The price to pay is that this latest Skoda also remains far from being The Drivers’ Choice.
Glitzy scrollers on the steering wheel and slick touch-points elsewhere in the cabin – the door handles genuinely look as though they could have come out of a Type 57 Bugatti – demonstrate where Skoda has chosen to spend its money, and perceived quality is high.
More than almost any other, the brand knows its customer base, but this doesn’t change the fact that the steering and gearshift action are then wholly light and inert, almost to the point where it impinges the accuracy of your inputs. Turning into a bend can feel a little like that phantom extra step you weren’t expecting at the bottom of the stairs.
Like almost any modern hatch, the car can be hustled effectively and safely, and this petrol engine is willing, but the Golf is more assured on the move, the Leon marginally more involving and the Focus simply in another galaxy of satisfaction. At least the Octavia is noticeably refined at a cruise, where its well appointed, well isolated and airy cabin defies the low asking price, and where this 1.5-litre TSI returns more than 60mpg. TDI versions will do better still.
Aside from the insipidness of the driving experience, the sensibly sized Octavia is mostly vice-free and truly would, as the cliché goes, slip into anybody’s life with barely a ripple. But there are two irritations that need mentioning.
This is a now-familiar complaint with the last generation of VW Group wares, but the lack of physical switchgear for the infotainment irks. Simply, your eyes need to fully leave the road in order for your hands to make any meaningful adjustments.
The other complaint is minor, but on the standard passive suspension the Octavia can be brittle on poorer surfaces in a way that each of the other cars referenced in this review are not.
Skoda’s optional Dynamic Chassis Control dampers might improve matters, though strangely they’re not available with the 1.5-litre TSI or the 114bhp 2.0-litre TDI. Higher-ranking models fitted with multi-link rear suspension rather than this car’s torsion beam should also fare better. Go for both and it could well be a case of problem solved.