Skoda Octavia Classic 1.4 - SKODA OCTAVIA Car Review
Added: 22 Mar 2005
ONCE upon a time when you drove a basic, family runabout it meant you were travelling second-class and going without some pretty essential kit.
Going back a few decades your bog-standard saloon wouldn't even come with a heater, radio or parcel shelf. I remember my dad agonising whether to pay extra for a four-speed gearbox rather than the basic three-speed when he ordered his new Standard Eight back in the mid-fifties.
Just think, only three ratios to deal with - these days we get five or six on a manual and have a choice between half a dozen different types of automatic gearboxes, from Tiptronic to DSG.
So the word 'basic' has a rather different meaning today. Nowhere is this more clearly apparent than in the Skoda range. As a contrast to the typical test of an all-singing, bells and whistles flagship I opted for the bottom of the range Skoda Octavia - a new version of the car that has notched a million sales for the budget branch of the VW group.
At just £10,750, the Octavia Classic is a lot of car for your cash. And there's been no cheese-paring with the standard of equipment. You get adjustable headrests all round, central locking, height-adjustable driver's seat, radio/CD player, immobilizer, driver and passenger front and side airbags, heated door mirrors and anti-lock brakes.
The only extra which is probably worth opting for is air conditioning.
Power comes from a 75bhp, all-aluminium, 1.4-litre engine which might sound a little feeble to propel a car the size of a Mondeo, but in practice the free-revving 16 valve unit performs admirably and only feels the strain on long gradients.
Against the clock it reaches 62mph in an acceptable 15 seconds and will top 106mph - not exactly Guinness Book of Records stuff but the base Octavia has no trouble in keeping up with the stream of traffic and will cruise all day at 80-90mph.
Outwardly, the latest Octavia looks remarkably similar to the last version, yet it is entirely new. Built on the platform of the new Golf, it has inherited the same impressive rigidity that helps to give it a magic carpet ride with suspension that takes the pain out of poor surfaces.
The steering system keeps you properly in touch with the tarmac with loads of feedback information which makes for more enjoyable driving. Despite the large carcass, the Octavia managed to average 38mpg in my hands.
The roomy cabin which follows the usual VW low-key approach to design is smart and functional and one scale up from austere. Everything, however, feels well made and built to last. The interior is vast and will easily accommodate five adults.
Still more impressive is the boot with its 560 litre volume which expands to 1,350 litres when the backrests are down. A plastic lined lower edge to the boot just 674mm from the ground makes access easy and helps in loading heavy cases.
It might be bottom of the range but the Classic's appealing price and excellent dynamics make it hard to beat if you are looking for space and cheap motoring.
Skoda Octavia Classic 1.4 5dr
Mechanical: 75bhp, 1,390cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5spd manual gearbox
Max speed: 106mph
0-62mph: 15.5 secs
Combined mpg: 40.4
Insurance group: 4
CO2 emissions: 168g/km
BiK rating: 20%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited miles, 3yrs paint, 10yrs anti-rust
Keywords: SKODA, OCTAVIA