It's been nearly four years since the current-generation Skoda Octavia made its debut in India. In that time, the car has sold largely without any changes and this is the first big update for our market. For 2017, Skoda offers sharper styling, an updated cabin and minimal mechanical changes from the 2013 model.
At first glance, the Octavia's new quad headlamp design catches the eye immediately. It might look a bit strange in pictures, but in person, the effect is rather cohesive and makes what used to be a very safe design now stand out. The smaller lamps merge neatly with the lines of the butterfly grille while the larger, outer lamps are reminiscent of the old Octavia's, but shorter. You now get adaptive, full-LED lighting with an auto high-beam function on the top two models. Complementing the new face is a reworked bonnet with subtly stronger character lines. The front bumper gets a minor revision and sports a smart chrome strip that connects the new LED fog lamps on either side, which also provide a cornering light function. The side profile retains the smart, fuss-free design of the original car, the only difference being the new 16-inch alloy wheel design. Larger wheels would have filled out the arches nicely, but at the cost of ride comfort. Like the side, the rear section is highly similar, but sports mildly revised LED tail-lamps and an ever so slightly different bumper. Blink, and you'll miss both.
Just as the new split-headlamps headline the exterior changes, the cabin is highlighted by one very noticeable improvement – a new infotainment screen. The inclusion of the new, 8.0-inch touchscreen display bumps up the premium feel in the cabin. The physical buttons on the old 6.0-inch display have been replaced by touch buttons which further increase the perception of the screen size. The high-resolution display offers good touch response, as well as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink compatibility. For those who prefer an analogue input, twin scrolling knobs below the display allow control over the touchscreen. The layout of the dual-zone climate control system is familiar and the entire section gets a new, glossy black trim that matches the large display while providing a nice contrast to the beige cabin. Other new bits include a sleeker steering wheel and a refreshed instrument cluster. The Octavia now gets a parking assist function that can be activated via a button ahead of the gear selector. The top variant also gets colour-programmable ambient cabin lighting.
Skoda continues to offer the choice of three engines and three gearboxes, all in the same state of tune. The stalwart 2.0-litre diesel produces 143hp and 320Nm of torque and can be had with a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG. Petrol buyers can choose between the 1.4 TSI and 1.8 TSI. The smaller engine produces 150hp and 250Nm and comes with a six-speed manual only. Those interested in more powerful 1.8 TSI can only enjoy its 180hp, 250Nm punch solely via a seven-speed DSG. We spent our time with the 1.8-litre petrol and, as expected, it shone with great smoothness, a strong mid-range and a hard-hitting top end. Mated to the quick 7-speed gearbox, this is easily the driver's choice in the segment.
Part of the reason why the 1.8 TSI is so nice to drive is that it continues to be the only Octavia with multi-link independent rear suspension. The suspension isn't stiff like that of a sportscar, but the Octavia still offers high levels of grip and poise when pushed down a flowing road. The smaller 1.4 petrol and the diesel both make do with a simpler torsion beam rear. While certainly not sub-par, this setup lacks the multi-link unit's level of control and is quite a bit noisier as well, something that can confuse you into thinking the ride is worse than it actually is. For this update, Skoda has increased rear track by 20mm for the torsion beam setup and 30mm for the independent suspension. Following customer feedback, the suspension has also been softened slightly for improved comfort. Nevertheless, all three cars will delight the driver and they all offer excellent high-speed stability.
The new Octavia will go on sale within a month's time and prices will depend on the implementation of GST. There is a chance that prices could drop by up to Rs 1 lakh, or more. With that in consideration, the Octavia could start around Rs 15 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the base 1.4 TSI Ambition trim, with the top 2.0 TDI Style Plus priced at Rs 22-23 lakh. At these prices, the Skoda Octavia will remain the premium option in its segment, but this update does well to increase the car's appeal too.