Skoda's Octavia is about to become one of the friendliest cars on Irish roads. It can connect your wifi, print up the news on a nine-inch touchscreen, give you a weather forecast, select restaurants, and even change the car's personality to suit the driver.
The face-lifted Octavia - in reality more of a 'tech-lift' - is loaded with wizardry, some of which is embedded in the key you can just keep in your pocket or purse. Families who want a no-nonsense approach to getting effortlessly behind the wheel can specify a three-key approach, which can be programmed to give each driver their perfect drive.
Seating, steering wheel position, wing mirror settings and air-conditioning setting can be pre-programmed so the on-board computers pick the correct adjustments. It is called Driver Profile Selection and there are also options (at a cost) to automatically tune the engine, suspensions and general driving dynamics.
That bit of technology alone can set the tone for a stress-free drive, and struggling with toggles, switches and levers is a thing of the past. The Keyless Access costs about €500 and can be specified for the three grades of Octavia, Active, Ambition and Style. Depending on the trim you choose, you can also get folding tray tables for rear-seat passengers, a 'phonebox' for inductive (wireless) charging of your smartphone, a rechargable LED torch in the boot, umbrella, adjustable false boot floor, hook holders for bags so you do not spill the curry - the list goes on.
The touchscreen has now become the focal point of the cockpit in all cars and it is becoming more powerful with each new arrival. Sat-nav, reversing camera, info-tainment, DAB radio etc are now commonplace but more technology is being bundled in.
At the recent launch of the new Octavia, I was driving at 150kmh and was distracted enough to be able to read on screen about the threat of a Russian drone while my companion switched from news to weather information. One wonders if there is a safety downside to some of the new technology. The temptation is there to read news stories and texts while on the move. Vocal bulletins and messages may be the answer.
Other driving aids now available include fuel prices and filling stations on Skoda Information Online. And now you do not have to worry about where you parked. There is a facility where you wave your key and the car will honk the horn and flash the lights to guide you.
The Octavia has a larger-than-average interior, which has made it a popular model, and with the latest arrival engineers are boasting that "we are bringing the future to the car". We are spoiled for choice nowadays but presumably we are being prepared for the day of the driverless car which is looming in the not-too-distant future.
The Octavia now sports new LED headlights and grille and the body is 11mm longer and improved materials are used in the interior furnishing. There are four petrol and four diesel engines on offer. Prices start at €19,750 for the hatchback and €20,750 for the combi version.