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When you have by no means pushed an Octavia, likelihood is you’ve travelled in a single. In all probability late at night time, barely inebriated and post-kebab. The multi-million-selling Skoda is one among Britain’s hottest taxis, and for good motive: it’s reasonably priced, dependable and sensible. As we’ll see, it may be thrilling too.

The Octavia was first launched 60 years in the past, so to mark this milestone we drove all 4 generations back-to-back. Seems rather a lot has modified…

Skoda Octavia Combi (1964)

The Octavia took its title from the Latin phrase for ‘eight’, being the eighth post-war automobile constructed at Skoda’s Mlada Boleslav manufacturing unit within the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia on the time).

Its 1.1-litre four-cylinder engine sends 40hp to the rear wheels, giving a high pace of 70mph and 30.5mpg financial system. Double wishbone suspension was thought-about progressive in an period of leaf springs, and the Octavia earned optimistic opinions from motoring magazines. The 50hp Touring Sport model later claimed three class victories within the Monte Carlo Rally (1961-1963).

The Octavia Combi property – seen right here – adopted in 1961, with three doorways and a horizontally-split tailgate (they’d most likely name it a ‘taking pictures brake’ in 2019). It has 5 seats and a 690-litre boot, swelling to 1,050 litres with the rear backrests folded.

A complete of 51,086 Combis had been made by the point manufacturing ceased in 1971, versus 309,020 Octavia saloons.

On mortgage from the Skoda Museum, this flawless 1964 Combi arrived with its personal – justifiably proud – chaperone. Nonetheless, I appeared extra nervous than he did. Its chrome grille and tail fins are clearly influenced by American automobiles of the Fifties, whereas its two-tone inside oozes retro cool.

An enormous, thin-rimmed steering wheel is flanked by a column shifter: push away and up/down for first and second gears, then pull in the direction of you for third and fourth.

On right now’s roads, the ‘family-sized’ Skoda is dwarfed by bloated SUVs. Its engine is thrummy and keen, at the very least till 40mph or so. Past that, acceleration is greatest described as ‘glacial’.

Stick-thin roof pillars imply glorious visibility, however the drum brakes are heart-stoppingly feeble. Seatbelts or crumple zones? No probability. Reality be advised, I’m relieved to return the Combi safely to its keeper.

Skoda Octavia Mk1 (2002)

Trapped within the Jap Bloc, Skoda struggled all through the Seventies and 80s with a succession of outdated, rear-engined automobiles that bought totally on value. The Octavia title wouldn’t return for an additional 25 years, then was revived underneath Volkswagen possession.

An injection of Volkswagen money from 1991 remodeled the model, beginning with the 1995 Felicia, then the all-conquering Octavia a yr later.

The Octavia shared its underpinnings with the Mk4 Volkswagen Golf, however was roomier and cheaper. Understandably, that appeared like a win-win for a lot of patrons. Obtainable as a five-door hatchback or property, practically 1.5 million had been finally constructed.

Its no-nonsense design, the work of Dirk van Braeckel, outlined Skoda styling for generations to return. Certainly, you may see its affect within the present Octavia.

Fittingly, the 2002 Octavia on Skoda’s heritage fleet has lined a meaty 136,000 miles. An ex-taxi? Fairly probably, though it wears these miles impressively properly. Its 110hp 1.9-litre diesel engine is nice for 119mph and a thrifty 54.0mpg.

Inside, the cabin is purposeful and solidly constructed (Germanic, even). ‘Infotainment’ comes through a cassette participant, however it feels positively futuristic after the basic Combi.

It’s easy to drive, too. The bulbous, airbagged wheel is mild, the five-speed gearbox is Teflon-slick and the gruff diesel pulls strongly from low revs.

It feels considerably indifferent, however that’s maybe the purpose. After a nine-hour night time shift of pub pick-ups and airport aggro, I think I’d be grateful for such easygoing affability.

Skoda Octavia vRS Mk1 (2004)

The Mk1 Octavia additionally did efficiency, not merely private-hire. The primary vRS debuted in 2001, offering a springboard for Skoda’s return to top-tier rallying.

It was the quickest manufacturing Skoda ever when launched, reaching 62mph in 6.7 seconds and 144mph flat-out.

Whereas the WRC model boasted 300hp and four-wheel drive, the road-going vRS shared its fundamentals with the Golf GTI. That meant a 180hp 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, driving the entrance wheels through a five-speed guide ’field.

Delicate spoilers, spidery 17-inch alloys and inexperienced/crimson/gray vRS badges gave Skoda’s scorching hatch a suitably sporty makeover. Nonetheless, it’s fairly tame (and tasteful) by trendy requirements.

A launch value of simply £15,100 (a Ford Focus ST170 was £15,995) made the vRS much more tempting. By way of performance-per-pound, little else got here shut.

It’s a cracker on the street, too. The steering is swift and exact, whereas dealing with is poised and predictable. There’s extra body-roll than some rivals, however a pliant journey greater than compensates. It’s been a few years since I’ve pushed a Mk4 Golf GTI however, from reminiscence, the Skoda appears extra enjoyable.

The new Octavia’s double-whammy of area and tempo made it a well-liked alternative with UK police forces. Seeing one among these in your mirrors often spelled dangerous information. Skoda later launched an property model, providing final Q-car kudos.

Maybe the best praise I pays the vRS is that I’ve been searching the classifieds for good examples ever since. And sure, they’re nonetheless a cut price now.

Skoda Octavia Scout (2008)

Right now, Skoda has totally jumped aboard the SUV bandwagon; its line-up stretches from supermini-sized Kamiq to seven-seat Kodiaq. The Octavia Scout was arguably step one on this (unclassified, boulder-strewn) street – and it stays a standalone mannequin right now.

The unique Scout joined the Mk2 Octavia vary in 2006. It adopted the instance of the Audi A6 Allroad, first launched in 1999.

In essence, the Scout combines the rugged styling, loftier floor clearance and four-wheel drive of an SUV with the superior dynamics and fuel-efficiency of an property automobile.

An additional 40mm beneath the wheelarches and Haldex variable 4WD imply it should sort out gravel tracks or muddy lanes with confidence. However the rear wheels are solely engaged when wanted, so quoted gas financial system is a car-like 44mpg.

The Mk2 Scout nonetheless appears the half, due to muscular physique cladding and skid plates beneath each bumpers. Inside, snazzy kickplates and a ‘4×4’ brand on the gearknob trace at its added potential.

Patrons might have a 150hp 2.0-litre petrol model, however most opted for the 140hp 2.0 diesel. It produces 140hp and propels the 1,625kg Skoda to 122mph.

On the street, the Scout feels as intuitive and inoffensive as a daily Octavia. Granted, there’s just a little extra lean when cornering, and maybe a smidge much less precision from the steering. Nevertheless it’s definitely extra partaking than a recent SUV. Much less ostentatious, too.

Sadly, I didn’t get probability to pattern the Scout on tough terrain. Suffice to say, the unique press images – which present it clambering over rocks and dive-bombing by way of streams – are testomony to its prowess.

Skoda Octavia vRS Mk3 (2019)

My fourth and remaining drive is the current-model Octavia – once more in sporty vRS guise. Its 245hp 2.0 TSI engine packs a wholesome 65hp greater than the unique, chopping the 0-62mph sprint to six.6 seconds. Prime pace is restricted to 155mph.

A base value of £27,640 nonetheless undercuts most rivals, though my take a look at automobile price £29,360 after choices. These included the Audi-style Digital Cockpit show (£450) and lane-assist with blind-spot detection (£400). Each had been, in fact, exceptional again in 2001…

In time-honoured custom, the Octavia doesn’t shout about its added efficiency. Regardless of hip-hugging sports activities seats, crimson stitching and a smattering of vRS badges, its inside lacks the wow-factor of a Golf GTI. No complaints about construct high quality, although.

The eight-inch touchscreen media system is a spotlight. It syncs seamlessly along with your cell phone through Apple Carplay or Android Auto. There’s additionally a alternative of driving modes: Eco, Consolation, Sport and Customized.

The spiciest Octavia is available in three outputs: 184hp diesel, 230hp petrol and the vRS 245 petrol examined right here. The highest-dog 245 has a limited-slip differential as customary, however four-wheel drive is barely supplied on the diesel.

That diff makes a marked distinction on the street, tightening turn-in and serving to you slingshot out of bends. Switching to Sport sharpens issues additional with out ruining the journey. The gruff growl of its engine sounds barely artificial, however there’s one thing addictive about its elastic mid-range punch.

The Octavia has been on fairly a journey. It’s modified past all recognition, but remained true to its roots, offering wise – and sensibly-priced – transport for the plenty. Even the vRS is a remarkably level-headed scorching hatch.

So, všechno nejlepší ok narozeninám Skoda Octavia (that’s ‘completely happy birthday’ in Czech). Right here’s to a different 60 years.

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