Well, you know what? I have been always fan of the Skoda company and more so when the first Skoda Octavia in India was launched way back in 2002. Its low slung design was unlike anything me as a college going teenager had seen. This meant that every time a Skoda Octavia would pass by, I would just gawk at it and think of the day when I would be getting one of my own. No, I still haven’t got one as of now however maybe in the near future, I might think of acquiring one. But the best I can do as of now is to cover a road test about the Skoda Octavia in India. With this thought firmly etched in mind, I made the necessary phone calls and within a day’s time, there was a gray color Skoda Octavia in the parking lot of our company’s premises. No issues. But then, it was the Skoda Octavia from the first lot that the company had and it had seen fairly a large mileage to the tune of approximately 30,000 kilometers. The company didn’t have the RS variant in reserve and hence so couldn’t provide that variant.
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To start with, elegant and classy would be the words describing the car. In a span of almost 10 years, the car hasn’t undergone a single exterior change and it still sells alongside its replacement, the Skoda Laura in India. The Skoda badge is as desirable as the blue propeller one. Those are entirely my thoughts and people would definitely beg to differ. Those rectangular head lamps flanking the octagonal grille and the flat bonnet reek of class. The radiator grille is also vertically slated just like the air dams. This been a first generation Octavia for India, it didn’t have the fog lamp inserts. The model we have on test here is the top of the line Skoda Octavia Elegance 1.9 Tdi(at that time, the company hadn’t introduced the Laurin and Klement variant). It has got 15 inch alloy wheels.
The small wing mirrors are body colored as are the door handles. The rear slopes a bit, not exactly what you would call like a coupe but then somewhat like it. There is a black rubber beading running across from door to door. The rear portion shows off the muscular stance of this car and its small glass area. The same rubber beading also stretches its way to the rear. The boot release handle is also body colored. The tail lamps are of the clear lens type. A big radio antenna protruding from top of the rear roof line looks somewhat down market when viewed from the rear. Look at it from the front and it would seem elegant.
I have often heard that Skoda Auto builds tank like cars and the first proof of that is when you pull the door handle. It would make you realize that this door is very heavy. The thud sound that it shuts with is way different than the slight thunk you hear when you close the door of say, a Honda Accord. Impressive! However once inside the cabin, I started getting the nausea feeling. Why so? It may be due to that dark interiors. Dark it may be but then they had that typical smell and look of class. Even a 30,000 kms old Skoda Octavia which has seen much abuse over the years still seems so fresh from the inside. If you ignore the odo reading and just shampoo the interiors of this car, it would be as good as new. There are subtle wooden inserts on the doors as well as on the dashboard. The 4 spoke steering wheel unit is just the older version of what does duties in the Skoda Yeti. Use of high quality materials is evident from the touch and feel of dashboard. The placement of the power windows and other electronic goodies also seems to be very user friendly.
The steering wheel has been positioned at a perfect height for me however some of the shorter drivers may find it a bit too away from them but then Skoda Auto has provided the steering wheel with rake and reach adjustment and this should help matters. Unheard of in those times are the automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, arm rests and also CD player with remote control. It doesn’t have a provision for AUX input though. Front seats are comfortable, though you sit low in them, racer car style. Moving onto the back seats, they aren’t very comfortable. This is due to the sloping roofline. I could see my gelled spikes poking at the roof. Boot space, well that is ample and could swallow a whole airport trip luggage.
Handling and ride quality
The Skoda Octavia in India boasted of a high tech suspension for those times. It had the McPherson strut front axle with torsion stabilizer and wishbone arms whereas the rear featured an axle of torsion stabilizer with compound link crank-axle. It was damped harder than usual for the Indian roads. While driving at slow speeds, I could sense that. However once the speeds rose, the car easily smothered everything in its path. With a full load of passengers, the suspension didn’t bottom out like the soft sprung one in the Honda Civic. All this harshness in the suspension translates to better handling. The steering though a tad heavy was still upto the mark. It placed the front wheels exactly where I wanted it to be. This car loves twisties and dare I say, it not only looks like a BMW but also behaves like one, the exception been that it doesn’t have the BMW badge and run flat tyres. Its low ground clearance of 134 mm also poses a worry when been driven over speed breakers. One has to be utterly careful just like in a Honda Civic.
The wheels though on the onset seemed worn out but then during the drive, I found out that they still had enough of life, to be precise approximately 5000 kilometer more to cover before needing a replacement. NVH levels were however a disappointment with the diesel engine showing its roots. The engine is very clattery on the start up and later on while conducting the high speed runs. Keep it between 2000- 3500 rpm and all is well.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The Skoda Octavia in India was initially launched with only a single engine option and that was the 1.9 liter diesel that I am driving now. Later on the maniac of an engine, the 1.8 liter turbo petrol was launched, but then it was discontinued after 2 years. The former boasts of using last generation Volkswagen’s Pumpe Duse engine. The 1.9 liter engine produces 90 Bhp of peak power and a mighty 210 Nm of torque. It is blessed with liquid cooling and a turbocharger. This engine is aligned with a 5 speed manual gearbox. The gearbox is one of the highlights of this car since it still shifts sweetly and is a short throw one. The clutch action however is a bit hard to my liking. To take things into perspective, the Skoda Octavia raced from 0-100 kmph in only 15.6 seconds. The top speed achieved was good at 159 kmph.
Brakes are still a good feature in this car with the all wheel disc brakes coupled with EBD and ABS. One of the unheard things of those times or should I say nascent, safety, was also well looked out for with 2 air bags, collapsible steering column, engine immobilizer, seat belts, seat belt warnings and the seat belt pretensioner. Moreover, its tank like build quality was another testimony to it been one of the safest cars.
Fuel efficiency was the talking point in a Skoda Octavia in those times and with the road test, I can definitely say that it still is. During the entire journey, the car consistently returned 13.7 kmpl in the city with those figures climbing upto 18.6 kmpl on the highway. Turn on the auto climate control and the car still returned 13 kmpl in the city and 17.8 kmpl on the highway. Amazing as my boss would have put it.
I am real glad that I did this road test. The reason been that I could drive the car of my teenage year dreams, the Skoda Octavia in India. Inspite of having been replaced world over with the Skoda Laura, it still continues to sell in India alongside the Skoda Laura. When the Octavia was first launched in India, it became a hot seller and set the right trend for the Czech company. It still boasts of having best interior quality, fuel efficiency, adequate performance and road presence. What it lacks in is the rear head room and some of the gadgets which now the modern cars provide. However what the others in its class still can’t beat it is in the pricing. The Skoda Octavia price in India is Rs 10,50,452 for the base version and Rs 12,32,400 for the top of the line Elegance version. As of now, it is available only in the Ambiente and Elegance versions. Total bang for the buck car. All the prices listed are ex-showroom, Mumbai.
Technical specifications of the Skoda Octavia in India
Engine Description: 1.9L In-line diesel with Turbocharger
Engine Displacement(cc): 1896
Transmission details: 5 speed manual
Maximum Power: 90 Bhp @ 4,400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 210 Nm @ 1900 rpm
Mileage-City (kmpl): 13.7
Mileage-Highway (kmpl): 18.6
Fuel Type: Diesel
Fuel Tank Capacity (litres): 57
Seating Capacity: 5