The Octavia has always been a superb car on all counts, Skoda keeps its essence intact while bringing it up to speed with the times with more equipment.
The sweet soundtrack of the 1.8-litre TSI engine is at an all-time high as the speedometer needles sweeps past the 200 km/h mark, but this gem of an engine shows no signs of tiredness as it screams its way to 220 km/h. That’s my last memory of the Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI.
So, when the opportunity to drive the updated Octavia came knocking on the door, the response was an obvious one. And here we are, standing in front of the 2017 model of Skoda’s Octavia that has been given a once over. As you can immediately notice, the biggest exterior styling change comes in the form of those split head lamps that now feature LED illumination. The car also gets the company’s new grille that accommodates the protruding centre section of the bonnet, complete with its glossy finish. Other styling changes include a redesigned bonnet, there is chrome strip in the front bumper, a revised rear bumper, new alloys and LED treatment for the tail lamps.
The face-lift has also reworked the interiors of the car to give it a large 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity. There are no physical buttons here, instead you get touch controls, so it makes the whole interface look even larger. The HVAC surrounds are also finished in gloss black to match the infotainment system above. A new steering wheel and revised instrument cluster with navigation display add to the contemporary appeal of the car. While the car has always been very well equipped, this updated version gets two USB ports for rear seat occupants to not only charge but also hook up their phones to the infotainment system. Skoda has also fitted higher end variants of the car with steering parking assist and different ambient lighting options for the cabin.
These changes aside, this TSI model has a 30mm wider rear track for a reworked multilink suspension setup (the diesel model gets a 20mm wider rear track with its torsion beam setup). Apart from this, the car remains mechanically identical to the outgoing model.
Right, with all the new stuff having been dealt with it is now time to get behind the wheel of what I consider to be one of the best sedans out there in the sub Rs. 30 lakh bracket.
For the purpose of this review and by rather good fortune I happened to be driving the 1.8 TSI model. Fire up the turbo petrol motor and it settles down to a quiet idle. As you roll off the line you can’t help but appreciate the smooth nature of the engine and 7-speed DSG gearbox. Driving in a sedate manner ensures seamless gear changes. Although, the engine does feel a little coarse at times with NVH levels moving to higher levels on occasion. That said, this is the only downside I could find with the Octavia 1.8 TSI. For otherwise, this thing continues to be the sensation it is to drive.
Slot the gearbox in Sport mode, step on the long pedal and as the engine spins past 3,000 rpm, a nice engine note comes into play and it only gets better as you head towards the redline. The unit has a very heady nature in the top reaches of the rev band. Power comes in strong all the way past 6,000 rpm. With the next gear being selected at 6,500 rpm. But if you truly want to exploit the potential of this car you should change gears manual via the gear lever or by paddles behind the steering wheel. In typical DSG style, gearshifts are immediate. In fact, when you are going all out and shift up, the car jerks forward and while this may be considered uncomfortable, trust me when you are driving fast, the brisk power delivery between gear changes is a huge joy. It’s also worth noting that jerky gearshifts are not the norm in manual mode while driving at average speeds. So, it’s definitely not a problem, but a real joy to get that kick-in-your back acceleration while driving fast.
And during our drive, I happened to come across this narrow little hill road that goes up from New Chandigarh to Baddi. It would seem the Octavia brings good luck to me as this twisty uphill and downhill road allowed me to exploit the well-balanced nature of the Octavia. Carrying a decent amount of pace around these bends once again revealed how much grip this car has and how little body roll there is, giving you good confidence around bends. The only thing I wish was better was steering feedback as it feels a little too light around bends at higher speeds. Otherwise, it is very accurate and direct.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we didn’t find any bad roads to drive this car on so it won’t be fair to comment on ride comfort. But a detailed road test report later should bring these aspects to light.
So, for now it would be fair to conclude that while not everyone maybe a fan of those new headlamps, the 2017 update gives the Octavia some cool new features, and brighter LED head lamps while keeping the rather brilliant essence of this car intact. It continues to be spacious, comfortable, well-built, good looking and a sensation to drive.
Skoda will be launching this updated Octavia next month, and thanks to GST rates, the car will get more affordable than the current version.
In the meantime, you can read another fun feature on the Octavia here - Skoda Octavia vs Hyundai Elantra: Track Test Comparison
- Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI
Transmission: 7-Speed DSG Automatic / Front-Wheel Drive
Power:177bhp @ 5,100 - 6,200rpm
Torque: 250Nm @ 1,250 - 5,000rpm