Octavia: younger sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. Skoda: younger sister of the automotive giant, Volkswagen. Together they’ve come up with a surprisingly capable vehicle with a definite Ambition to be seen. A Wheel Thing says hello to the Czech based manufacturer for the first time and likes the first impressions of the Ambition Plus sedan.
Physically it is a decent sized vehicle, it’s just shy of 4.7 metres in length with a 1.8m width and stands just under a metre and a half tall. Under the test car’s bonnet is a seemingly small 1.4L turbocharged petrol engine, with 103kW and 250 Newton metres of torque. It’s this figure that comes into play with a weight of just 1340 kilos (dry) to move. Putting that grunt down to the front wheels (225/45/17) is the job of a seven speed DSG; the close ratios have the Octavia motivating quickly, especially once the stutters of first and second are out of the way. A good prod of the go pedal sees the numbers change quicker than a blink, with the DSG ‘box sliding home gear after gear seamlessly, providing a wave of get up and go, belying the size of the engine. It’s that torque, available from 1500 revs through to 3500, with the tacho flicking up then down on changes, through to the peak power point of 5000rpm keeping things bubbling. Being front wheel drivem it’s partial to the occasional snort of the tyres when provoked yet torque steer is noticeably absent.
The exterior is familiar yet new, with Skoda’s design team stamping their own mark on the VW based chassis. Audi-esque tail lights bookend a smart looking front end, with a chin mounted grille framed by driving lights underneath the moustachioed main intake grille and slimline, slef adjusting headlights. There’s (in the case of the Ambition Plus) a radar sensor smack bang in the lower middle grille; get too close to a vehicle in front without you using your brakes and wham! the Ambition Plus will take you by surprise and brakes itself. Hard. It’s a smooth, clean sheetmetal with the Octavia, with a well balanced profile and a single crease line at the bottom of the doors. There’s a kickup on the rear seat passenger windows whilst the wheels are trim and tidy looking five spoke alloys.
The interior mix is an oddity; it’s a feeling of mod-tech and 1970s hotel; there’s the presence sensing touchscreen for entertainment and engine/gearbox setting changes, parking assistance and sensors butting up against a somewhat dated plastics look on the dash and door trims (piano black and dull, lustreless very dark grey) with the dash itself the old style block design, with no real amalgamation into the doors and a “beige” look to the seat trimmings, being a mix of black and patterned cloth. The seats themselves were comfortable without being spectacular, fully manual in adjustment and had the odd feeling of being seated higher than they looked. The position certainly provides good all round vision, except the wing mirrors are too small for true safety. Cargo space is huge, with the liftback providing both easy access and a cavernous amount of room at well over 500 litres.
There’s a neutral feel through the tiller, with enough subtle feedback to provide road information to the driver, with the steering ratio just a couple of turns or so lock to lock. On the road the suspension is initially compliant, absorbing most smaller ripples and undulations and there’s a definite sensation of tautness underneath, allowing the Octavia to be thrown around without feeling perturbed. On tarmac it feels planted but did seem somewhat twitchy in a cross breeze and coming into an unsealed surface road it understeered dramatically and braking did not really help. The brakes themselves have a good bite, early in pedal travel without feeling grabby and provided a good level of confidence. In profile the Ambition seems to sit high with the 17 inch wheels not looking as if the wheelarches are filled but there’s little noticeable body roll regardless. Acceleration, as mentioned, is rapid once the turbo has spooled up bhowever the DSG ‘box did tend to hold fourth in certain driving conditions and was somewhat buzzy while doing so. Economy is quoted at around 5.9L/100km and A Wheel Thing saw little that would dispute that claim.
Skoda offers capped price servicing, with service intervals 12 months or 15000 kilometres, whichever comes first, complementing the sharp pricing. The range starts at just under $23000 with the Ambition Plus kicking off at $26790 driveaway (at the time of writing) plus $475 for metallic paint. The supplied car came with the optional Tech Pack (push button stop/start, cruise control and more) taking the price to a lick over $31K.
It’s a good car but suffers from being largely unseen on Aussie roads; that’s a shame because it’s roomy enough for the average family, drives well enough for the average punter and is keenly priced with a decent amount of equipment. Go here for more information: http://www.skoda.com.au/models/octavia/