On this summer holiday, I had a chance to try out the 1.6L diesel engine that is not available for the VW Golf in the USA. Make no mistake: I don't mind feeling the occasional kick in the lumbar region in our 2.0L Golf TDI (at least, when neither the cello nor the children are in the car); but it's obvious that the 2.0L is way too much for a car the size of a Golf, and I would have jumped at a chance to buy the 1.6L TDI if it were for sale in the US.Škoda Octavia of the Czech manufacturer, which shares a platform with the VW Golf, and does come with that 1.6L diesel engine. It is significantly larger than the Golf in all three dimensions. Its 4.57m length is closer to that of the VW Passat (4.77m) than that of and the Golf (4.20m), as is its general aspect ratio.
So it was very nice that the transmission was so forgiving. The steering wheel was, of course, on the right hand side of the car. We got befuddled by the map and lost our way. Lanes were narrow and traffic fast. In short, plenty of opportunities for the multi-tasking required for driving to break down. But the mellow transmission bailed me out every time I needed it to.
The kerb weight of the Octavia is nearly 10% less than that of the Golf. As I suspected, the 1.6L diesel engine has plenty of torque to move this car, loaded though it was with all four of us plus luggage. If I was at the front of a row of cars, it was because I was unwilling to get the car scraped on its sides (more about narrow lanes in a minute), or because we were lost - anyway not because the engine was labouring to keep speed.
We tend to travel light, and our luggage rattled around in the cavernous trunk, which could easily accomodate two cellos. The back hatch swivels at roof level, so once the back seats are folded down it's super easy to load in large pieces, a marvellous solution to the usual conundrum with sedans where the small trunk cover still prevents you from loading large pieces which can in principle fit in the car with the rear seats down.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. We are completely in love with Britain in general, and Devon in particular, and we'll take it, wild traffic and all. All this is just to say that for many of the miles on this holiday I've been in third gear, often slowing to second or even first, and on several occasions going into reverse when the only place to pass oncoming traffic happens to be behind me. Even so, at the final tally after nearly 900 miles, it transpired we had done 47 mpg in this car under these trying circumstances. That's about the average reported by British owners of this model car with this engine, but I'm sure I could do significantly better on home turf, in small-town USA where roads have two full-sized lanes and are wide enough for three, and driving styles are mellower.
The Škoda Octavia with the same 1.6L TDI engine also comes in a Greenline II version which has a suite of fuel-economy enhancing technologies; the equivalent package is known as Bluemotion for Volkswagen vehicles. This version gets a real-life 51 mpg as reported by its owners. Its higher price reflects unspecified upgrades in the trim level (compared to the S Hatch trim) that are opaque to figure out, so only some unknown fraction of the £ 1,475 price difference can be ascribed to the fuel efficiency enhancement technology.
IF this were the only way to get that sweet 1.6L engine (especially with the Greenline II option) I would buy this car. But I would retrofit the hatch so it doesn't open quite as high. Better yet, I would go for the Estate, or wagon, version which is a proper hatchback. But it would be too big. The truth is, what I really want is a 1.6L Bluemotion Golf. With its proven 52 mpg.
Škoda Octavia, Hatch and Hatch Greenline II
|Greenline II Hatch
|49.6 / 72.4 mpg_imp
(41 / 60 mpg_US)
|60.1 / 83.1 mpg_imp
(50 / 69 mpg_US)
@ 1500-2500 rpm
@ 1500-2500 rpm
|Trunk volume, liters(cuft)
|585 / 1350 L
|Turning radius, m(ft)
|Top speed, kph(mph)
|190 kph (118 mph)
|190 kph (118 mph)