Skoda Octavia Combi first drive: Practical pleaser

Skoda Octavia Combi Style 1.5 TSI e-TEC (A).
PHOTO: Low Fai Ming

Most drivers here find stations wagons to be unappealing.

This is odd. The majority of buyers always want a car that is practical and flexible. Yet they have no appetite for estates and instead opt for the ubiquitous crossover or SUV.

What a pity. Station wagons are probably the ideal car for most drivers. They offer tremendous versatility and generally speaking, deliver a far superior driving experience to an SUV.

It's not like there aren't any estate models available either. Brands like Audi and Volvo are known for their station wagons. Volkswagen used to offer the Golf Variant, and Hyundai has an i30 Wagon.

Perhaps what is needed then, is another relatively affordable contender like the i30 Wagon. If that is the case, then the new Skoda Octavia Combi could be what drivers are looking for.

Skoda Octavia Combi: Handsome wagon

Remove the badges from the Octavia Combi and most people might assume that this is a luxury model. Its profile is reminiscent of the Audi A4 Avant. The rear, when viewed from afar, could be mistaken for a Volvo V60.

The Octavia Combi is a good-looking car. Its simple design has lines in all the right places and its longer greenhouse makes it look sleeker than the Octavia.

Skoda Singapore knows that wagons do not sell here. But it says that it still wants to satisfy the small demand for the model.

The Octavia Combi is only available in range-topping Style specification. Get behind the wheel and you'll be surrounded by screens - a 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit and 10-inch Bolero infotainment system.

PHOTO: Low Fai Ming

Both have high-res graphics and snappy loading times. The latter lets you customise the home screen by choosing widgets. Most drivers will probably opt to display more widgets at the start, and delete the least-used ones over time.

Like its fastback sibling, the Octavia Combi also features multi-hue ambient lighting that lets you choose different colours for the dashboard/door panels and footwells.

ALSO READ: Skoda Octavia first drive: Czech-ing all the boxes

The Combi, however, has several features that the Octavia does not possess. These include Adaptive Cruise Control, Front Assist with City Emergency Brake, a variable boot floor and a panoramic sunroof.

The Octavia, with its fastback body style, already offers tons of space and flexibility. But the Skoda Octavia Combi takes this to another level.

PHOTO: Low Fai Ming

Open the tailgate and there are 640 litres to accommodate luggage for staycations. For longer items such as a full-size bicycle, folding the backrests nets you 1700 litres.

These figures make the already generous Octavia fastback, which offers 600 litres and a maximum of 1555 litres, seem a tad miserly. That said, the fastback’s boot aperture is larger than the estate’s.

Smooth-sailing

Like the Octavia, the Octavia Combi has the same turbocharged 1.5-litre TSI e-TEC engine with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Both cars have the same outputs of 148hp and 250Nm, and are paired to 7-speed dual-clutch transmissions.

The drivetrain delivers seamless stop-start performance and under the right conditions, enables the estate to “coast”. When the driver takes his foot off the accelerator, the engine is switched off and the car uses its forward momentum to “coast”, thereby saving some fuel.

When the accelerator pedal is depressed, the engine is smoothly and instantly restarted.

Interestingly, the Octavia Combi is more efficient, managing a combined average of 20.8km/L versus 18.9km/L for the fastback.

PHOTO: Low Fai Ming

Although the Skoda Octavia Combi and Octavia have nearly identical century sprint times (8.6 seconds and 8.5 seconds respectively), both vehicles have different handling characteristics.

The Octavia Combi feels more “mature” than the Octavia. It is not as lively, for its hefty panoramic sunroof blunts its eagerness to tackle corners. Speaking of heft, the estate weighs in at 1501kg – 47kg more than its sibling.

On twisty roads, the Combi feels less fleet-footed, preferring slower and more progressive inputs. Then again, perhaps this suits the car’s character as a load-hauler – you wouldn’t want your items being thrown about in the massive boot.

Though less agile, but the Skoda Octavia Combi has the same good ride quality found in the Octavia, which is what most drivers will want.

Promising potential

PHOTO: Low Fai Ming

The Octavia Combi could be the car that stokes buyers' appetites for station wagons. Compared to the Octavia, it is even better equipped, more useful and more efficient. Its sleeker shape also makes it more attractive.

The Combi's biggest minuses are its heavier kerb weight and less dynamic handling. But again, these are things that most drivers can live with.

If you're looking for a new car and are leaning towards an SUV or crossover, now would be a good time to pause and consider a different kind of practical pleaser.

Skoda Octavia Combi Style 1.5 TSI e-TEC (A)

PHOTO: Low Fai Ming

Engine: 1498cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged, mild hybrid

Max power: 148hp (110kW, 150PS) at 5000-6000rpm

Max torque: 250Nm at 1500-3500rpm

Power to weight: 98.6hp per tonne

Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select

0-100km/h: 8.6 seconds

Top speed: 224km/h

Consumption: 20.8km/L (combined)

Price incl. COE: From $137,900 (after $15k VES rebate)

Agent: Skoda Centre Singapore

ALSO READ: All-new Skoda Octavia and Octavia Combi launched in Singapore

This article was first published in Torque.