So, the Skoda Octavia. One of those cars that flies under the radar, but when you take a really good look around, you’ll see more of them than you ever expected.

We do love the Octavia here at DriveLife; Rob reviewed it last in 2017 and gave it a 4.5 rating. Disclaimer though, he is a Skoda fan and did own a heavily modified Octavia for a few years. That car went all over the country and took part in events like the Gumboot Rally. Needless to say, he enjoyed his Octavia, and enjoyed the Gen3 model he tested.

For 2021, Skoda has upped the ante for the Gen 4 Octavia, and have not just facelifted the car but added some serious tech as well. We headed to a very wet Auckland to get the low-down on this new model.

SKODA NEW ZEALAND ROUND-UP

But first up, we heard from Rodney Gillard, General Manager of Skoda New Zealand. He went on to say that due to Covid 19 in New Zealand, demand for Skoda cars outstripped supply, finishing March with just 7 cars in stock for the whole country, and for the last 3 months before only 10 cars in stock. It seems that supply is dictating sales figures for Skoda at the moment.

“We see supply issues going on for a while yet. General automatic supply in New Zealand will be challenging,” he said. “Supply is coming through in big rushes then nothing for a while.”

Regardless, Skoda grew its New Zealand market share in 2020 even with those supply issues and C19. “We are getting close to 2% market share, when including police orders of the Superb.”

In 2020, Skoda NZ sold 1,200 units, but the forecast was 1,700 before COVID hit. In 2021 they are expecting 2,200 based purely on factory supply, not market demand. There’s also a global semiconductor and chip shortage, but for Skoda the only vehicles affected by this is new Octavia. It’s down to componentry he says – the new tech in the Octavia due to different components that Skoda don’t have in stock compared to other cars.

For the Octavia launch in Auckland today, “we didn’t even know if we could get one or two cars to launch with,” he adds. Luckily, there were two cars – a Style and an RS model – the only models to be sold in New Zealand at this stage.

Rodney went on to say that every single Skoda model coming into the country is pre-sold, and the Octavia will be the same. “We have 40 Octavias over the next few months to land. We wanted to launch a car with volume but that’s not possible at the moment.”

SKODA AND THE NEW ZEALAND POLICE

The new Superb police car was unveiled on Monday in Wellington by the Police, with initial stock arriving in May. “We are very proud to represent the NZ police,” says Rodney.

The head office, Skoda Auto, sees the Police fleet as a primary supply chain, so supply for police will not be an issue. And thankfully, the Superb does not have issues with semiconductor supply either.

Why does Rodney feel that Skoda and the Superb won the police contract? “Our cars are so good, they are like a hidden secret. I believe police will be unlocking that.”

Police business worldwide is already a big part of Skoda, so supplying a police force is nothing new for the brand.

What about servicing? “Together with NZ Police, we are unveiling a partnership for this. This will include hard-to-get areas where we don’t have a presence. These remote areas will not be a Skoda service centre, they will be a police car service centre. We need to keep in mind that this is a long-term partnership. We will learn and we will make mistakes. The police also have a new team to manage the fleet.”

There are going to be some challenges, he admits, and they will learn as they go.

In regards to the specs of the Police Superb cars, there is 30Kg of extra wiring, and 200Kg of total gear extra to haul around. They’re expecting the first roll out of 101 cars by end of July, with the first shipment carrying 134 cars. There will be another delivery of 386 before the end of the year.

To allow for supporting the police and their Superbs, there’s been a massive increase in parts in stock to allow for police contract, that increase in parts held going from 300 lines to 11,000. The police have also requested extra stocks of door handles, headlining and seats.

The Kodiaq is still in discussion with Police and was apparently evaluated and fared well in the Police decision process.

Octavia RS

2021 – OTHER SKODA LAUNCHES

2021 will see a few new models for Skoda in this country. There’s a new facelifted Kodiaq in Q4, Rodney mentioning that “It’s instrumental to our brand and it’s our number one selling car in New Zealand.”

There’s also the launch of the Skoda Superb iV this year. This means that the first Skoda plug-in hybrid (PHEV) will be available for sale in Q3 of this year in New Zealand. It will have a combined power output of 160kW with a 1.4 turbo petrol engine and a hybrid system. EV-only range is expected to be around 55Km. New Zealand Police may consider this vehicle, and the UK Police are already using this model. Skoda in New Zealand have already had over 1,200 enquiries for this model.

They’re expecting an Octavia PHEV early 2022.

Octavia Style

2021 OCTAVIA: “DESIGNED IN EUROPE, MADE FOR NEW ZEALAND”

Next up was Leigh Bedford, Product and Planning Manager for Skoda NZ. He covered off the new Octavia, mentioning that it was Skoda’s highest-selling model globally (in New Zealand it’s the Kodiaq).

It’s also the oldest name plate for Skoda, starting in 1959. To date over 6.5 million Octavias have been sold, with over 2.5 million of those in the Gen 3 model range, from 2012-2020.

We’ll only get two models in New Zealand, the Style and the RS, both wagons. A sedan will be available on special order through a Skoda dealer.

There’s a host of new features, like an optional ($1,900) heads-up display, shift by wire (no gear lever), Certified Ergonomic Seats options, Travel Assist, a 10” infotainment with touch slider, and Exit Warning. There’s also 3-zone AC, an electric park brake, two new steering wheels, sun blinds for the rear side windows, 5 USB ports, Qi wireless phone charging, and a 360-degree camera. Many features are common across both the Style and RS models, meaning the Style model is very well equipped.

In the flesh, the new Gen 4 Octavia is more angular, has narrower LED headlights, and Skoda have added a ‘Tornado’ line down the side of the car, from the bonnet to the taillights. There’s also aerodynamic roof rails, helping the car achieve a drag coefficient of 0.026.

The new car looks a lot bigger than the previous gen; it’s 22mm longer, 15mm wider, 3mm higher, and has an additional 30 litres of boot space, taking it to a total of 640 litres and an impressive 1,700 with the back seats folded.

The entry Style model has LED headlamps, with full, active-LED matrix on the RS, which also has LED rear lamps. A cool feature is that the active-matrix headlamps also work on dipped beams.

Leigh went on to say that there’s a “Whole new interior concept”, mainly from using shift by wire and so opening up the centre console area. Inside, there’s now LED ambient lighting, a 10” tacked-on display, and digital-only AC controls. The RS model has an Alcantara steering wheel and instrument panel, and a 3-spoke steering wheel instead of 2 spokes. There’s some other changes too, listed further down.

Both models have a virtual cockpit dash, allowing some customisation. Seats are a highlight, with front seats heated in both models. Both models also have a heated steering wheel. You can option in some Certified Ergonomic Seats, price TBA. These are heated and ventilated, have a massaging feature, and are apparently even more comfortable than the standard seats.

Octavia RS

Travel Assist makes an appearance on both models: Hitting this button on the steering wheel changes the central screen to show other traffic, switches on lane keeping assist, turns on adaptive cruise control, and also Traffic Jam Assist at lower speeds. Adaptive cruise control is standard, and will bring the car to a stop.

The tailgate is electric on both models, with a ‘virtual pedal’ (hands-free opening) on both models.

Qi wireless phone charging is also standard, and is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enabled. This means you can use the Qi wireless charger and also use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto without the need of a USB cable.

As mentioned, a HUD is optional ($1,900) for the first time in a Skoda. This includes a snow mode, so the text changes to blue so you can still read the HUD in snow. Not essential in New Zealand, but very cool.

The infotainment system now includes gesture control, a proximity sensor, and has a touch slider for adjusting volume. The screen is mounted higher than the previous gen to make it safer to use, but is a tacked-on style instead of being integrated.

Laura Digital Assistant voice command system is also standard; Laura uses normal English, so you don’t have to remember set commands to tell her. I took the Style model (the only car registered of the two we could look over) for a bit of a short drive, and she changed the temperature no problem, using normal language. She is activated by saying, “Ok Laura”.

Octavia Style

DRIVETRAIN

There are 2 engine options for the new Octavia. The Style model has a 1.4-litre, 110kW/250Nm petrol-turbo engine that will use fuel at 5.7L/100Km, and gets you to 100Km/h in 9.1 seconds. Interestingly, Skoda have dumped the DSG for the base model and instead it has a straight 8-speed automatic. I didn’t drive the car very far, but it already feels so much smoother than a dual-clutch automatic (DSG or DCT) at lower speeds.

Buying an RS model will get you a 2.0-litre petrol-turbo motor, putting out 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque. This model uses 6.6 litres of fuel per 100Km and gets to 100Km/h in a sprightly 6.7 seconds. It has a 7-speed DSG automatic.

Skoda says the Scout will come at some point as yet unknown.

Pricing-wise, the Style TSI is $47,990, and the RS $57,990. The Style now has 9 airbags, and the RS has 10 – there’s an extra one between the passenger and driver. This is an option for the base model.

As mentioned, the RS has active LED matrix headlights, and it also has progressive steering, a front electronic diff lock, sports suspension, 18” alloys (17” on the Style), an electric passenger’s seat, and some other features we’ll cover off in a full review.

While it would have been great to get some decent driving in during the launch, it’s understandable it wasn’t possible. From the specs and a very short drive, it seems an extremely well-featured car. It was hard to believe the level of standard equipment on the base model.

Stay tuned for our normal feature-length review when we get new Gen 4 Octavia for a week’s driving.

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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