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Sunday 20 August 2017

Skoda aim for the big time with Octavia Combi

VOLKSWAGEN beware – there could very well be a cuckoo in the nest.

This foe whipping customers from under your very nose is not Japanese, Chinese or even Korean.

Nope, it's much closer to home than that and has, for years, been silently beavering away in the background – but don't say you weren't warned.

Now, to be caught once is careless but second time round is just plain stupid.

Yes, we can only be talking about Skoda who are certainly making a habit of upstaging its posher and more expensive cousins.

First we had the Superb – a car so magnificently good it made the Passat look positively bland by comparison.

Impeccable build quality, unrivalled legroom, astounding economy and more extras than opening scene in Saving Private Ryan.

Such levels of luxury at bargain basement prices made it a no brainer if your inner account met your inner snob.

But the warning wasn't heeded and it's a case of deja vu with the new Octavia Combi which has really upped the ante in the estate segment.

Bigger is better obviously topped the designer's wishlist as the Czech outfit not only made it 90mm longer and 45mm wider – the wheelbase has been stretched by a massive 108mm.

That single change has resulted in a gargantuan luggage space of 1,740 litres – bigger than the mighty Audi A6 Avant.

Even with the rear seats in the upright position a very decent 610 litres awaits.

And to avail of all that space, the boot lip has been lowered and made wider to make loading and unloading this wagon easier – even the front passenger seat folds flat should you decide to nick the Spire for scrap metal.

Inside the cabin is bigger too with extra leg and elbow room for all five pews. The dash has gone upmarket with the use of soft-touch materials coupled with the indestructible feel of every switch, button and lever.

We were particularly impressed by the infotainment system – a piece of kit Apple would be proud of.

The Bolero colour touch screen console controls music, phone (Bluetooth) and vehicle information like fuel consumption, oil temperature and service intervals.

The screen swishes back and forth with the swipe of a finger (just like a smartphone) and the graphics which illustrate the air con/heating system are simply stunning.

The same can be said for the drive with a punchy 1.6 litre, 105bhp diesel which was more than capable of dealing with pretty much every day-to-day driving. It's mega frugal too with emissions of 99g/km which attracts annual road tax of €180 while returning a mind-blowing 74mpg (3.8l/100km).

Handling-wise she's remarkably agile for such a big bus and the much anticipated body roll is kept to a minimum with oceans of grip from the front tyres.

It's not all back slapping and congratulations as it does fall down on standard specification.

Although the mid-range Ambition has plenty of goodies and the options list is comprehensive, the basic Active model lets the side down.

Even though it comes with daytime running lights, front fogs, electric front windows you'd have to spend another €1,550 to get alloys, Bluetooth, air con, the infotainment system and leather multi-functional steering wheel. Bluetooth should be standard.

Prices for the Octavia start at €18,995 and €19,995 for the Combi.

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