Currently reading: Skoda Octavia: why it's a 5-star What Car? family car
We delve into the reasons why our sister title holds the value-packed Skoda Octavia hatchback and estate in such high regard

If you’re in the market for a practical and comfortable family car, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a high-riding SUV is your only option. But that’s far from the truth. Available as both a sleek hatchback and as an even more spacious and adaptable estate, the Skoda Octavia makes a strong case for itself as an equally capable alternative.

That was only strengthened when it was awarded a coveted five-star review by our sister title What Car?, which reviews cars based on the strictest consumer-focused criteria. 

“First and foremost, the Skoda Octavia offers generous space for occupants and a massive boot that dwarfs most competitors from the class above. Plus, its plush interior and frugal engines make it a fantastic car for covering big distances in,” What Car? said in its comprehensive road-test review. 

And that’s not all. In recent years, the Skoda Octavia has claimed the title of ‘Best Family Car for Practicality’ at the annual What Car? Awards – the Oscars of the automotive industry. Still thinking about that SUV?

So, in order to find out exactly why the Skoda Octavia should top your family car wishlist, we’ve decided to explore the five big reasons why What Car? think this is a five-star car.

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#1 Plush well-equipped cabin

Any five-star family car must offer a cabin that is, above all, a nice place to be, and that’s exactly where the Skoda Octavia earned its first haul of points from What Car?’s discerning road testers, who praised its driving position, advanced tech and overall quality.

“The steering wheel in the Skoda Octavia has plenty of reach and rake adjustment and the seat has a good range of movement, so finding an ideal driving position is easy,” What Car? said. “All Skoda Octavias have adjustable lumbar support to help fend off back pain on long journeys, too. Another standard feature is an easy to read digital instrument display that takes the place of conventional analogue dials. A fully configurable instrument cluster is standard from SE Technology trim, while a head-up display that projects your speed and other information onto the windscreen is on the options list of SE L and above.”

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What Car? also commented positively on how easy the technology is to use when on the move. “Helpfully, Skoda has positioned the infotainment touchscreen in the Skoda Octavia high on the dashboard so you don’t have to take your eyes far from the road to see it. All models come with a 10.0in touchscreen, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, and a DAB radio.

“The system’s graphics look sharp and sophisticated, with large virtual buttons that are relatively easy to use while you’re driving. What’s more, the screen is far more responsive than the one in the Toyota Corolla. You get five USB-C ports in your Skoda Octavia as standard: two in a handy cubby in front of the gearlever, another two for rear-seat passengers and another up by the rear-view mirror (to power a dashcam).”

So we know the dashboard is well-sited and easy to use, but how does it look and feel? Well, What Car?’s experts awarded the Skoda Octavia four stars for interior quality, particularly extolling the upmarket feel of all the major touchpoints. 

“Plush, squidgy plastics are present on the top and front of the Skoda Octavia's dashboard and above the armrests on the doors,” What Car? said. “There are some harder plastics lower down, but they're pleasingly textured and everything feels solidly screwed together. SE L trim gets a faux-suede surface for part of the dashboard, lifting the ambience further. 

“The stalks behind the steering wheel feel good to use, as do the steering wheel buttons. All in all, the Skoda Octavia is as solid inside as the Toyota Corolla, but a little plusher – and miles ahead of – the Ford Focus.”

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#2 Exceptional space and practicality

As we mentioned earlier, the Skoda Octavia has, on several occasions, been crowned the most practical family car money can buy at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards. And it’s easy to see why. Let’s start up front, where What Car?’s experts were very fond of the Skoda Octavia’s clever storage solutions. 

“There’s plenty of space in the front of the Skoda Octavia,” What Car? said. “A very tall driver will be able to get comfortable even with a panoramic glass roof fitted. Storage is better than in most rivals, too: each door pocket can take a 1.5-litre bottle of water and the cooled glovebox is big enough to keep your lunch fresh.

“Behind the gearlever are two fixed cupholders that will keep your coffee-to-go secure and, ingeniously, can grip drinks bottles tightly enough that you can twist off the cap with one hand. In front of the gear selector is a handy tray that’s big enough for a large mobile phone to sit next to your house keys and wallet or purse. There’s also a large covered storage space under the front armrest for hiding electronic devices and other valuables. Like the glove box, it's cooled, so it's ideal for a second round of sandwiches.”

Further back in the Skoda Octavia, What Car? were impressed with the width of the rear bench, which helps to make those big family adventures even more effortless. 

“The Skoda Octavia is pretty generous on rear-seat space,” What Car? said. “Behind a tall driver with their seat pushed back, even taller passengers will be able to lounge in comfort, and there’s loads of elbow room. The Skoda Octavia’s rear seat is surprisingly wide, making it a very comfortable car for three back-seat passengers to sit side by side in. A central armrest with two cupholders is standard on all models, and the rear door pockets are a decent size. Every model has a map pocket on the back of each front seat, along with a smaller smartphone pocket, plus sizeable rear door bins.”

But, for the Skoda Octavia, the crown jewel comes in the form of its boot. The Skoda Octavia hatchback offers between 600 litres and 1555 litres of luggage space (depending on whether you fold the seats down), while the Skoda Octavia Estate yields between 640 litres and 1700 litres. Now, that’s big.

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First, let’s talk about the hatch, where What Car? commended its sheer vastness compared to competitors. “The Skoda Octavia’s boot is not only huge compared with similarly-sized rivals, it also dwarfs most competitors from the class above. The load area is longer and taller than in most comparably priced hatchbacks, and it’s a practical shape.

“As standard, there’s a 12V socket, a couple of bag hooks and a couple of fenced-off areas that will stop your de-icer and other boot clutter sliding around. Options include a space-saver spare wheel that sits under the boot floor and an electric tailgate with hands-free gesture control.”

Then we come to the Skoda Octavia Estate, which takes family practicality to a whole new level. “Boot size is a major highlight,” What Car? said. “The Skoda Octavia Estate’s 640-litre boot is huge compared with similar-sized rivals, and even manages to beat that of the Mercedes E-Class estate (with the rear seats up).

“We managed to fit nine carry-on suitcases under the Skoda Octavia’s parcel shelf, just two shy of the larger Skoda Superb Estate. The Octavia's load area is longer and taller than in most comparably priced estates, and it’s a practical squared-off shape. When the back seats are folded down, the space is truly vast. As standard, you get a 12V socket, bag hooks and a couple of compartments at the side to stop your boot clutter sliding around.”

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#3 Superb value and low running costs

Skoda has long been a bastion of exceptional value, and the Skoda Octavia – in both hatchback and estate forms – continues that legacy. To start, the broad range of frugal petrol and diesel engines will help keep your daily expenses down, while the What Car? team heaped praise upon the Skoda Octavia’s generous levels of equipment compared to rivals.

“The Skoda Octavia’s model hierarchy is a little different to the brand’s norm,” What Car? commented. “The usual SE variant is there, but it acts as the entry point here. SE Technology seems good value against the Ford Focus, and even top-end SE L will set you back much less than equivalent premium models, such as the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class.

“Our chosen trim is the mid-range SE Technology trim because it offers the best value for money, costing hardly any more than SE trim despite gaining front parking sensors and infotainment upgrades. Not that SE is poorly equipped – it gives you 16in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, heated door mirrors, keyless start and even an umbrella in the door. There’s a bit of a price jump to SE L, but you get plenty of extra luxuries and some useful kit for your money, making it a justifiable indulgence.”

And the value doesn’t stop there. The What Car? team were impressed by the plethora of deals to be had on a Skoda Octavia. “Skoda is usually generous with deposit contributions, so expect a competitive monthly PCP finance rate.”

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#4 Great visibility and safety tech

Whether you’re embarking on a big family weekend away, commuting to work or threading the needle through your local supermarket’s car park, both the Skoda Octavia hatchback and estate make every journey easier, safer and more relaxing thanks to a commanding view of the road ahead and heaps of advanced safety equipment.

“The Skoda Octavia hatchback has large side windows and relatively thin windscreen pillars so looking forwards, or left and right at junctions, is easy,” What Car? said. “The Skoda Octavia Estate’s thin rear pillars give you great all-round visibility, too. It makes this relatively big estate car one of the easiest to manoeuvre in tighter spots. 

“To help relieve parking worries, entry-level SE trim comes with rear parking sensors, while SE Technology, and SE L get front parking sensors too. A rear-view camera is on the options list.

“Bright LED headlights and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror are standard across the range, but they can be upgraded at a cost to clever adaptive matrix LED headlights that allow you to use the main beam more often without blinding other drivers.”

Both the Skoda Octavia hatchback and estate were awarded a maximum five-star rating by Euro NCAP, helped by the inclusion of automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance and an e-call system that notifies the emergency services if you’re involved in an accident, as standard.

If you want even more safety tech, blind-spot monitoring can be added to SE L trim for a reasonable cost to warn you of following traffic approaching. Adaptive cruise control is standard on SE L (optional on SE), which maintains a steady gap between you and the car in front, braking to match its speed where necessary.

Finally, both the Skoda Octavia hatchback and estate are available with confidence-inspiring four-wheel drive, so you can take those big adventures even further off the beaten track.

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#5 Supple ride and engaging handling

Striking the perfect balance between comfort and sportiness is something many family cars struggle to achieve – but that’s where the Skoda Octavia is different. What Car? were particular fans of the Skoda Octavia’s motorway cruising (especially in estate form) and accurate steering.

“The Skoda Octavia estate’s ride is, on the whole, excellent,” What Car? commented. “It’s noticeably softer than a lot of its rivals, including the Ford Focus estate and its wafty bent also makes it particularly adept for relaxed jaunts on motorways and A-roads. It’s also fine around town when you encounter rounded-off lumps in the road, such as speed bumps.”

Both versions of the Skoda Octavia are more than capable of cutting a shape when the going gets twisty, too. “Despite the softness of its suspension, the Skoda Octavia estate is perfectly capable when it comes to corners,” said What Car?. “In particular, its steering is precise and has plenty of reassuring weight, providing you with a good sense of connection to the road through the front tyres. The Skoda Octavia also grips quite resolutely through bends and it's never anything less than stable and secure if you're driving normally.”

So, those are the five big reasons why the Skoda Octavia has been awarded a full five stars by the experts at What Car?. Maybe it’s time to try it for yourself.

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