Skoda Octavia Review: 2011 Model | Octavia | Car Buyers Guide

2011 Skoda Octavia Review

Not so long ago, a 2-litre engine was considered par for the course when it came to large family hatchbacks and saloons. Sure, the manufacturers often wheeled out a weedy 1.6-litre version to suit the old Irish capacity-based tax system, but as long as you weren't a complete miser, two full litres was the way to go if you were in the market for a full-size car. Not any more. Thanks to the VW Group's turbocharging technology, the recently facelifted Skoda Octavia is available with petrol engines down to 1.2 litres in capacity. This seems absurdly small for such a big car, so a thorough road test was in order to see if such a motor really is a viable alternative to the much-vaunted VW Group diesels.


On paper, it has to be said that the figures don't look great. Just 105hp and a 175Nm of torque seems barely adequate for an Octavia-sized car. But a few minutes behind the wheel reveals a different story. While a naturally aspirated engine with that output would genuinely struggle to haul the Octavia along, the turbocharger fitted to this motor works very well to not only deal adequately with the Octavia's mass, but also to create a properly sprightly little engine that's capable of surprisingly swift acceleration when you need it.

Our Skoda Octavia 2017 review

The TSI engine can be specified with a conventional manual transmission, but our test car came fitted with the optional 7-speed DSG semi-automatic 'box. With a manual, you would probably find yourself working the engine quite hard to get the most out of it, with a resulting reduction in fuel economy, but in 'D' mode, the DSG 'box makes full use of its seven gears to deliver very efficient driving. Although it does 'kick down' like most automatic transmissions do when you squeeze the go pedal, it can take a second or two to respond sometimes, so if you're doing some enthusiastic driving, or need a burst of speed to complete a safe overtake, the 'Sport' mode is a better option. In this mode, the car changes up sooner in the rev range, and it really offers all the performance you'll need for day-to-day driving.


It's worth mentioning, however, that the DSG also offers full manual shifting by means of steering-wheel-mounted paddles, but having tried this option once, I never felt compelled to use it again during my time with the Octavia, as it's just not suited to the character of the car. Before Christmas, new car tested an Audi A1 fitted with a similar gearbox, and that car's punchy 1.4-litre engine and go-kart-like handling almost demanded that you use manual shifting all the time for maximum entertainment. In the more restrained environment of a family saloon like the Octavia, however, the shift paddles just feel unnecessary.


Stepping out of the driving seat for the moment, it's disappointing to see that even this facelifted second-generation model of the Octavia is still not setting the world alight in the styling department. Admittedly, the new headlight and grille combination smartens up the front end considerably, but from other angles the Octavia is still as dull as dishwater to look at, and it will blend into the suburban landscape so well you may have trouble finding it in the car park of your local Tesco. If you're in any way concerned about aesthetics, the 15-inch alloys fitted to Elegance and Greenline-spec Octavias are well worth choosing over the dreary steel wheel covers of the entry-level models.


So, from the outside, the Octavia is a bit of a disappointment. Step back inside, however, and it's a different story. The car is based on the VW Group's PQ35 platform, which also forms the basis of both the Mk V and Mk VI VW Golfs, and the interior fit and finish is on a par with that of the Octavia's VW cousins. Skodas have a reputation for being well equipped for the price, although the spec list for the entry-level Classic model of the Octavia is fairly sparse. It's definitely worth forking out the extra €1,500 or so for the Ambiente trim level, which adds air conditioning; an 8-speaker, iPod-ready stereo; Bluetooth compatibility; a multi-function dashboard display; and a leather steering wheel. Our test car came in the higher Elegance spec and featured a two-tone, half-leather interior; a high-end Bolero stereo system; dual-zone climate control; cruise control; and parking sensors.


Whatever trim level you go for, though, you get the same ample passenger space front and back, and a fairly cavernous boot that can take some pretty impressive loads when you put the rear seats down (a quick and painless process). It may not be most exciting or interesting family car on the market today, but when it comes to practicality at a sensible price, the Octavia delivers in spades, and that's all that a great many Irish buyers are going to want from it.




Skoda Octavia 1.2 TSI DSG Elegance


RATING: 7/10



1.2-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged petrol

Output @ rpm

105hp @ 5,000; 175Nm @ 1,550–4,100


7-speed semi-automatic, FWD


0-100km/h in 10.8 secs

Top speed




CO2 emissions


CO2 tax band

B (€156 p.a.)



Boot capacity


Base price


Price as tested



Sprightly engine, huge boot, quality cabin


Uninspiring looks, slightly firm ride



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