autos

First drive: 2020 Skoda Octavia prototype


Mechanically, the engines look familiar on the surface, but the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI’s internals have been refreshed, including the use of new pistons and conrods. As ever, the changes have been wrought in the name of efficiency and cleanliness rather than power – a fact that’s highlighted by the revelation that the current entry-level 1.6-litre unit will be dropped in favour of a 115bhp version of this 2.0-litre. There will also be a 187bhp flagship, presumably for the vRS.

Speaking of other versions, once again the Octavia promises to have the broadest line-up on the brand’s books. Details are still sketchy, but on top of the cooking versions there will be the aforementioned vRS and a high-riding Scout, plus both plug-in and 48V mild hybrid models. There will also be a choice of two and four-wheel drivetrains, plus familiar hatchback and estate body styles.

Inside, the Octavia has taken another step upmarket. The cars we drove featured shrouded interiors, but a static display model revealed a classier design and greater use of premium materials. The end result looks good, but with its two-spoke wheel and wing-shaped dashboard treatment, the Skoda has more than a hint of previous generation Mercedes S-Class about it. While space for occupants hasn’t increased (it’s still one of the largest in the class), there’s more room for luggage, with the hatch featuring 600-litres and estate 640-litres, which are increases of 10 and 40-litres respectively. Curiously, the improvements come as much from the way the space is measured as any increase in size, Skoda now using the VDA method. So there you go.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Our time behind the wheel was limited to a tightly controlled convoy that was driving at a brisk rather than breakneck pace, plus we weren’t allowed to fiddle with any of the driver modes (it was Normal all the way), but the choice of roads that rolled over and through the Tuscany hills provided a variety of different corners and surfaces for the car to contend with. Either way, the limited run was enough to confirm that there aren’t any radical changes here, but Skoda has taken an already accomplished machine and given a vigorous polish.

Skoda’s engineers have targeted increased refinement for the Octavia, and the 2.0-litre TDI is the engine that’s benefited most. Both the internal changes and the improved sound insulation have taken the edge of the clatter, the four-cylinder now working away unobtrusively. It also feels more energetic than it’s WLTP-strangled predecessor, responding crisply to the throttle and revving more keenly. Of course it does it’s best work in the mid-ranges, pulling with effortless muscle from less than 2,000rpm.



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