Our long-term Octavia has turned me into a bit of an extremist. Let me explain. Either I drive it as hard as conditions permit, or I potter around like a saint, selecting the highest gear possible: there is no in-between. This is because I am forever trying to balance the spine-tingling rush of power you get when you floor the accelerator with the need to allow the car to deliver agreeable levels of fuel economy.
This needs a bit of effort, some cerebral, some visceral. It’s not that the car doesn’t help you; it does. It puts out a ton of information; real-time fuel economy included, and that means it is constantly telling you what works and what doesn’t. So if you pay attention, there’s plenty to pick up. I’ve discovered, for example, that staying away from turbo lag is essential when gathering speed. Do this and the car doesn’t waste time and fuel while the turbo’s impeller builds speed. Almost every drop of fuel is used to deliver performance. Of course, once you are cruising, using the smallest throttle opening and the highest gear is essential. So, in everyday city traffic, I drive judiciously, the car delivering anything in region of 8.5 to 10 kpl.
When the opportunity arises, however, I boot it. There’s nothing quite like loosening the reins of the Octavia1.8 TSi on an open road — this is especially true if you’ve previously been driving with one eye on the fuel consumption display. The contrast between pottering around and really giving the engine its head is huge.
While initially it doesn’t feel mad or rabid, the rate of acceleration only seems to build as you go faster. So very soon there’s a much larger number up on the speedo than you expect. And then it just keeps getting quicker and quicker. Allow the 178bhp motor to wind hard all the way to the redline, in every single gear, and the Octavia has the ability to fray away the edges of reality. And the energy and enthusiasm are infectious — It simply transforms your boring everyday commute.
What’s even better is that this new Octavia feels wonderfully balanced even on tight, twisty roads, its size not at all a hindrance. Driving it out for a shoot feels like a treat. It may not feel as ‘connected’ as the earlier car, but its poise around corners, overall balance and general levels of grip come together so nicely, they elevate the driving experience. On a good road, you just want to keep going on and on, from apex to apex. The more I drive this car, the more I like it.
Of course, I’m enjoying all the little things as well. The abundance of space, the beautifully built cabin, the incredibly detailed touchscreen infotainment system and the ease with which the car seems to accomplish everything. Problems? Apart from the steering button that worked itself loose, absolutely nothing.
Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI DSG
Price Rs 21.7 lakh(on-road, Mumbai)
Test economy 9.0kpl (overall)
Maintenance costs None