BUDAPEST, Hungary - Skoda has given its Octavia a mid-life changeover and introduced a powerful new RS sport version.
While the RS will mark the top of the Octavia model line-up, the entry model now features a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder, 75hp engine, followed by a 1.6-liter unit developing 102hp.
Both engines are new to the Octavia range, but well known from other products within the VW group.
They replace outdated engine versions with the same displacements but less power. Also new is a 1.9-liter turbodiesel TDI with pump-injector technology delivering 100hp. This engine can be ordered only in combination with the 4x4 station wagon and with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Unchanged and still available are the well-known 1.8-liter engine with five-valve technology producing 150hp and the four-valve 2.0-liter engine with 115hp.
Two other 1.9-liter diesel versions stay in the range: one delivering 90hp, the other 110hp.
Skoda characterizes the Octavia facelift as 'evolutionary rather than revolutionary.'
Detlef Schmidt, Skoda board member sales and marketing, said the RS models would 'boost our image and raise the awareness of Skoda as a sporty brand.'
He said Skoda expects to sell 3,000 units per year, most of them on the German market. The price of the RS has not yet been disclosed.
'We wanted to maintain the well-recognized Skoda face, first introduced at the launch of the all-new Octavia in 1996. We have no intention of changing it,' said Wilfried Bockelmann, board member technical development.
The front face is characterized by slightly bigger headlamps with clear glass. The typical Skoda grille has been slightly adapted.
Interior modifications allow 22mm more legroom in the back without reducing luggage space (528 liters).
The extra space has been created by changes in the rear seats' metal frames and upholstery.
Three interior trim levels are available: Classic, Ambiente and Elegance, with the German market base model starting at DM 26,380 (E13,490).
'The Octavia is an unrivaled success story', said Schmidt. 'Last year we sold 145,000 units, which means sales tripled in two years.'
The new Octavia RS is inspired by the Skoda rally car. The RS will go on sale in January 2001 in all European markets. At the moment Skoda only plans a sedan version.
Although Skoda sells the Octavia in 67 countries, the main market remains western Europe with 97,300 sales last year.
'The Octavia offers our new, demanding customer groups the possibility to climb up into a higher vehicle segment,' he said. 'For us the car represents the continuous rise of the Skoda brand image.'