The ŠKODA OCTAVIA has lived in the shadow of its more popular sibling, the Volkswagen Golf.
In some ways, though, it should be the other way around as the Czech brand’s sedan and wagon offer more car for the money.
The range has recently been updated, with the deletion of a diesel-powered variant and upgrades to the RS hot hatch flagships, so it’s a good time to revisit them
How many models can I choose from?
There are four variants of the OCTAVIA, offered in both sedan and wagon body styles, with the entry-level OCTAVIA and mid-grade Sport powered by a 1.4-litre turbo charged petrol four-cylinder while the sportier RS and RS245 models get a 180kW 2.0-litre turbo four - the same as that used in the iconic Volkswagen Golf GTI.
All are front-wheel drive, and the base-model and Sport come standard with a six-speed manual transmission with the option to upgrade to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The RS models, however, are offered exclusively with the self-shifting auto.
Even in its most basic trim, ŠKODA has packed the OCTAVIA with a decent list of standard equipment including 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, remote locking and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android devices. The Sport adds rain-sensing wipers, sports front seats, rear privacy glass, full LED headlights, a rear spoiler, larger 18-inch alloys, lowered sports suspension and black exterior highlights. .
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Apart from the bigger engine, the OCTAVIA RS has an electronically controlled limited slip differential, front (and rear) parking sensors, front fog lights, a sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, drive mode selector, RS-specific sports seats trimmed in cloth and leather, LED ambient interior lighting, an RS instrument cluster and RS body kit with unique design 18-inch alloys.
The RS245 builds on that with more standard safety equipment (see below) as well as keyless entry with push-button start, wireless phone charging and a larger 9.2-inch infotainment system with standard sat nav and a high-grade 10-speaker Canton audio system.
What do they cost?
OCTAVIA Sport $29,990
OCTAVIA RS $39,990
OCTAVIA RS245 $45,490
OCTAVIA Sport $31,490
OCTAVIA RS $41,490
OCTAVIA RS245 $46,990
* Prices exclude on-road costs
Any options I need to know about?
Both RS models can be upgraded with a $2800 Luxury Pack that brings exclusive sports seats trimmed in cross-stitched fake suede with genuine leather side bolsters that also feature heating and cooled ventilation and electric adjustment, as well as adding a blind-spot monitor and lane keeping assistance to the safety package.
They can also, for the first time, be fitted with a fully-digital instrument panel for an extra $700, while premium paint colours cost $500, a sunroof in the sedan is $1500 (and $1700 in the wagon for a bigger panoramic opening), larger 19-inch wheels cost $700 and automatic tailgate opening on the wagon is $500.
Is it expensive to own?
All ŠKODA models are covered by a five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres and customers have the option to pre-pay for servicing over either three years or 45,000km for $860 or five years and 75,000km for $1700.
Any issues I need to know about?
Volkswagen has had issues in the past with dual-clutch transmissions and diesel engines, but neither of those should present as problems here as the automatic is the newer seven-speed wet-clutch units and, well, there’s no longer a diesel engine option in the range.
Otherwise, we’ve heard of the occasional electrical gremlin but nothing that’s seems prevalent enough to be common.
Which is the most economical model?
The smaller engine in the base OCTAVIA and Sport is the most efficient option with a combined cycle consumption of 5.2L/100km when equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (5.4L/100km with the manual transmission). But the extra performance of the RS models doesn’t come with that much a penalty at the pump with combined consumption figures of 6.5L/100km.
Which is the safest model?
All OCTAVIA variants - from the base-model upwards - have automated emergency braking, a reverse camera, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and electronic driver aids like anti-skid brakes and stability control.
The standard OCTAVIA, Sport and RS all have seven airbags, but the RS245 adds two rear side airbags as well as front sensors and semi-automated parking, making it the pick when it comes to safety.
Which is the best model to drive?
If you’re after a hot hatch that appeals to both the head and the heart, the OCTAVIA RS is not only excellent value for money and hugely practical in wagon form but a punchy performer with excellent on-road manners.
With 180kW and 370Nm, it can slingshot from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds, which is on par with most of its hot hatch alternatives. While it is energetic when you need it to be, with good front-end traction, well-weighted steering and decent stopping power, the OCTAVIA RS is also relaxed and effortless to drive as an everyday commuter.
The RS245, with its adaptive suspension, ultimately offers a broader depth of character with a wafty level of compliance in its comfort setting and taut, well controlled road holding in the sport modes.
But if the hot hatch thing isn’t you, the regular OCTAVIA with its 110kW/ 250Nm 1.4-litre engine is a perfectly capable, comfortable and classy urban runabout. Both the sedan and wagon offer huge amounts of space, with class-leading legroom in the rear and a huge amount of cargo capacity - 568L in the sedan and 588L in the wagon - with a plethora of clever storage solutions throughout the cabin too.
Should I buy one now?
This latest update will take the current-generation OCTAVIA through to the end of its lifecycle, with a replacement due within the next few years.
Right now, ŠKODA will pay for the first three years of servicing (saving you $860) if you use its company finance, and it has driveway deals across the range, with the base-level OCTAVIA offered from $25,890 with no more to pay.
Where’s the sweet spot?
The OCTAVIA RS wagon, at $44,990 driveaway, is a lot of car for the money and our personal favourite among the range. It’s big on space, has plenty of punch, is a great everyday driver and a fun machine to punt along a back road, plus its loaded with toys and has decent safety credentials.
But if all you’re looking for is a practical family runabout, the entry-level OCTAVIA wagon is an absolute bargain at $27,390 driveaway.