Skoda's new Octavia continues the model's 53-year history, from its creation in post-war Czechoslovakia to the rebirth of the name in post-Soviet Europe under VW's stewardship. Here's the history of what has become Skoda's most important car.
1959 Octavia and Octavia Super
The first Octavia was a reworked 440, itself essentially a pre-war design with a swing axle rear that gave the car interesting wet weather handling. The three-door Octavia (the name was derived from the fact that this was the eighth model Skoda had built) replaced the 440’s tranverse leaf sprung front end with modern independent suspension but retained the Fiat derived 1089cc engine with 47bhp. Octavias were sold in the UK, where they came with a heater, a screen washer and reclining seats as standard – this was generous for the early ’60s. They were also the first Skodas to compete in motorsport, where they chalked up lots of class wins on international rallies.
1961 Octavia TS
A power upgrade thanks to twin carbs added a heady 3bhp but more usefully the column change was swapped for a four on the floor shift. 1961 Octavia Combi Functional estate that outlived the saloon – it was produced until 1971, when the Octavia name disappeared. Split tailgate quite handy
1996 Mk1 Octavia
The first all-new car to come from VW’s purchase of Skoda, and a true product of the breakup of the Soviet Union; work started on the Octavia in 1993, four years after the wall came down. It was essentially a rebodied VW Jetta with some of the cost taken out. A functional, useful and well-made tool that started the reinvention of Skoda. The vRS was a clever, if unlikely piece, of work that turned out to be a lot better than the Golf GTi with which it shared its engine. And Skoda had the foresight to build a fast diesel, too, and an estate vRS. Four-wheel drive models even more useful, and the Scout (with its raised ride height) did everything a Subaru Legacy could for much less money. This was also the first offering from Skoda in India.
1999 WRC Octavia
As it did in the ’60s, the Octavia played a in important role in Skoda’s motorsport ambitions, when the company used it to enter the top flight of WRC for the first time. It competed for four years, took a third in 2001, and was replaced by the Fabia.
2004 Mk2 Octavia
Much improved second generation Octavia pushed Skoda further upmarket with a bigger, better built car that sealed the firm’s reputation for good value, reliable and properly useful products. Bigger than a Golf but not as large as a Mondeo, it could have faltered as a not-quite-one-thing-or-the-other car, but it was a success. The estate was the largest in class and bigger than most of the cars in the class above while the vRSbecame even more convincing than the original. A facelift in 2009 smartened the car further without detracting from its helpful functionality. This car was sold in India as the Skoda Laura.
2011 Octavia vRS Bonneville Special
Skoda’s long motorsport history took a new turn when the firm decided to run a 500bhp methanol-fuelled Octavia on the Bonneville salt flats to become the world’s fastest production 2.0-litre forced induction car. A bit of a specific record, but it cracked 227mph.
2013 Mk3 Octavia
The third generation of the current run of Octavias moves it further upmarket, bigger and better equipped – but this time lower-powered cars come with a beam axle at the rear. Only cars with over 150bhp get independent suspension all round.