- Impeccably well built and classy looking interior
- Amazing interior space that makes you question the wagon
- Great value for money
- Frustrating infotainment system
- Burns more fuel than previous model
- Some safety kit is not available on the base car
Skoda has built its reputation on selling incredibly practical, value-packed and well-built cars and in our opinion, there is no car that better showcases this reputation than the new 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI Ambition. Now in its fourth generation, the Czech mid-sizer has captured the hearts of over 6.5 million buyers since being launched back in 1996. The Octavia has also captured my heart, and my partner’s – I own a previous generation Octavia 110TSI, whilst my partner drives an Octavia RS. With a total of six years of ownership behind us, our Octavias have performed brilliantly. From lugging huge loads from Ikea and Bunnings, to being perfect road-trip companions, our two “Octys” have taken everything in their stride.
This review of the new 2021 Octavia is a deeply personal one then. A review where we see whether the new Octavia can meet our own high expectations, as well as those of Aussie buyers who have flocked to Skoda’s other SUVs: the class-leading Kamiq, excellent Karoq and Kodiaq. Is the Octavia worth consideration over an SUV? Let’s find out.
If you find this Octavia 110TSI a bit too vanilla, check out our review of the new Skoda Octavia RS.
Price and Equipment: 9/10
For now, four models are available in the 2021 Skoda Octavia range, with pricing starting from $32,990 drive away for the entry level Ambition. Yet despite the cheap entry price, the Octavia is well equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, front and rear fog lights, auto lights and wipers, a 10-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, a digital driver’s display, ambient lighting with configurable colouring, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, rear privacy glass, a rear centre armrest, an electric tailgate, push button start and Skoda’s array of ‘simply clever’ features, including an umbrella in the driver’s door, a bin in the driver’s seat door bin and a double-sided boot floor.
Wagon variants (+$1,500) also feature roof rails and sun blinds for the rear windows.
Safety features include eight airbags (including a front centre airbag between the driver and front passenger), auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, rear parking sensors with a reversing camera and driver attention monitoring. Disappointingly, buyers wanting safety kit such as lane assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert must jump up to the Octavia Style – but even then, they’re not standard and $42,790 drive away is the minimum spend. We think the whole Octavia range should have this extra safety kit as standard, like the Mazda6.
All Octavia models can be had with a $2,100 electric-folding tow bar, while all wagons can also be had with a $1,900 panoramic sunroof. Metallic paint ranges from $770 to $1,100.
Rivals to the 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI include lower end models of the Toyota Camry and ageing Mazda6. The Toyota Camry SX is similarly equipped to the Octavia we tested, but costs around 2,000 more and lacks the Skoda’s “liftback” functionality as it is purely a conventional sedan. The base Mazda6 Sport comes in at close to $39,000 drive-away and whilst it’s ageing gracefully these days, it cannot match the Octavia’s value proposition, nor does it feel as modern as the 2021 Skoda Octavia.
Performance and Economy: 8/10
The 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI is powered by the Volkswagen Group’s familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. This is the same engine found in the previous generation of the Octavia, and shared with other models across the VW Group such as the Volkswagen Golf and the Skoda Karoq. The engine is super quiet at all speeds and with all of its torque on tap from just 1500rpm, the 2021 Skoda Octavia never feels underpowered. Expect to hit 100km/h from standstill in 9.0 seconds flat, which is fine for an entry-level family car.
Efficiency has always been a strong suit of this engine and the Skoda Octavia 110TSI sedan uses a claimed 5.7L/100km on the combined cycle, whilst the wagon uses 5.9L/100km. In our mix of driving around suburban Melbourne, we saw consumption hovering the 6.4L/100km mark – rather impressive for a car of the Octavia’s size.
With the dual-clutch automatic transmission of the previous generation ditched, power is now sent through a Japanese-made, Aisin eight-speed torque converter gearbox. Whilst the new gearbox might lack the crisp feel and quick gear changes of the outgoing DSG dual-clutch gearbox, it more than makes up for this by being incredibly smooth in traffic. It creeps forward as soon as you lift off the brake, slips into second gear smoothly and is an absolute delight around town – which is something you could never say about a DSG. Gone are the days of shuddering up hills, indecisive gear selections and odd quirks.
We think the decision to ditch a dual-clutch automatic transmission in favour of a conventional one is a masterstroke, so get in before it’s likely replaced when a new wave of more efficient VW Group engines hit Australia when our fuel is upgraded in 2024. While we expect some enthusiasts to prefer a DSG, regular people will enjoy the added smoothness of the torque converter, even if the 2021 Octavia uses slightly more fuel than the car it replaces.
The manual variant has been culled sadly, much to the disappointment of previous generation owners such as myself, who have enjoyed the Skoda Octavia’s smooth shifting manual gearboxes. That’s despite Skoda Australia complying a manual for Australia, so fingers crossed it’s sold locally at some point.
Ride and Handling: 7/10
The fourth-generation Octavia rides on the VW Group’s MQB platform, just like the previous Octavia. This means that the suspension, steering system and much of the bits you don’t see are carried over from before. Having said this, Skoda has worked hard to address some of the criticisms of the old car, namely the slightly uncomfortable ride around town and lack of sound insulation. Skoda has made some small changes to the MacPherson strut suspension up front, and revised the torsion beam rear suspension to make the Octavia more comfortable over rough roads. We also noted extra aerodynamic covers under the car over the previous generation Octavia, which are designed to reduce noise inside the cabin by streamlining the airflow under the Octavia’s body. They also help the Octavia achieve an impeccable 0.26 drag coefficient, reducing fuel consumption at high speeds as well.
Together with improved sound insulation measures and new door seals, the Octavia is a quiet cruiser with wind and road noise nicely hushed. The ride isn’t perfect however, as the 18-inch wheels do sometimes make their presence felt over sharper bumps – like the smaller Kamiq, we’re not sure that the Octavia needed 18s on the base model.
On the handling front, the Octavia impresses with well weighted and accurate steering and a capable chassis, backed up by decent grip from the Goodyear Eagle F1 Assymetric 5 tyres that seem to fitted to many Skodas these days. It’s no sports car, though – that’s what the RS is for. The standard Octavia will never excite on a backroad, but it will feel sure footed and faithful to the driver’s inputs.
Interior and Practicality: 8/10
This is where things get interesting. On one hand, the 2021 Skoda Octavia’s interior is beautifully crafted, with thoughtful touches and tonnes of space throughout. And yet, on the other hand, it is let down by an infotainment system that is both clunky and disappointing to use – just like the new Golf. Thanks to the Volkswagen Group’s desire to cull most physicals knobs and buttons, most of the new Octavia’s functions are operated through the 10-inch touch screen mounted nice and high in the centre of the elegantly designed dashboard.
Let’s take a look at how all of this works in practice. The volume knob has been ditched, having been replaced by touch slider at the screen’s base which isn’t lit at night, meaning that many will think that the only way to adjust the volume is through the steering wheel controls. Other features such as auto start/stop and stability control, which used to have dedicated buttons on the centre console in the previous generation, are now hard to find inside the systems’s software, which is sometimes slow and glitchy to operate.
To change the climate controls, you’ll need to touch the screen a minimum of two times to set what’s desired and even then the buttons are incredibly small and hard to push on the touchscreen whilst driving. Sadly, nothing feels intuitive or well thought out, even after a lot of use. Perhaps most frustrating is the system’s inability boot up in less than 30 seconds, meaning that even the reversing camera doesn’t pop up right away when reverse is selected – though that might have been just our test car.
Skoda might have gone after a clean and minimalist look, but they have missed the mark completely in what is an infotainment system which fails the simplest of tasks. Form over function it seems.
Luckily, the rest of the 2021 Skoda Octavia’s interior is excellent. The newly sculpted seats are incredibly comfortable, trimmed in high quality cloth and very adjustable. The rest of the interior has stepped up in quality over the previous generation car, with soft touch surfaces on the doors, dashboard and plush carpets. Quality is absolutely on par with the best cars in the class, without perhaps matching the Mazda3‘s stunning interior.
Storage too is excellent with a large felt-lined glovebox, sizeable door bins, a cubby underneath the headlight controls and a large area in the centre console that also supports wireless smartphone charging. There’s even a small rubbish bin in the driver’s door bin for rubbish and clever nets in the boot to stop things from moving around, as well as an umbrella in the driver’s door.
The Octavia has always been synonymous with acres of space and this generation once again brings class-leading rear legroom and headroom. The rear seats are well quipped with air vents, a centre armrest and smartphone-sized pockets in the seatbacks – though buyers must step up to the Style with the Luxury Pack ticked for rear charging ports, which is strange given that the smaller Kamiq and Scala feature this as standard. Regardless, the Octavia is one extremely spacious car – perfect for Ikea and Bunnings trips.
The boot is cavernous at 600-litres with the rear seats in place and features many clever handy hooks and straps to ensure that things don’t go moving around whilst driving. A full-size steel wheel can be found under the clever reversible (rubber and felt) boot floor. Storage space swells to 1,555L with the rear seats folded, giving the Octavia best in class load carrying capacity. Indeed, the Octavia liftback is so large that it makes you wonder if a wagon is a necessary extra spend.
Service and Warranty: 9/10
As with the rest of the Skoda range, the new Octavia is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty that comes with 12 months of roadside assistance. The Skoda Octavia requires a service every 12 months or 15,000km which is on par with the industry average. Servicing the Octavia as you go is not cheap: $2,287 over five years/75,000km for an average cost of $455 per service. Yet Skoda offers options: a three-year/45,000km service plan costs $800, and a five-year/75,000km plan will set you back $1,400 if purchased at the time of sale – a no-brainer in our opinion, and both come with roadside assistance for the duration of the pack.
Over five years, the Mazda6 wagon will cost $2,029 to service – though that’s only to 50,000km thanks to the Mazda’s shorter 10,000km service intervals – whilst Toyota sets the gold standard with the Camry only costing $1,000 to service over five years, with no need for pre-purchased service packs.
The 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI Ambition DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.0/10
There is no mistaking the 2021 Skoda Octavia 110TSI as a staggeringly competent car for just under $33,000 drive-away, with acres of space, a refined drive, and more technology than the average buyer will ever need. Coming from the previous generation Octavia, this new model has ushered in a more premium feel inside for the Octavia, along with a minimalist look and a much better automatic gearbox for most buyers. Will it be enough to temp owners like myself into the new model? Perhaps, as the new tech, improved road manners and fresh design help to bring the Octavia firmly into what’s expected in 2021.
Where the new Octavia has not done so well though, is in the execution of its bold new infotainment system, one which does away with most physical controls in the name of minimalism. It’s a case of form over function and sadly, this is the only true drawback to what is one incredibly competent car, and one which deserves to be on any buyer’s list. Let’s just hope Skoda expedites some software updates to improve the 2021 Octavia’s everyday usability. Stay tuned to DiscoverAuto over the coming weeks as we’re due to test the hot Octavia RS wagon.