The Skoda Octavia has a dedicated following in India. It kickstarted the European automaker’s operations in the country two decades ago and three generations later, the car still holds its own with the premium and enthusiast buyers alike. And now, the fourth-generation Skoda Octavia is here ready to go on sale. It looks sharper, bolder, roomier even, and gets a larger petrol heart. But the offering arrives at a time when the interest around sedans is limited and the segment barely has another rival in contention. So, is the 2021 Skoda Octavia still a relevant purchase in the SUV loving market of today? Does it still pull the heartstrings? Read on to find out.
The new-generation Skoda Octavia has seen an evolutionary step up in design over the third generation. It boasts the automaker’s new family design language with the new grille and sharp lines. To be true, the grille, though bold and imposing, is yet to grow on me, and so is the arched bonnet that looks Audi-esque. In contrast, almost every other angle of the car is beautiful. The sharp shoulder line running from the front fender to the boot lid brings a masculine touch to the overall stance, while the razor-sharp rear-quarter makes for the most appealing angle on the car.
The bi-LED headlamps look sharp and the LED daytime running lights double up as dynamic turn indicators. The wraparound taillights retain the angular design language with the boomerang signature pattern. On the Laurin & Klement (L&K) variant that we were driving, the LED fog lamps are surrounded by chrome, which is tastefully done. This variant also gets the special 17-inch Pulsar black alloy wheels. The notchback styling remains one of the signature elements on the Octavia and the C-pillar continues to blend into the boot, seamlessly with every generation.
Tech And Interior
The all-new Octavia is longer by 20 mm and wider by 19 mm, while the height remains unchanged. The wheelbase stands at 2680 mm, which is 2 mm shorter than the third-generation version. Step into the cabin and space improvement is immediately noticeable. There’s more room between the front seats and rear legroom and knee room has gone up. The seats offer better under-thigh support while the roller blinds are a nice touch. It’s almost as spacious as the Superb and feels there’s little to complain even for the passenger in the middle.
The beige and black finished interior looks plush and everything feels from a segment above. The seats are upholstered in suede leather that also extends to the dashboard, while the leather-wrapped steering wheel is new and feels nice to hold. The customisable Virtual Cockpit system relays all the information you need for a distraction-free drive, while the 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is responsive to touch and easy to read under direct sunlight.
On the L&K variant, the Octavia is packed with the electrically adjustable driver’s seat, wireless charging and a 600 watts 12-speaker Canton audio system that sounds fantastic. The dual-zone climate control comes with rear AC vents. Few buyers may be disappointed by the lack of a sunroof but the car does not get it globally, and so, has been given a miss in India too. Meanwhile, the lack of ventilated front seats is a big miss, especially since the car gets it overseas. The fourth-gen model also drops the conventional USB slots for Type-C charging at the front and rear, but the “clever” package is adding one on the internal rearview mirror to install a dashcam.
With respect to the safety tech, there are a total of eight airbags, multi-collision brake, fatigue alert, and electronic aids including ABS, ESC, EBD, ASR, and Electronic Differential Lock (EDS) as standard. Features like adaptive lights, the very convenient Park Assist and TPMS are also specific to the L&K trim. Skoda has also added the ‘MySkoda Connect’ app that brings Geo-fencing, driving behaviour, trip analysis, and more. It will connect you with emergency services or roadside assistance in the case of a crash.
Performance And Dynamics
Power comes from the familiar 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine. We’ve experienced this motor in a number of Volkswagen Group cars in India including the Skoda Superb. On the new Octavia, it develops 188 bhp between 4180-6000 rpm and peak torque of 320 Nm between 1500-3990 rpm. The engine is paired with the 7-speed DSG automatic, which will be the only transmission option at the time of launch. Skoda says the power output on the car is too high to introduce a manual and at present, this will be the only engine option on sale. The new DQ series gearbox is better equipped at handling the high-torque nature of the motor but the big update is the shift-by-wire technology.
It eliminates the conventional mechanical gear lever from the centre console, which is now replaced by a toggle switch. Simple and effective, the shift-by-wire system takes some time to get used to but is convenient and will be appreciated by buyers looking for comfort. Gear changes are seamless for the most part but aren’t the quickest in the lower gears.
The engine and the car offer just the perfect match when it comes to performance and the driver’s seat is where you should be to experience the thrill. Power delivery is linear and speeds build quickly once you get past 1500 rpm. Diesel lovers won’t miss the famed Octavia TDI and the difference over the 1.8-litre TSI is massive. Power is concentrated in the mid-range and there’s a noticeable surge from about 2000 rpm, going up to 6000 rpm. Toggle the switch into ‘Sport’ and there’s a slight change in character with the car holding gears longer and a nice growl from the engine. Add to that, the car stays planted at triple-digit speeds with a tank-like feel.
The cabin is well insulated and there’s barely any road noise or even tyre noise creeping inside. The new two-spoke steering also weighs up well at high speeds and is precise. It’s not the most emotive steering out there but does bring a point and shoot quality to the Octavia. The larger proportions are hardly ever a problem and direction changes happen diligently. The new suspension setup is also almost immediately noticeable. Skoda has worked to make the ride quality far more comfortable over its predecessor and the new-generation Octavia soaks the undulations and even larger potholes much better. Yes, it’s gone soft, and this makes the rear-seat experience comfier than before. But the sedan retains an assertiveness in dynamics which ensure minimal body roll around a bend.
The new-generation Skoda Octavia is better in so many ways than its predecessor. There’s a concentrated effort on making comfort a priority and everything feels from a segment above. In fact, it’s so much better that we believe it will eat into the share of Superb buyers.
Skoda will announce prices on June 10, 2021, which is likely to be between ₹ 25 lakh and ₹ 30 lakh (ex-showroom). There will be only two variants on offer – Style and L&K – and both variants will be heavily loaded on features. To give you perspective, the third-gen Octavia was priced between ₹ 15.50 lakh and ₹ 23.60 lakh for the top-of-the-line diesel before being discontinued. So buyers will be shelling out a hefty premium over the older version. At the same time, it gets a significant power upgrade over the predecessor and is a great alternative to the pricier German luxury sedans.
Meanwhile, the new Octavia’s sole rival – Hyundai Elantra – offers a better pricing proposition between ₹ 17.85 lakh and ₹ 20.10 lakh (ex-showroom). However, it doesn’t come close to the driving experience on the Skoda. But the new Octavia is such a good car on its own that it leaves you with a beaming smile behind the wheel. In the land dominated by crossovers, the new Skoda Octavia is a solid reminder of the traditional sedan’s beauty. And yes, it continues to pull the heartstrings albeit a bit mildly.