There’s a newcomer in our fleet — the Skoda Octavia. Here’s a car that’s as adept at transporting you in luxurious comfort in the back seat as it is at giving you a serious thrill from behind the wheel.
Of course, it’s the latter we are more enthusiastic about, and with 178bhp under the right foot, every free-spirited drive on an open stretch of road is nothing short of an event. It’s the reason I quickly grabbed the keys as soon as the car made its first appearance at our office. Using a combination of stealth and downright cunning even a big cat would be proud of, I was in the car and out the gate before anyone was the wiser.
Excited, I headed home, imagining a quick traffic-free run. What I got instead was kilometre upon kilometre of Mumbai’s finest bumper-to-bumper traffic.
At least the environment I was in was very comfortable. The big driver’s seat is nothing short of exceptional. Large, with plenty of back and thigh support, it has that spacious, comfortable feel only a full-sized sedan like this can deliver. What also adds to the feel-good factor is the quality of this new cabin. The way the vents are built, the fit-and-finish of the dash, the high-grade plastics and the chrome highlights all work together to deliver something special.
The wide touchscreen on the central console, well-thought-out and detailed in the information it provides, is a joy to use when driving. The only annoying bit is that the Octavia, especially in Sport, can seem a bit over-eager in traffic, chomping at the bit and straining at the leash every time you caress the throttle.
Frustrated by the drive home the previous day, I woke early the next morning to get some quality ‘foot-down’ time with our new Octy. I was appropriately rewarded. The searing pace of the car, throttle pinned to the rug, seemed to work better than a double shot of espresso.
What that short drive also did was help plan a slightly longer excursion on better roads. On the weekend, I pointed the car’s nicely chiselled nose in the direction of Nasik, India’s wine capital. The wide, open roads up to the plateau, however, provided a another kind of satisfaction. Using full throttle here for longer periods transformed the Octavia 1.8 TSI into a completely different animal — it absolutely gobbled up the almost-empty highway.
The seven-speed, twin-clutch gearbox felt right at home on the open twisting road to Nasik, delivering plenty of snappy shifts. Paddle shifters, however, are sorely missed here; come on, Skoda, this car costs over Rs 20 lakh.
It certainly has all the grip and poise of a thoroughbred sedan. It feels rock-solid through long sweeping corners on the Kasara ghat, and it’s even super stable over broken surfaces. Yes, the steering is a bit light, but the kind of poise and positive turn-in it manages even under hard braking speaks volumes.
Our Octavia has been pampering backseat passengers as well. My parents, who usually don’t even notice which car they are in, really found the Octavia to be comfortable. My six-foot-tall dad was pleasantly surprised with the amount of legroom at the rear and noted that even the ride was very forgiving for the most part.
This is a car for those of you who know your onions. The 1.8 turbo petrol motor can swill a fair amount of 91 octane when pulled really hard. The build, though still fantastic, is not quite as solid as the earlier car, but all that is soon forgotten as soon as you drive it or experience the levels
of luxury it offers in the back.
Our first month with our new Skoda has been nothing short of fantastic.