Skoda is gearing up to launch a true rival for the VW Golf and Ford Focus, the Scala, in the first half of this year – but the Czech manufacturer is also preparing a radical overhaul for its biggest-selling model and established family car, the Octavia.
The new Octavia should be revealed in the second half of 2019, with a public debut likely at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the autumn. The huge probable gains made by the Scala over its unloved predecessor, the Rapid, should gift Skoda with plenty of scope to upgrade the Octavia, its biggest-selling model globally. And insiders say the fourth-generation car is the personal ‘pet project’ of the firm’s CEO, Bernhard Maier.
Speaking at the recent launch of the Scala, Skoda’s board member for technical development, Christian Strube, told Auto Express: “Octavia is on the MQB platform, and that gives us more possibilities for the Octavia. We can also improve the next Octavia as we have improved the Scala.”
These upgrades to the Octavia won’t necessarily mean an increase in size. The Scala is already on the large side for a ‘conventional’ hatchback, so Skoda is unlikely to feel the need to expand the Octavia’s dimensions. We’d expect it to have the same wheelbase as the existing model, maintaining a useful advantage in rear-seat accommodation over its rivals.
The biggest difference could come in styling, which should feature plenty of sophisticated details. Expect these to include a more complex bonnet, with extra creases, as Skoda tries to add emotion to its already-established design principles.
The most notable shift could be in the Octavia’s side profile. As previewed in our exclusive images, the current rear design, with a long glass area and a slightly rising metal line, will be altered to give the new model more of a ‘coupé’ appearance.
In many vehicles, this would almost certainly result in a loss of practicality, but a deeper floor and better packaging around the sides of the boot are likely to lead to a slight increase in capacity – up to around 600 litres with the rear seats in place.
The engine line-up will focus on a pair of petrols, both well-known motors in the VW Group. The entry point will be a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol producing 114bhp, while at the core of the range will be the latest 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit, with cylinder deactivation on demand and around 148bhp.
Skoda might have been tempted to axe the 1.0 from the Octavia’s range – reflecting its positioning above the Scala in the line-up – but Strube said: “We won’t drop the smaller engines. We are not premium. Octavia will be a normal car for normal people – a smart choice.”
Despite dropping diesel motors from its facelifted Fabia, Skoda remains committed to the fuel choice in its larger models, so the Octavia will have up to three diesel variants, with 1.6 and 2.0-litre capacities and power outputs from 114bhp up to 187bhp.
This generation of Octavia should be the one that introduces electrification, too. Strube confirmed to Auto Express that a plug-in hybrid version of the car is all but guaranteed. It should stick closely to the specs of the Superb hybrid, which is due this year with a pure-electric range of around 40 miles.
There’s also the option, on some engines at least, of 48-volt ‘mild-hybrid’ power. This is likely to be make its debut on the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf, also due in the second half of 2019, and Skoda could well harness the tech’s potential on some of the Octavia variants as well. It’s conceivable that the firm will initially limit 48v to the 1.5-litre version of the car, preferring to keep the 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor (which can also use the tech) simpler and cheaper.
Within a year of launch, the model should get new generations of its vRS performance variants. We’d expect a couple of power options, and for the more potent edition to be the fastest Skoda Octavia yet, with around 261bhp.
The front cabin of the newcomer will get upgrades in materials, with higher-grade plastics accompanied by piano-black and metallic finishes. At the centre will be the latest evolution of the VW Group infotainment – developed by Skoda engineers for all of the brands – with a choice of screens. Basic S models may get a 6.5-inch display, but the majority of Octavias will come with either an eight-inch or 9.2-inch touchscreen, while the extra width of the car could allow Skoda to offer a larger display beyond that.
We’d expect the dash to also offer the ledge below the infotainment ‘tablet’, first seen in the Scala, where the user can rest their hand when using the display. High-end versions will be offered with a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument panel but, unlike with the forthcoming Mk8 Golf, Skoda is likely to still offer conventional dials (with a central digital info display) on entry-level editions.
A Frankfurt show debut will mean the Octavia arrives in UK dealers late in the autumn. Prices will rise slightly over the existing version, to reflect improvements in safety technology and infotainment; that should give the car a starting figure of around £18,000.
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