20 trips across the world and still as good as gold
Ijust couldn't resist the temptation of taking this Skoda Octavia for a few days. Cars like this don't come around too often. If I'm honest, I'll admit I also felt it might balance the odd criticism that I drive a lot of 'fancy' cars. In fairness, there have been a few Mercs, Beemers and (thanks for all those emails) that Jaguar F-TYPE last week -- what a car.
Little gives a clue to the true story of this week's review motor though.
Like many of us, when roused from slumber it growled and clattered a bit. And there was a whiff of blue smoke.
I suppose another hint lay in the colour. You don't see too many Skoda Octavias in gold/bronze colours these days.
I drove it to the midlands and back, managing to fit six bags of turf in the boot (it is a 5dr hatchback) as well as one front-seat passenger and a few boxes with bits and pieces in them.
Then I drove it all around Dublin and through heavy traffic. I didn't spare it. Much as I'd done with every other car I'd driven this year. But this one trapped me in the no-man's land of nostalgia and modernity. Because you see, this Skoda Octavia had an 02-registration.
My few hundred miles (yes, it was still miles on the speedo) represented a tiny step in its travelogue.
Because it had more than half a million miles on the clock. Yes, 515,000 (824,000km) or thereabouts. That's about the same as 20 trips around the world. It had just the one owner, was driven as a taxi for a time in deep Tipperary for years and never gave major trouble.
It is testament to both the maker and the 1.9-litre TDi diesel engine that this car drove as well as it did. I had no fear of it packing up or giving trouble. The only real annoyance was a bit of wind noise in the front-passenger door. That's a small crib after all this time, isn't it?
This was a well-specced (Ambition trip) car in its day. But it didn't have elements we now take for granted such as Bluetooth for the old hands-free phone. The seats and steering were decent, the gearshift wobbled a bit and I (spoilt brat, I know) kept looking for somewhere to rest my elbow. They did a great job cleaning it up but it obviously has been there and done that.
Ah! It was impossible not to get a kick out of it. Indeed I stopped it a few times where there were lots of people just to see their reaction to the clatter of the engine starting up. In fairness, there was no puff of smoke out the rear -- that only happened first thing in the morning.
However, my pleasure was someone else's bitter-sweet parting.
You see, a young man by the name of Robert Sullivan was about to emigrate and, via Facebook, told Skoda about this 1.9-litre TDI (90bhp) Ambiente trim Octavia that had been part and parcel of his family for the previous 11 years.
It was bought as new from Newport Motors in Co Tipperary in 2002 by Robert's father. It had been used as a taxi before it was passed to Robert.
I have to say I thought it would be all rattles and shakes. It wasn't and that's down to it being serviced regularly. It gave no major trouble from new. All Skoda did with it was give it a good service, a fine tuning and a complete valet. It passed its latest NCT on first attempt.
As I drove around in it over the weekend, I got to thinking.
First off, it goes to show what minding a car can do. We all have psychological barriers about 100,000+plus mileage. Here's one with eight times that. Lesson for us all there.
Secondly, I remember writing reviews of how roomy those Octavias were at the time. Yet this is dwarfed by the new one.
Thirdly, I was surprised that it had cost the equivalent of €20,569 in its high-level Ambition trim. Expensive enough given the absence of air con, Bluetooth, side and curtain airbags and stability control in those days. These are standard fare now.
The thing I missed most was remote central locking. Long time since I opened a car door with a key.
Some more facts for you: That 1.9-litre diesel used 24pc more fuel (5litres/100km) and spat out 26pc more emissions (135g/km) than today's 1.6-litre (105bhp, 99g/km, 3.8l/100km) diesel counterpart. Today's equivalent new car costs €24,545 (the range starts from €18,995).
Finally, the real shock came via my humble and conservative calculations. I reckon this car has pumped nearly as much money into government coffers as The Troika.
Let's assume it did an average of real-life 40mpg since 2002. That means it used 12,875 gallons of diesel in the course of its 515,000 miles. At an average of €5 a gallon (it was just 80c/litre in December 2002) that comes to €64,375 in fuel bills. The Government has taken between 50pc and 60pc of that over the years -- up to €38,625.
Then there was motor tax every year (much less with the new one because it is emissions based) -- more money for the coffers. Add insurance, depreciation, servicing, tyres, repairs etc and you see how much it costs to keep a car on the road.
We are a quiet lot. Paying through the nose for everything.
Yet, like this great old Octavia trooper, I suppose we'll just keep on going.