Composed handling and decent engines; refinement and ride could be a bit better
Appealing interior makes life comfortable and easy for the driver
Plenty of airbags and a good result in Euro NCAP crash tests
Should prove hassle-free
Loads of room, but lower trims need variable boot floor to avoid large step
All the essentials, and more
The Octavia Estate is easy and relaxing to drive. It stays nicely composed on tight turns, with very little body lean, and though some rivals feel more agile, the steering is accurate and responsive, and the car feels securely planted on the road. The Octavia Estate feels a little bit jittery at lower speeds round town, but it's far from uncomfortable and feels smoother as you pick up the pace. SE-spec cars and above have three drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. The steering weights up consistently in each setting, and the engine response is noticeably sharper in Sport mode. The 1.6 diesel easily hauls the Octavia's weight and offers the best balance of performance and economy, though it's a bit grumbly a low revs. The stronger, 148bhp 2.0 diesel is noisier, but both are pretty good by class standards, none the less. The petrols - turbocharged 1.2 and 1.4 units - are impressively hushed, and all models let very little wind or road noise into the cabin, while the pedals and manual gearshifts feel satisfyingly slick.The sporty vRS models get powerful 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines that make them effortlessly fast.
Smart, soft-touch surfaces and a standard touch-screen infotainment system make the Skoda feel as classy as many of its German rivals. The dashboard is clearly laid out and the controls are intuitive to use, with decent-size buttons. It's easy to get comfortable and the manual lumbar support is particularly effective, and rear visiblity is good. It's a pity, though, that the speedometer doesn't have common UK limits highlighted, and that the style of the figures on this and the adjacent rev counter can make them easily confused at a glance. One of the Octavia's biggest appeals for families will be its huge, square boot. Folding the rear seats boosts the loadbay further but they don't fold flat and there's also a substantial step to negotiate unless you have the variable-height boot floor (optional on SE and SE trim, but standard on Elegance). Passenger space is generous, too, both up front and in the back. Three trims are available. Even the cheapest, S, comes with air-con, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, DAB radio and a USB socket. SE is our pick and adds dual-zone climate control, rear electric windows, rear parking sensors and a fatigue sensor. Elegance brings sat-nav, cruise control, part-leather upholstery, automatic lights and wipers, and the variable boot floor as standard. All models have Isofix points on the two outer rear seats.
Skoda came fourth out of 27 manufacturers in the latest JD Power owner satisfaction survey, and 14th out of 38 manufacturers in What Car?'s latest reliability survey, which means owners can expect their cars to be generally trouble-free and Skoda to provide good customer service when required. The Octavia Estate hasn't yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP but the facility awarded the hatchback version the maximum five stars, with 93% for adult protection and 86% for children, and its seven airbags includes ones for the rear occupants. Insurance body Thatcham has given the Skoda high parks for its measures to prevent theft of the car or anything from it.
The Skoda Octavia Estate is easy to recommend. It's spacious, comfortable, good to drive and own, and it costs thousands of pounds less than similar-size estates. Its re-sale values are excellent so you'll get back a relatively good proportion of what you paid for it when you sell on, while fuel and maintenance costs are among the most affordable in the class.