Is the Skoda Octavia medium sedan the perfect family-sized antidote to the onslaught of SUVs on our roads?
- Standard equipment list is extensive
- Smooth and efficient drivetrain combo
- Handsome styling, inside and out
- Some infotainment features err on the fiddly side
- Lack of physical buttons
- A 360-degree camera would be good
Medium sedans are a dying breed in today’s brutal new car environment, an environment that sees their numbers dwindling at the hands of another mid-size predator, the rapacious medium SUV devouring all before it. But, where there is life, there is hope. And hope, in this instance, comes from the Czechian brand, Skoda.
The Skoda Octavia has long impressed us here at Drive with its blend of practicality, premium touches and clever idiosyncrasies. It’s the reigning 2022 Drive Car of the Year – Best Medium to Large Car champion, and for good reason.
The judges lauded the Octavia’s versatility – there’s a sedan and a wagon in the range – as well as its sharp pricing, which placed the Euro-designed and built Octavia “within reach of a broad spread of buyers”.
And true enough, the Octavia range does cater to a broad spectrum. A total of four grades comprises the range, each grade available as either a sedan (or liftback in Skoda speak) or a station wagon.
It kicks off with the entry-level Ambition sedan priced from $38,490 drive-away, and tops out with the hot RS wagon from $57,990 drive-away. In between, the Octavia Style asks for $40,990, while the car we have on test here, the 2022 Skoda Octavia Limited Edition, sits just below the RS range-topper at $52,490 drive-away. The respective Octavia station wagons ask for a $1500 premium on top of the sedan drive-away prices.
Our test car, finished in an optional $770 hue of Moon White metallic paint (one of seven optional colours), wants for no extra equipment, rolling out of the Skoda factory in Mladá Boleslav fully kitted out. It is, in every sense, the Octavia ‘with the lot’.
Standard equipment highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, heated front and rear seats, ventilated (cooled) front seats, DAB+ radio, tri-zone climate control and a head-up display. A 12-speaker premium audio system previously featured on the equipment list is currently on hold for MY23 cars, due to component shortages, with eight-speaker audio in its place for the time being.
That’s on top of the extensive equipment list carried over from lower grades, which includes a 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, inbuilt satellite navigation, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, matrix LED headlights and LED tail-lights, ambient interior lighting, keyless entry and push-button start, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, tablet holders for second-row occupants, and Skoda’s signature umbrella housed in the driver’s door.
While medium sedans don’t attract the same ferocity of buyers they once did, there remains an elegant cabal of rivals vying for buyers’ hearts and wallets. An obvious contender is from Skoda stablemate Volkswagen, the German brand’s Passat range getting underway at $57,690 (plus on-road costs).
Looking to Japan, the Mazda 6 range is priced from $35,120 to $50,720, while out of left-field, the Hyundai Sonata N-Line ($51,565 plus on-roads) offers a dose of sportiness and a decent equipment list.
It’s a competitive set, yes, but the Octavia saw off the Passat and Hyundai Sonata to claim the 2022 Drive Car of the Year – Best Medium to Large Car crown. And for good reason. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Octavia, like the broader Skoda range, has always impressed with its understated interior. It looks stylish and modern, yet without some of the overwrought touches increasingly prevalent in modern car interiors.
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Interesting materials abound throughout. We especially love the cloth dashboard trim, a swathe of grey fabric that’s as tactile as it is stylish. It makes a nice change from fake leather, fake wood, fake aluminium, and fake carbon-fibre accents and trims that increasingly dominate today’s interiors.
Ambient lighting can be configured not only to taste for colour, but also by zone. The dash, as example, can be subtly illuminated in blue, say, while a different hue casts light into the footwells. It’s a small thing, but kinda cool.
The seats, wrapped in leather and electrically adjustable, offer plenty of support, including – in this Limited specification – extendable under-thigh supports. Skoda calls them ErgoComfort seats, and they certainly live up to the name and reflect on the broader cabin aesthetic that is at once ergonomic and comfortable.
They’re heated and cooled in the front row, while the outboard seats in the second row are also heated which, while not unique, is certainly rare at this end of the new-car market.
Storage options abound, including a large central storage bin, a pair of cupholders, and door pockets that can accept bottles. And Skoda’s propensity for felt-lining in storage bins and door pockets might seem like a small thing, but it’s a welcome feature highlighted only when you drive a car without the soft, sound-deadening material.
The second row is generously proportioned with plenty of room in the key measures – toe, knee, leg and head – while passengers back there are treated to air vents with separate climate controls, a fold-down armrest with cupholders and generous door pockets.
ISOFIX child seat mounts are fitted to the outboard seats, while all three seatbacks are equipped with top-tether anchor points.
Skoda claims 600L of cargo capacity out back underneath the Octavia’s huge liftback tail. That expands to a generous 1555L with the second row stowed away in 60:40 split fashion. That stacks up well against the segment’s best-seller, the Toyota Camry, which offers 524L of load-lugging capacity. A space-saver spare wheel and tyre lives under the Octavia’s boot floor.
|2022 Skoda Octavia Limited Edition sedan|
|Boot volume||600L seats up
1555L seats folded
Infotainment and Connectivity
A dash-mounted 10-inch touchscreen hosts the Octavia’s infotainment system. It features native satellite navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as well as Bluetooth connectivity, and DAB+ radio, and on the car we tested played through the premium 12-speaker sound system which reverts to eight-speaker audio for MY23, (check with your dealer for details).
It also houses the controls for most of the Octavia’s auxiliary functions such as climate control.
We’ve long not been fans of brands that have done away with physical buttons and dials for some of their cars’ features, climate controls chief amongst them. And that remains in place with the Octavia, although to be fair to Skoda, some of the climate-control functions are permanently on display at the foot of the touchscreen, although others – such as fan speed – require some digging through menus. It’s fiddly and distracting.
Similarly, Skoda has done away with a volume knob, and in its place is a slider bar underneath the touchscreen. It works well enough, but there’s nothing so simple as a volume dial, which has worked well since the invention of recorded sound.
One minor gripe is at this price point we’d expect to see a 360-degree camera providing some all-around vision when reversing. A minor gripe yes, but a feature becoming more prevalent, certainly at this more premium end of the market.
Where the Octavia claws back brownie points is with its excellent digital instrument cluster. To our eyes, and in our minds, it’s the standard-bearer for the technology across the new car landscape. Simple, effective, and configurable to taste, the Skoda’s version of Virtual Cockpit outdoes the rest of the Volkswagen Group not only in terms of presentation, but also in ease of use.
As well as critical driving information – such as an essential digital speedo – the screen can be tailored to taste. Want navigation data? It’s got you covered. Fuel consumption and trip info? Tick. It’s information-rich, if you need it to be, simple and clean if you want.
Keeping devices topped up are four USB-C plugs (two in the front and two in the second row), as well as a wireless charging pad for smartphones.
The Skoda Octavia was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2019, scoring well in adult occupant protection (92 per cent), child occupant (87 per cent), vulnerable road user (73 per cent) and safety assist (79 per cent). Of note are a perfect score of eight out of eight for side impact protection and a near-perfect 3.99 out of four for the Octavia’s autonomous emergency braking at city speeds.
Advanced safety technologies include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and assist, lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert.
A suite of 10 airbags – including a central ’bag designed to mitigate head clashes between front occupants in the event of an accident – cover both rows of occupants.
At $52,490 drive-away, the Skoda Octavia Limited Edition represents a bit of a bargain in the segment. Loaded with equipment often optional elsewhere in the segment, the Octavia combines want-for-nothing practicality with sleek Euro styling.
In terms of warranty, Skoda’s standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre coverage applies. However, buyers who purchase a seven-year service pack before 30 September 2022 will enjoy an extended seven-year warranty. That seven-year/105,000km servicing plan asks for $2400 upfront. A five-year/75,000km pack is also available for a reasonable $1550 upfront.
|At a glance||2022 Skoda Octavia Limited Edition sedan|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km
(Seven years with seven-year service plan)
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1550 (5 years), $2400 (7 years)|
Skoda reckons the Octavia Limited Edition will use 6.1L/100km of 95RON premium unleaded on the combined cycle. We saw an indicated 6.7L/100km over our time with the car, covering a mix of urban and highway running, which is not a bad return against the manufacturer’s claim.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||6.1L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||6.7L/100km|
|Fuel type||95-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||45L|
While the elegant cabin and generous equipment levels are the entrée, the real enjoyment of the Skoda Octavia Limited Edition comes from behind the wheel.
And it starts with the 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet. It’s good for 140kW and 320Nm, easily enough power and torque for most day-to-day driving scenarios. Those outputs are transmitted to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
While the Octavia Limited Edition doesn’t pretend to be a performance car (that status is reserved for the Octavia RS), the engine and transmission combination is enough to propel the relatively svelte 1405kg sedan from 0–100km/h in 7.4 seconds.
There’s a relaxed manner to the way the Octavia moves away from standstill. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic proves slick and intuitive, and displays none of the hesitancy transmissions of this type have been associated with. Its smooth gear changes are matched by an innate ability to be spinning the right cog at the right time.
Step on the accelerator, however, and there’s an equal eagerness to shuffle down a couple of gears to find the torque sweet spot for a burst of acceleration.
That sweet spot sits between 1500–4180rpm, a broad spectrum that never leaves the Octavia feeling like it’s about to run out of steam. That’s especially felt out on the open road and the highways where effecting an overtake feels as brisk as it does effortless.
But perhaps its star turn takes place around town, the Octavia feeling light, nimble, brisk and solid to drive in whatever conditions are thrown at it.
There’s a Sport drive mode that alters the steering feel and engine/transmission calibration, but really, it’s a novelty trick you’ll use once or twice and then forget about.
The ride on the Octavia’s one-size-fits-all (non-adaptive) suspension set-up is decent too. If anything it errs on the side of firm, but not to the point of distraction. Most of the regular road blemishes disappear under wheel without a ripple felt in the cabin, while car-unsettling larger obstacles present only a minor challenge as the Octavia settles back onto its haunches quickly and with composure.
As a complete package, then, the Octavia Limited Edition’s road manners are hard to fault. From snappy around-town performance to its easy loping gait out on the open road, the Octavia never loses its cool.
|Key details||2022 Skoda Octavia Limited Edition sedan|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||140kW @ 6500rpm|
|Torque||320Nm @ 1500–4180rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power to weight||100kW/t|
|Tow rating||1600kg braked, 710kg unbraked|
Drive Car of the Year judges – and disclaimer, I am one of them – outlined what it takes to earn the coveted Medium to Large Car gong.
In short, they must offer plenty of space and practicality matched by refinement, both inside and in the drive experience. They need to offer plenty of standard equipment, both in terms of creature comforts and convenience, as well as a comprehensive suite of modern safety technologies. Equally, to take out the award, its driving manners must be impeccable.
The Octavia Limited Edition tested here ticks all the boxes and then some.
Minor quibbles surrounding some of the Octavia’s ergonomics around the infotainment system were quickly dispelled once behind the wheel.
Brimming with equipment and with a drivetrain combination that does a great job of exploiting the torque available to it for a relaxed experience behind the wheel, the Octavia Limited Edition provided a timely reminder of why it took out this year’s award.