Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Skoda Octavia

Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Skoda Octavia
Years built: 2004 to 2013
Bodystyles: Five-door hatchback, estate

What is it?

It’s the one that finally, once and for all, stopped the jokes. Skoda’s one-time position as the regular butt of stand up comedians’ jokes is as legendary as it is now far in the past. Since the late nineties, when the influence of VW ownership truly began to tell in the Czech car maker’s products, Skoda has been turning out some very fine vehicles, but it was the 2004 Octavia that really helped the brand jump the species barrier from bargain bucket to respectable mainstream.
It is, of course, essentially a Golf underneath, which is much to the Octavia’s advantage. It means that the mechanical bits are largely bulletproof and easy to fix if they do go wrong, but no Golf owner will ever have known cabin space quite like the Octavia’s – it’s truly cavernous in the back seats and the boot is big enough to give some full-size MPVs a run for their money in terms of storage space. And that is without even mentioning the handsome, practical estate.

Which one should I buy?

We’d be tempted to say an RS. The 200hp petrol-engined RS Octavia (don’t call it vRS – that was a UK-only designation and it annoys the Skoda people here…) is basically a Golf GTI with a bigger boot. It’s pretty much as quick and as enjoyable to drive as the VW, but cheaper to buy and slightly more robust too. The motorway patrol police in the UK love their RS Octavias for plainclothes work, which is always a good sign.
At the more sensible end of the scale, the final facelift of the Octavia MkII in 2009 (you can tell it from the more stylised headlights) introduced the then-new 1.6-litre common rail diesel engine to the range and it’s probably the best all-round Octavia to buy. As powerful as the old 1.9 Pump Duse diesel, but with much lower emissions (Band A) and better fuel economy (sunny side of 55mpg) it’s also more refined than the older engine and doesn’t seem to suffer from the old air mass sensor problems that occasionally troubled that unit.
As always, we’re going to recommend an estate and the Octavia Combi is one of the most sensible family cars you can buy. The boot is utterly massive and if you fold down the back seats you basically have a well-upholstered delivery van. Better yet, it’s more handsome than the standard saloon-style hatchback. Rural dwellers should consider an Octavia 4x4 or Scout, both if which come with useful all-wheel-drive and extra ride height without the bulk or cost of a full-sized 4x4.
How much should I spend? Around €14,000 for a 2010 1.6 TDI common rail diesel.
Here’s one we found:
2010 Skoda Octavia Combi 1.6 TDI SE estate, SIMI registered dealer main dealer, 77,000km, one owners, €14,995
What goes wrong?
Dashboard rattles are common, and that’s despite the Octavia being generally regarded as a well-made, high-quality vehicle. Some bits and pieces of cabin trim can actually work loose altogether, in fact. All engines (with the exceptions of the rarely-seen 1.6 and 2.0-litre FSI petrols) need a cam belt change every 100,000km, or four years, on the button. The 1.4 petrol is notorious for snapping its cambelts, so perhaps a bargain 1.4 isn’t as good a buy as more expensive, but more robust, diesel.
The only other recurring problem seems to be with leaks. We’ve heard of owners complaining of door seals letting in water after heavy rain showers, while the washer reservoir can leak into the boot, so lift the rear carpet and check for damp or any signs of early rust.

Anything else?

I know what you’re going to say; don’t a lot of Octavias end up as taxis? Yes they do, and that’s both good and bad news for private buyers. Good news in the sense that cabbies tend only to pick the most practical, most reliable vehicles around which is a form of kudos for the Octavia. Bad news because, of course, taxis get driven all day and all night, racking up mega mileages and often suffering from badly worn interiors. Make utterly sure you do a full history and background report with Motorcheck before you buy, just to make sure that your prospective purchase hasn’t been a taxi in a former life.
There’s better news in the fact that Skoda’s recent success in the Irish market has led to a lot of Octavias starting their life as corporate fleet cars. Now, they cane as prone to abuse by careless drivers as any other car, but the good part is that companies tend to do all their servicing and maintenance on the button, as it pays off in residual value at resale time.
And don’t forget: For ultimate peace of mind, whichever Octavia you settle on, make sure you get its background checked out with