Headtohead

SKODA OCTAVIA ELEGANCE 1.4T 4T

WORDS JAMES WHITBOURN

A FAST ’N’ FURIOUS FACE-OFF

SKODA OCTAVIA ELEGANCE 1.4T 4T

CZECH UPSTART

BOTH these cars are built on the VW Group’s MQB chassis component set, so they’re mechanically similar. At the chosen $34K level, they have the same 103kW 1.4-litre turbo four with a seven-speed dual clutch ’box driving the front wheels. They’re so similar the choice will likely come down to a buyer’s need for space. 17/20 TURBO twin-cam of just 1395cc musters 103kW and a low-down 250Nm in both cars. That’s the same torque as the 1.8 turbo available for $2500 extra in the Octavia Elegance (but only offered in the forthcoming Golf Alltrack). The Octavia drinks 95-octane premium, does 0-100km/h in 8.6sec and returns 5.2L/100km. 17/20 THE point of choosing a wagon rather than an SUV – other than setting your own image agenda – is that such a car with a lower centre of gravity will be a better steer.

The Octavia is fun to the point you’ll forget the kids are in the back, though its torsion-beam rear end can be thrown by mid-corner bumps. 15/20 OCTAVIA is renowned for providing lots of real estate for the money, and that’s especially true of this third-gen wagon. There’s just two millimetres between it and the Golf in length, but the Skoda’s longer 2686mm wheelbase means more legroom in the back. Door panel rubbish bin and A-pillar ticket-holder are clever touches. 18/20 THIS is where the Skoda departs from its rival, mainly because it has a torsion-beam rear end rather than the multi-link independent set-up under all Golfs that is much better at blotting bumps. The Czech wagon also feels like it’s been stripped of some sound deadening and insulation because it’s noticeably louder inside. 15/20

82/100

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 103TSI HIGHLINE

GERMAN ICON

EACH has a rear-view camera, front/rear parking sensors, a multi-collision brake system, a driver’s knee airbag, tyre pressure monitoring, auto wipers, sat-nav, a colour touchscreen multimedia interface (8.0-inch in the Skoda, 5.8-inch for the VW), Bluetooth phone/audio with voice control, cruise, dual-zone air and a cooled glovebox. 17/20 OFFICIAL claims show the Golf is slightly slower at 8.9sec 0-100km/h despite being 33kg lighter at 1312kg. Real-world performance is effectively identical, as is the economy figure (5.2L/100km) and fuel tank size (50 litres). More important than outright speed, the pair strikes a welljudged balance of effortlessness, fun and efficiency. 17/20 LIKE its rival, the Golf has electro-mechanical power steering; it strikes the ideal middle ground between feel and kickback-free refinement, with just the right amount of weight. More sophisticated rear end makes Golf a tidier handler, and its extended electronic diff lock delivers a helpful LSD effect powering out of corners. 17/20 GOLF cargo bay a bit bigger than Octavia’s (605 versus 588 litres), but with the 40/60 rear seatbacks folded, the Skoda wins 1788 to 1620. Both have storage bins under the passenger seat. Golf goes one better with one beneath the driver, plus plenty of cup/bottle holders. Golf’s Alcantara/ cloth trim as appealing as Skoda’s red-stitched leather.

THE Golf wagon, like the hatchback, is impressively quiet inside; a long-time benchmark of the small-car class. The wagon body amplifies a bit more road noise than the hatch, but it’s still damn good. Golf’s ride quality is superior, and not just because of IRS; the taller sidewall of its 225/45R17 tyres (rather than its rival’s 225/40R18s) also helps. 18/20

86/100

VERDICT

SUVs might be finding plenty of buyers, but we reckon wagons are cooler. Regardless, their relative lack of popularity means there are fewer to choose from than soft-roaders. Thankfully, the Octavia and Golf wagons offer broad appeal. The VW is hugely persuasive because it’s based on the classy and refined Mk7 hatch (the previous wagon was Mk5-based). There’s little reason, other than wanting more equipment, to choose the 103TSI Highline over the value-packed 90TSI base model. The Skoda stacks up well in isolation, and has space and individuality on its side, but it’s not as comfy or refined as the Golf, and is unlikely to hold its value quite as well.

POINTS SCORE

V PRICE & EQUIPMENT

20 POINTS

INTERIOR & VERSATILITY

20 POINTS

PERFORMANCE & ECONOMY

20 POINTS

RIDE & REFINEMENT

20 POINTS

STEERING & HANDLING

20 POINTS