Skoda's third generation Octavia GreenLine offers the sort of economy and emissions you'd have thought were reserved for a hybrid. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
If you hate refilling your fuel tank but can't live with an electric car, you can't do a lot better than Skoda's Octavia GreenLine. It'll average better than 88mpg and with a 50-litre fuel tank, that means a range of almost 1,000 miles. If the idea of refilling just once a month appeals, this much-improved Octavia could be your next car.
Every once in a while, it's nice to give the system one right on the nose. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's a sweet feeling. Imagine getting that feeling every single time you drive your car. That's pretty much the deal with the Skoda Octavia GreenLine. If fuel prices make you feel as if you're being mugged, here's one of the most satisfying legal ways to hit back. The best thing about this third generation Octavia is that in order to realise these minuscule fuel bills, the car asks very little of you in return. It's big, it's got an engine that doesn't need help driving the car out of a wet paper bag and it's even reasonably well equipped. If you're looking for the catch, you might want to spend a bit more time giving the GreenLine the once over.
The Octavia GreenLine is powered by a diesel engine that manages a respectable 110PS, which is actually 5PS more than the otherwise similar 1.6 TDI units found in the rest of the Octavia range. This means it'll get to 62mph in a fraction over 10 seconds and top out at 128mph, so it's not going to leave you struggling to merge with fast-moving traffic in the outside lane. This 1.6-litre diesel engine comes from a tried and tested VW Group family renowned for being smooth, flexible and relaxing to drive. With 250Nm of torque on tap, it's not going to labour, even if you're five-up.
Like the rest of its sibling vehicles in the Volkswagen empire, this Octavia rides on the modular MQB chassis, which means that it'll handle competently and hasn't cost the earth to develop. Those smallish 16-inch wheels appear to promise a smooth ride but bear in mind that they're fitted with low rolling resistance tyres with stiffer sidewalls that require additional tyre pressure if you're to make the miles per gallon figures.
Design and Build
If you're not familiar with this third generation Octavia, then the first thing you'll notice is the fact that it's grown, and by quite some amount. If you were a little puzzled as to why the apparently similarly sized Rapid model was slotted into Skoda's range, this bigger and plusher Octavia gives the answer. The Rapid now has breathing space and the Octavia can push for family customers more convincingly. The latest model is 90mm longer and 45mm wider than the second-generation Octavia. At the same time, the wheelbase has grown by 108mm, mainly benefiting the interior and space on the rear seats. This means the Octavia is now almost as long as a Ford Mondeo and there's genuinely impressive rear seat space - enough for a six-footer in the back to be comfortable behind one in the front.
The boot has increased in space to 590-litres, distancing this MK3 model from its predecessor, a car that competed with typical family hatchbacks like Ford Focus, a model offering just 320-litres under the rear hatch. Now you see how far this current Octavia has stepped up in size. Need even more space? Then you can choose an estate variant with a 610-litre cargo area.
Despite the notchback design, the standard version of this model remains a five-door car with a massive tailgate. There's a really crisp, architectural neatness to the exterior design and detailing, with plenty of shape in the flanks, an elegant sweep to the roofline and a refreshing simplicity to the front end. Less really is more here. It's a great piece of work. The interior is similarly simple and elegant as a result. Materials quality has improved and there's stacks of clever storage ideas. They include foldable cargo elements for the boot, a double-sided floor covering in the boot, and a multimedia holder with space for an iPod, a mobile phone and the like.
Market and Model
Skoda asks just over £20,000 for the Octavia GreenLine hatch, which means that you're looking at just under £2,000 more than you'd pay for an entry-level 1.6 TDI Octavia in base S trim. Given that you get an additional 14 miles from a gallon of fuel in the GreenLine, you'd have to drive 140,000 miles in it to reap back that additional cost in fuel savings alone. Still, that doesn't take into account the fact that the GreenLine comes with quite a bit of additional equipment. It gets acoustic rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control air conditioning with humidity sensor and control, and cornering front fog lights, none of which you'll find on the S model. In fact it sits somewhere between the SE and the Elegance in Skoda's trim walk up. You can choose either 16-inch Velorum or Ilias alloy wheel designs, but they booth look much the same. A bit of differentiation wouldn't have gone amiss here.
Go for the estate version and you're looking at an £800 premium. Whichever bodystyle you select, the cabin is quite low key with black fabric seating, and very little in the way of colour. Safety equipment includes ESP stability control, hill hold control, parking sensors, rest assist, twin front, side and curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Cost of Ownership
There aren't too many cars in this size class that can approach the Octavia GreenLine's running costs. It's a bit of a shame the pricing of the car has fallen just the wrong side of the £20,000 barrier as this may preclude it from some company car lists, but if any vehicle is worth stretching the rules a little for, this is it. The headline figure is that 88.3mpg combined fuel economy figure. On a longer run, it'll better 94mpg and a few hypermiling techniques might well see the car top 100mpg. The emissions are hardly any less impressive, at just 85g/km. Now bear in mind that a Toyota Prius hybrid gets 72.4mpg and emits 89g/km. And that the Japanese car is smaller, slower and more expensive.
Skoda's engineers have achieved significant improvements in the Octavia's consumption and emission figures thanks to efficiency optimisation of its diesel engine, a low drag coefficient and reduced vehicle weight. Despite its increased size and better quality interior, this third generation Octavia is up to 102kg lighter than its predecessor. It sounds impossible but this has been achieved thanks to resolute lightweight engineering, a progressive body design, utilisation of high and ultra-tensile steel and a careful selection of materials. The GreenLine also features a start-stop system and energy recuperation.
There's something fetchingly unreal about the Skoda Octavia GreenLine. Cars this big shouldn't be able to knock on the door of 90mpg. In its own quiet way, it's just as impressive as a Nissan GTR being able to corrugate the tarmac on the way to a sub-three second sprint to 62mph - and a whole lot more relevant to the average car buyer. With a light right foot, you could conceivably end up with a yearly fuel bill for 12,000 miles that amounts to just £800. If you're used to putting £60 or £70 into your tank every week or two, stop and think about how that could change your budget.
Or, if you want to go a step further, how an additional few grand in the bank each year could make life that much more fun, because viewed in that way, the Octavia GreenLine is a fun car. It's a car that lets you go skiing in the Alps, or snorkelling in the Red Sea or just taking the kids somewhere fun that'll live with you forever. Those who scoff that life is too short to worry about miles per gallon might not have it all worked out after all.