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I backed myself into a corner – but the Octavia got me out of it

All right, let me get the rough stuff out of the way first, and back myself into a corner. There is no way I would pay more than €27,000 for a new Skoda Octavia, excellent, luxuriously equipped and all as my 2-litre diesel test car was.

I would put a few euro to that price and buy a new Skoda Superb which is much bigger. Or I would buy a less expensive Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla which are smaller. Fair enough?

Now that I have backed myself into that corner, let us see if I can apply logic to the situation.

First, the €27,000 is for the top-of-the-range 2-litre Elegance version that had lots of bells and whistles. The fact that it had a 2-litre diesel engine is neither here nor there, because the emissions are only 106g/km, so VRT would not be a major factor in the price.

There is an entry-level 1.2-litre petrol at €18,995 which is a decent drive and much more in line with what we would expect a big (it is huge) Skoda family hatch to cost. But – the corner beckons again – you would be better off, I sincerely believe, to buy the 1.6-litre diesel version (105bhp) in Ambition (mid-range spec) for €24,545. I have driven it a fair bit too, and I have to explain why, even at that price, it is a reasonable proposition.

First, the new Octavia is not only huge inside (back seat room is remarkable), it had a strength and poise about it on the road that you would expect from a car made on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3.

Neither do the pictures do it justice. It is a fine looking motor. It has grown up substantially. And there is a lot of hidden technology. The interface with this technology is simply laid out and displayed. That is what I need. There is such an overload in some cars these days that I get befuddled.

And it has a massive boot. With or without the rear seats down, it has more space than many cars in the segment above it. Which is where my exit from the corner becomes possible. I have said it before and I will say it again – you have to compare this with the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Toyota Avensis as well as with the smaller ones I mentioned. With its equipment levels, decent quality materials all around the cabin and technology, it makes a strong case.

The days of cheap cheap Skodas are over. This is up on average €1,250 across the range on the previous one. What you get these days is a significantly better, and bigger, package. You cannot expect it to cost less.

Now that I am out of the corner, I can also say there are things they still need to improve. I think I would like a more supple carry over rougher roads, and there were times when road noise bordered on the intrusive.

It is no Mondeo on handling, and it's not a Volkswagen Passat for poise. Of course, it is easy to be negative, but there are few cars costing in the mid-20s as good as this. And it is far better than I am at getting out of corners.

ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent