Look down the best-sellers lists by European country for 2018 and after the Volkswagen Golf, one model stands out: the Skoda Octavia. Skoda’s compact car was the most popular model in four European countries: its home market of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, and -- most surprisingly -- Switzerland. Only the Golf topped the charts in more European countries at five, while the Renault Clio was the leader in three, according to market analyst JATO Dynamics.
The Octavia was the No. 11-selling model in Europe last year at 212,687, according to JATO’s figures. Because of the breadth of its popularity across Europe, however, the Octavia could lay claim to the title of Europe’s true people’s car.
The Octavia was the No. 2 seller in Finland, Hungary and Slovakia and finished in the top 10 in eight other countries, including sixth in Germany, Europe’s biggest market. The Golf was No. 2 in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK and finished in the top 10 in 10 other countries. Unlike the Golf and other strong sellers such as the Clio and Ford Fiesta, which get the bulk of their sales from Germany, France and the UK, respectively, no single country dominates Octavia sales in quite the same way.
The Octavia’s Swiss success is surprising in a country that generally prefers premium brands. Mercedes-Benz and BMW were the No. 2- and No. 3-selling brands, respectively, after top-seller VW brand last year in the market. The Octavia, however, beat models such as the Golf and Mercedes GLC to finish No. 1 in the ranking of top-selling cars.
The victory was due to its popularity with company fleets, Markus Rutishauser, editor of the official magazine for the Automobile Club of Switzerland, told Automotive News Europe. “[Fleet buyers] look for the best value in terms of quality and price,” he said, adding that the majority of Octavia customers buy the all-wheel-drive wagon version. Half of all cars sold in Switzerland in 2018 were all-wheel drive, according to figures from the country’s auto association, Auto-Schweiz.
Skoda describes the Octavia as “the most versatile model” in its lineup and adds that the car’s wide variety of variants is key to its strong appeal. Along with all-wheel drive, Skoda offers models powered by diesel, gasoline and compressed natural gas; multiple body styles; a performance RS (sold as the vRS in the UK) version, and the off-road oriented Scout wagon variant.
Price, however, is arguably the car’s biggest draw. Skoda touts the Octavia car as the largest compact in its segment, with all body styles offering trunk space comparable to models in the class above for a sticker price equivalent to -- or below -- compact rivals. Building the Octavia in the comparatively low-cost Czech Republic definitely helps Skoda keep the sticker price down.
European sales of the Octavia dipped 3.6 percent last year, according to JATO, but demand has held up remarkably well considering the current-generation model was launched in 2012. Since then, Skoda has manufactured more than 2.5 million units of the third-generation Octavia, the majority of them built in Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, but the car is also made in China, India, Russia, Kazakhstan and Algeria. Last year the Octavia was Skoda’s global best-seller at 388,200, double that of the brand’s next most popular model, the Rapid.