New 2020 Skoda Octavia sweeps in with plug-in power and upmarket interior

New Skoda Octavia hatchback and estate hits UK showrooms next year with mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid power

Skoda has followed up the new Scala hatchback with a fresh incarnation of the popular Octavia – the car that has arguably come to define the brand since Volkswagen Group acquisition in 1991. 

The Octavia story started well before then though. The nameplate celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2019, and this new version is technically the fifth-generation model overall, and the fourth to emerge under VW Group direction. Over 6.5 million have hit the road since 1959, and this new version is the first Octavia to be offered with plug-in and mild-hybrid powertrains. A hot vRS model using an electrified drivetrain looks likely to become a part of the line-up in due course.

• Skoda Octavia Estate prototype review

Under the metal the new Octavia uses the VW Group’s widely used MQB front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive platform, though the newcomer sits on a freshly modified version of the toolkit utilised under the latest Mk8 Volkswagen Golf, allowing for new engine and driver assistance technologies to make their debut.

The powertrain line-up consists of a wide spread of petrol and diesel options, with the final UK selection yet to be specified. The base petrol model uses a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine developing 108bhp, while there’s also a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with 148bhp, both of which utilise a six-speed manual gearbox sending drive to the front wheels. 

Equip a seven-speed automatic gearbox on either of these models, however, and new e-TEC branded 48-volt mild hybrid assistance is also fitted. The setup consists of a 48-volt belt-driven starter motor and a small 48-volt lithium ion-battery, which stores energy recuperated under braking. The setup can assist the petrol engine with a small electric boost, while also enabling the new Octavia to coast with the engine completely off at speed on motorways, reducing engine load, CO2 emissions and improving fuel economy, though Skoda has yet to issue any firm figures. 

A third petrol option exists in the form of the 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI four-cylinder model, equipped by default with a seven-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive. Skoda says it’s good for 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds, while top speed is 145mph.

The diesel line-up consists entirely of four-cylinder 2.0-litre TDI options, with the base 114bhp car offered with a choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Up a rung is a 148bhp model available with all-wheel-drive, while a 197bhp range-topper with standard all-wheel-drive completes the line-up. 

The most interesting addition is the new Octavia iV, however, which is the first Octavia to be offered with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. A 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine combines with an electric motor to create a hybrid drivetrain with 201bhp and 350Nm torque.

The e-motor is fed by a lithium-ion battery pack 13kWh in capacity, while Skoda claims that the newcomer is capable of 34 miles on battery power alone according to WLTP testing. But again, no fuel economy figures have been published. A six-speed automatic gearbox is equipped, while Skoda claims that the Octavia iV will be wall-box friendly for faster recharges. It won’t be offered as a separate model either – this plug-in option will be available on all but the base S grade car and the off-road inspired Scout model.

Elsewhere, the new Octavia is now available with optional Dynamic Chassis Control. Delve within the individual drive modes and the driver can now change individual parameters such as the suspension, damping, steering and the responsiveness of the DSG automatic gearbox to suit their individual preferences. Optional 15mm lower sports suspension and a rough road chassis option providing 15mm additional ground clearance can also be specified. 

Design wise the latest Octavia grows ever so slightly. The hatchback variant is 19mm longer before, while the estate swells by 22mm. Both cars are 15mm wider, and practicality grows too. The boot of the hatchback model grows to 600 litres, with the Octavia estate now fielding a 640-litre cargo area.

The design of the new car echoes that of other recent Skoda launches. The front end looks sharper and features LED headlights as standard, but there’s a clear visual nod to the previous generation model, while the rear end changes dramatically. The square taillights have been replaced by thinner, wider LED units, while like the Scala, the badge has been replaced by Skoda lettering on the tailgate.

Skoda’s design team have instead majored on transforming the car’s interior. Sitting ahead of the driver is a new two-spoke multifunction steering wheel, while the dashboard has been transformed. There’s a large cubby space ahead of a new look gear selector, a string of rocker switches sit beneath a new freestanding touchscreen infotainment system, featuring a new touch sensitive ‘slider’ function for volume control. Skoda has also updated the 10.25-inch optional virtual cockpit display. 

Four centrally mounted infotainment systems are available. The base setup is an 8.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Three ten-inch displays of varying functionality are offered optionally, adding features such as navigation, additional apps, voice control, gesture control and the new slider function on the range topping Columbus infotainment unit. 

The interior gets a lick of premium pretense with the introduction of new softer touch plastics, chrome trim elements and new, configurable LED ambient lighting, customisable with ten different colours. Massage seats are available for the first time, and a new optional head-up display is a first for the Octavia, as is optional three-zone climate control and full LED matrix headlights.

Safety and driver assistance features swell to include collision avoidance assistance, steering assistance and predictive cruise control, which works alongside updated versions of traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist and traffic jam assist to enable a degree of semi-autonomous driving when certain road conditions are met.  

As with all Skodas, the brand has kitted the Octavia out with several trademark ‘Simply Clever’ features as standard. Alongside typical touches such as an ice scraper in the fuel filler cap and a convenient ticket holder on the driver’s side A-pillar, the new Octavia features a handy AdBlue nozzle for diesel variants and a new ‘Sleep’ package, consisting of larger, more comfortable headrests for the rear seats, stowed blankets and sun blinds. 

Shown now, it’ll be a while yet before the new Octavia hits UK roads. Both the hatchback and estate models will launch together in Britain, in the second quarter of 2020. Prices should rise to reflect the new level of quality Skoda has aimed to inject, so expect a starting price of approaching or just over £20,000.

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