New car test - Skoda Octavia Green Line

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Skoda’s Octavia is at it most environmentally responsible inGreenLine form. Steve Walker reports.

With a series of efficiency modifications, most of which are made out of sight, the Octavia GreenLine can offer economy of 74mpg and 99g/km emissions. That will be a big enough carrot to persuade many company car users and budget family buyers but the Octavia also appeals with its polished road manners and strong build. It’s not the most exciting car in the sector though.

Background

Some people will see a car one day, fall in love and just have to have it. At the other extreme are those who arrive at theirbuying decisions only after a painstaking analysis of the competition and crunching all available numbers to determine which vehicle is best on financial and practical grounds. Neither approach is right or wrong but it’s easy to see which breedof buyer is most likely to end up behind the wheel of a Skoda Octavia GreenLine.

The Octavia has consolidated its predecessor’s success amongst buyers who rather liked the idea of a five-door hatch or estate car bigger than a Golf but slightly smaller than something Mondeo-sized. Once they’d taken delivery, they were rarely disappointed. Even as recently as 2008, the Octavia was winning its class in the JD Power Customer Satisfaction survey. The GreenLine edition adopts Skoda’s environmentally-friendly GreenLine badging to underline the care with which it treats the planet’s dwindling resources. That’s nice but most customer will be more enamoured with the way it simultaneously protects their dwindling bank balance.

Driving Experience

For years, the prime engine candidate for insertion into a green edition of the Octavia would have been the 1.9-litre TDI direct injection unit but the GreenLine actually uses a 1.6-litre TDI based around common-rail injection technology. It’s a far more modern powerplant than the long serving 1.9 and offers similar power and torque outputs of 103bhp and 250Nm respectively, despite its smaller capacity. And it can now deliver over 70mpg and emissions of under 100g/km.

When the second generation version of the Octavia was first announced, all the stuff you didn’t see - chassis, engines and so on - was pretty much identical to those parts used in far more expensive VW Group products like the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3. That’s not quite so true these days: this Skoda is based on the Golf MKV rather than the more refined MKVI. That’s no great loss, however, as the driving manners remain assured, comfortable but nothing too sporting.

Design and Build

Though hardly for the attention-seeker, the Octavia is a little more extrovert these days thanks to its more imposing grille, topped with a thick band of chrome. Substantial headlamps flank it to form a band across the nose that sits above restyled bumpers. Moving backwards, there are revised side mouldings, while smarter C-shaped light clusters adorn the rear.

Overall, this remains a solid-looking, nicely sculpted car with more than a hint of Volvo in its design make-up: perfect then, for that older target market. The GreenLine model doesn’t deviate much from this. It features aerodynamic modifications but these are largely on the underside of the car with other efficiency gains made through weight saving measures under the skin and low rolling resistance tyres.

The interior has benefited from enhancements to the switchgear, entertainment systems and trim all of which work well. There’s a smarter steering wheel and a classier instrument panel which make sure that the gap between this and the acclaimed interiors of Volkswagen products is not a big one. The Octavia was always renowned for possessing a huge boot, given its family hatchback underpinnings, and so it remains. You get 560 litres with the seats in place - a little more than you would in something Mondeo sized - and 1350 litres with the seats folded - slightly less, but still in the same ballpark.

Market and Model

The Octavia GreenLine should stack-up well on paper thanks to its low asking price and running costs. It’s also aided by the decent equipment levels that hold sway across the Octavia range. All Octavia models come with automatic wipers, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, an MP3 CD stereo, an advanced ABS system, four airbags and central locking.

Cost of Ownership

In GreenLine guise, the Octavia can return a highly creditable 74.3mpg in hatchback form, with emissions of just 99g/km. For the estate, the figures are 67.3mpg and 109g/km. For a car of this size, that’s astonishing. Both variants further clean up their acts with the aid of a standard diesel particulate filter. It all equates to some of the lowest running costs in the sector and will present a particular boon to company car users looking to reduce their tax bills.

In general, Octavia buyers can expect reasonable residual values (39-43% after 3 years or 36,000 miles). Compare that to 42-56% for the VW Golf but also to the 34-37% you’d get for a comparable Ford Focus.

Summary

Not one of the more emotionally enthralling cars in the compact family class, the Skoda Octavia specialises in buttoned down competence. In GreenLine form, it’s more straight-laced than ever but improved economy and lower emissions combined with the Octavia’s impressive road manners and robust build help it stand out.

The more research you do, the more compelling an Octavia Greenline is likely to get. The car is largely free of attitude, excitement and pizzazz but it doesn’t put a wheel wrong in any major area. As an uncomplicated, cost-effective family vehicle or as a tax-busting company car, the GreenLine has the wherewithal to gain a loyal following.