Perhaps the shift in the Skoda’s public perception was best summed by the company’s marketing campaign of the early 2000s. Their ‘It is a Skoda, honest,’ adverts showed a new production line employee fitting Skoda badges on car bonnets. When some attractive looking cars come along he stands back, not fitting the badge – they looked so good they couldn’t possibly have been Skoda’s. It was a sublime piece of marketing which worked by confronting Skoda’s image problem head-on – a high risk a tactic but one that paid off. One of the main reasons it worked so well was the fact they had the cars to back-up the quality of the campaign.
In March 2013, the new Octavia went on sale. A five-door, family hatchback that has long since been the brand’s yardstick for success. It’s their best-selling model, 3.7 million have been driven off garage forecourts since 1996, and its evolution mirrors than of Skoda’s own navigation, from Eastern Bloc beast to Volkswagen Group beauty. It’s no coincidence that the entire transition of the brand coincided with Skoda becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen in 2000.
Skoda is meant to represent the budget badge of the group but judging by the new Octavia they are making life very difficult for the rest of the Volkswagen empire to stay ahead. The new Octavia has changed significantly, it’s even longer and wider than its predecessor yet has managed to shed 102kg in weight by cutting out weighty high-strength steel from its diet. The knock on effect is a more nimble ride, increased stability and a 74mpg average fuel return which the 1.6-litre 105 TDI delivers. This particular model is likely to be the best seller in the range with its sensible blend of economy and kit. The size increase looks a shrewd move, larger than a VW Golf or Ford Focus, but slightly smaller than a Passat, the Octavia’s appeal has now broadened to entice both private and business users, with 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre TSI petrols and 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre diesels available.
Refreshingly, the dashboard is laid out in sensible fashion and is easy to understand – why do so many car designers fail to get this right? All infotainment is clearly displayed on a smart seven-inch screen and there’s plenty of practical cubbyholes in and around the interior. The cabin is comfortable, with high quality materials used on the seating, panels and flooring. This car is big on space, value and quality. The Octavia currently accounts for 44 percent of Skoda’s UK sales and judging by this, the third generation, that figure is only set to rise.
Skoda Octavia from £15,990 www.silburyskoda.co.uk