If every week is a very long time in politics, 60 years is a lifetime within the automotive business. But that’s how lengthy the Skoda Octavia has been on our roads, with the unique automotive rising from Skoda’s Mladá Boleslav manufacturing unit in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1959, and three subsequent generations arriving after Volkswagen purchased the corporate again within the nineties.
The unique Octavia bought its title as a result of it was the eighth mannequin to come back out of these manufacturing unit gates after the Second World Conflict. It was provided as a two-door saloon and a Kombi property, occurring to notch up 363,106 gross sales globally earlier than manufacturing resulted in 1971.
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It could be one other quarter of a century till the Octavia nameplate re-emerged, however when it did, it might be connected to a vital automotive.
Now to have fun the sixtieth birthday of that badge, Skoda assembled all 4 generations of Octavia collectively at Bicester Heritage in Oxfordshire and invited us to pattern the automotive’s improvement throughout the many years.
We begin initially, with a drive in a 1964 instance of the unique saloon. It’s a curious-looking factor that resembles a shrunken Hudson Hornet, but it surely’s not at all unappealing.
The horizontal door handles hinge on the left and pull out on the best, complicated everybody who goes to open the automotive, however as soon as inside, the set-up is typical sufficient.
Put the important thing within the ignition, push within the clutch, pull the starter knob, and the automotive’s 46bhp four-cylinder 1.2-litre engine comes easily into life. The gearlever is a typical floor-mounted stick, however with first gear up and to the best, and second down and reverse.
It’s instantly obvious that this Octavia is from a special period. The unassisted steering is heavy at low speeds, whereas an indicated 70mph (most pace is 74) on the twin carriageway brings pronounced engine noise, and the shortage of an overdrive is keenly felt.
Nonetheless, at 50mph on single-lane roads it begins to make sense. In any case, the unique Octavia launched in the identical yr that Britain’s first motorway opened, so most up to date house owners would have been chuntering alongside A and B roads at not more than 40 or 50mph, speeds at which the automotive is way happier.
Sure, the worm-and-nut steering has a few inches of play earlier than your inputs lead to any type of change in path, however the driving place is superb and visibility may hardly be higher; we may comfortably cowl massive distances on this automotive at this pace.
Other than the title, although, does it have something in frequent with the trendy Octavia? Nicely, at £610, the primary Octavia was cheaper than rivals just like the Ford Cortina, plus it had a radio and heater, and will return 35mpg.
Then I get into the again and discover that, regardless of my six-foot-two body, I can sit behind the motive force’s seat in relative consolation. Subsequent, I open the boot and discover a completely huge loadbay. In different phrases, what I’m sitting in right here is an inexpensive, economical and sensible household automotive that was additionally obtainable as an property. Sound acquainted? Absolutely that’s the Octavia right down to a tee, isn’t it?
Subsequent, we head over to the reborn Octavia of 1996 (this can be a 2002 instance), identified by Skoda as the primary technology for simplicity’s sake. We’re instantly impressed. Its seems have aged properly for starters, regardless of it being launched virtually 1 / 4 of a century in the past. The inside is sombre, positive, however the dashtop feels comfortable, construct high quality passes fashionable muster, and it’s carrying its 136,000 miles properly.
On the street, the controls are gentle, the trip comfy, and progress is easy. Positive, the dealing with is considerably stodgy (Mk4 Golf underpinnings play their half right here), but it surely feels secure, stable as a rock, and stands as a testomony to the 1.4 billion Deutschmarks (over £1billion in the present day) that VW invested in Skoda’s Mladá Boleslav manufacturing unit within the nineties.
Talking of cash, when this model of the Octavia went on sale within the UK in 1998, you could possibly put one in your drive for simply £11,500, roughly £3,000 lower than an equal Vauxhall Vectra or Ford Mondeo. Issue within the free servicing and the unlimited-mileage guarantee Skoda provided for the primary three years (a tactic Hyundai and Kia would later adapt), and placing badge snobbery to at least one aspect would have saved you a packet.
It’s no secret that the reborn Octavia was a success with UK taxi drivers, however cabbies worth practicality, affordability and reliability, so their endorsement was a ringing one. Plus being seen and sat in by so many passengers acted as free promoting for Skoda, and helped dismiss the beforehand poor status it held within the minds of the British public.
Buoyed by the success of the 1996 Octavia, which discovered greater than 1.4 million properties throughout its eight-year life, the agency diversified with the second-generation mannequin, renewing the hatchback, Property and vRS fashions, and including a Scout model to the line-up. With a trip peak raised by 40mm, four-wheel drive and prolonged wheelarches, the Scout took goal on the ‘way of life’ patrons who had been envisaged to spend as a lot time kayaking and biking as they had been commuting.
To drive, this mannequin is very similar to the 1996 Octavia. The cabin is equally practical however higher constructed, and the driving expertise can be very ‘Octavia’. Thrilling? Probably not, however it’s definitely confidence-inspiring and stable.
And simply because the 1996 Octavia benefitted from the Mk4 Golf’s PQ34 platform, so the second-generation Octavia bought the sharper PQ35 chassis from the Mk5 Golf, demonstrating guardian firm Volkswagen’s mastery of platform-sharing.
We climb out of the Scout and are available to the latest, most fashionable Octavia, the Mk3. Our chosen automotive is the Problem vRS mannequin, the head of the vary. This has the identical 242bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine and digital limited-slip differential as the usual vRS, however provides a set of upgraded alloy wheels, in addition to adaptive dampers, Alcantara seats and a few refined black styling tweaks.
It’s a fast automotive, too. 0-62mph takes simply 6.6 seconds, whereas its most pace is restricted to the performance-car default of 155mph. And simply because the Mk2 Octavia has a stiffer chassis than the Mk1, so the Mk3 is stiffer than its predecessor, sitting on the ever-present MQB platform that underpins every little thing from the SEAT Tarraco to the Audi TT. That innate stiffness will be embellished by setting the adaptive dampers to Sport, serving to the Problem assert itself as a reputable point-to-point weapon.
It’s not essentially the most effective mannequin to embody the Octavia as an entire, although, and looking on the entry-level, £18,315 Octavia S is extra telling. Whereas the 1996 Octavia severely undercut its rivals on worth, a base Octavia in the present day truly prices £10 greater than the most cost effective Ford Focus and is barely £590 cheaper than an entry-level Vauxhall Astra.
Nonetheless, the Octavia stays much more spacious than different C-segment hatchbacks, a lot in order that it straddles the D section, providing potential Vauxhall Insignia and Volkswagen Passat clients a better-value different.
Right here’s the place issues get actually attention-grabbing, although. Skoda’s lately launched Scala sits very firmly within the Focus-Golf-Astra C section. But even in entry-level SE guise, the most cost effective mannequin within the vary is definitely costlier than an Octavia S.
It’s honest to anticipate, then, that when the fourth-generation Octavia arrives in direction of the tip of this yr, Skoda will transfer it up (and worth it) within the D section. That leaves the Scala clearly as a proposition within the C section and the corporate with a fair broader line-up of fashions.
Right now’s Octavia isn’t simply an instance of how one can develop a automotive to a spot the place, 23 years on from promoting it to cabbies, its maker can ask £30,000-plus for a sizzling hatch with adaptive dampers. Skoda’s picture can be 1,000,000 miles from its pre-VW status, and the Octavia has been key to that success.
‘Merely intelligent’ isn’t only a advertising ploy that refers to ice scrapers underneath gasoline caps; it’s a blueprint for how one can develop a enterprise. And the Octavia, probably the most ‘Skoda’ of all Skodas, stands as a masterclass in how one can construct a model.
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