Skoda says the substantial upgrades to the new Octavia's quality, design and technology do not mean that the brand has premium ambitions for the compact car.
"We call it a smart understatement. We don't want to be premium," Skoda's head of design, Oliver Stefani, told Automotive News Europe.
The Octavia, which is offered as a hatchback and a station wagon, is by far the Volkswagen Group subsidiary's global best-seller, with 363,700 deliveries in 2019.
About two-thirds of that volume went to European customers, making the Octavia the No. 3-selling compact in the region after the VW Golf and Ford Focus. The Octavia is also Europe's best-selling station wagon.
Changes to the new model compared with its predecessor can be seen throughout. For example, the Octavia's rear lights stretch onto the tailgate instead of sitting to the side. "It's more expensive but you gain a lot in design," Stefani said. Inside, the high-end optional technology includes a head-up display, a second digital screen in front of the driver, and LED lighting offering 10 different mood colors. The materials are softer to the touch as well.
These high-quality features are what volume customers demand, said Christian Strube, Skoda's head of technical development. "If you look at Kia or Peugeot or Renault, they are all at quite a high standard and for us it's super-important that our car is equal to or even a little bit better than our competitors," he told ANE.
The Octavia also offers a range of electrified engines that help bring down the brand's CO2 footprint and also appeal to emissions-conscious fleet customers, who account for about 65 percent of the car's European sales. Leading the way are two Octavia plug-in hybrid variants that each emit about 30 grams of CO2 per kilometer. The models, which can travel up to 60km in electric-only mode, mate a 1.4-liter gasoline turbo engine with a 13-kWh battery. The top-performing Octavia plug-in hybrid offers 242 hp and will be part of Skoda's RS performance subbrand, (known as vRS in the UK). Two mild hybrid variants will be added later. Both will wear Skoda's e-Tech badge. At launch, however, the Octavia will be offered with a choice of a 1.5-liter turbo gasoline engine and two versions of its 2.0-liter diesel
Skoda claims the hatchback and the wagon are among the most aerodynamic models in the compact segment, further helping the cars' fuel economy. A 40 percent improvement in drag coefficient has been achieved by design tweaks such as adding intakes above the foglight surrounds that vents air across the front wheels.
Skoda says the Octavia has the largest trunk space in the segment. The wagon offers 640 liters of space, which is 30 liters more than its predecessor. The hatchback adds 10 liters to 600 liters. Both versions measure 4689mm long, an increase of 22mm for the wagon and 19mm for the hatchback.
Skoda's longer replacement cycles mean the previous-generation Octavia is now 8 years old, having debuted in 2012. Tougher regulations for crash testing and exhaust emissions have forced Skoda to boost the Octavia's starting price, but the automaker said customers will be compensated with extra equipment.
"In terms of content and what you get for your money, it will be equivalent to the current car," Skoda sales boss Alain Favey told ANE. He also promised best-in-class running costs. Said Favey: "It will be good value for money."