Octavia a byword for reliability
A big choice of taxi drivers, Skoda may lose out in the style stakes but is as popular as ever, writes Campbell Spray
Our Special Correspondent Ronald Quinlan wrote recently that John Moran, the Secretary-General of the Department of Finance, said that he was getting good economic indicators from the sale of chocolate in his local Spar and that his officials often could tell the general outlook from talking to taxi drivers.
The latter are a maligned group who have perversely shown me both great humanity and kindness while a certain few have demonstrated skulduggery and boorishness of the highest order.
However they are also one of the greatest testers of cars and by listening to them you can obtain a really accurate picture of the reliability of our main family/executive vehicles. Cars off the road lose money and taxi-drivers love their dosh and don't like not having the chance to make it and then bleat about the woes of the world to their fares. That the Skoda Octavia has become almost a taxi standard pays tribute to how far the Czech marque has come.
Solid, well-priced, dependable and economic are the keywords. But its success as the car of choice for the taxi-drivers in the country is almost part of its undoing as an interesting buy for the ordinary motorist. Do you really want the car of the ranks in your driveway?
While the first generation of the present Octavia first saw light in 1998 the name goes back to a two-door booted model of 1959. The third generation model with a popular liftback design is larger, lighter and safer than previous models and is putting pressure on the marque's Superb range above it while the recently launched Rapid is filling much of the space for a compact family saloon the Octavia has vacated.
Some 3.7 million Octavias have been sold and as Matt Prior says in Autocar "its evolution is a three-generation account of Skoda's triumphant rise from former eastern Bloc hulk to Volkswagen group darling". The Octavia has always been one of the cars I have been happy to recommend although often my words fell on stony ground as some of my more upmarket colleagues felt that they would never be allowed to have a Skoda in the driveway, even though the brand comes from the family that has given us the Golf and the Audi TT.
In fact, although the Octavia has absolutely buckets more space than the Golf they are made on the same platform. The new Octavia is stuffed with spec as well as having an array of safety, entertainment, driving and parking extras to help you empty your wallet. However even with the top of the range models packed to the gills with stuff it would still come cheaper than an awful lot of Golfs.
Prices for an 86bhp 1.2 petrol model start at €18,995 with around €600 p&p and go to €27,995 plus the p&p for the 150bhp 2.0 diesel with the top Elegance spec and only €190 annual road tax.
The Octavia will never be known for the dynamism of its driving ability nor startling looks. In both respects it loses out to many of its rivals and even to cars in the next segment like the very beautiful Hyundai i40 which at €28k (plus p&p) for its Executive trim is very good value. The run-out of this gebneration of the very driveable Ford Mondeo also offers a good deal.
The Octavia may have had its day in the sun but will sell very well and be excellent in holding its value – well there will be a lot of taxi-drivers out to get low mileage ones.
Yet it is being eclipsed by others of its marque of which the Yeti as a rugged looking Crossover and the Superb as a large family saloon are the outstanding models. However it would be very easy to live with the latest model.
It is a superbly practical and roomy family car which has really built a name for reliability. Yet it will never excite any of the senses except the one controlling your wallet and even that advantage is beginning to fray round the edges. Recently the Irish Times in its review marked it 3/10 although the following week it said that should have been 3/5. It probably deserved a bit more but not much.