-53.3mpg comb, 143-168g/km CO2
CAP RV (3yr/30k): 31-38% (est)
Rivals: Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus, VW Golf (Simon Harris. May 11 2004)