Extended Test: 2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid review

Is now the time to buy a plug-in hybrid?

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2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate specifications

Model 70-reg Skoda Octavia iV SE L Estate
Price £33,605 OTR
Price as tested (with options) £36,426 OTR
Colour Moon White metallic
Cost options fitted Driver fatigue sensor £45; Metallic Paint/ Pearlescent £595; Park Assist £345; Rear-view parking camera with dynamic indicators £595; Winter Pack £480; Wireless charging £325; Skoda roof bars £210; Skoda bike holder £113 (x2)
Drivetrain 148bhp, 1,395cc, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine plus 114bhp electric drive motor and 13kWh li-ion battery
Transmission Six-speed DSG automatic, front-wheel drive
Power output 201bhp (maximum combined)
Torque 258 lb ft (maximum combined)
Kerb weight (with driver) 1,620–1,797kg
Max trailer weight (braked / unbraked) 1,500kg / 750kg
Boot capacity (rear seats in place / folded) 490 litres / 1,555 litres
Top speed 137mph
Acceleration 0-62mph: 7.8sec
Electric range (WLTP) Up to 37 miles
Official consumption (WLTP) 188.3-256.8mpg
Charging time (0-100%) 5hrs using standard household socket (10amp); 3hrs 33min using 3.6kW wallbox
CO2 emissions 24-33g/km
Road tax £0 for first year; £140 thereafter
BIK tax payable (2020/21) 6%; £403 (20%) or £805 (40%)
BIK tax payable (2021/22) 7%; £470 (20%) or £939 (40%)
Insurance group 21

Test details

Test period December 2020 – June 2021
Starting mileage 873 miles

Test updates

December 22, 2020 Introducing the Skoda Octavia iV Estate
January 25, 2021 What’s the Skoda Octavia iV Estate like to drive?
March 17, 2021 How spacious and practical is the Skoda Octavia vs rivals?
April 6, 2021 The good and not so good of the Skoda Octavia iV Estate

 

December 22: Introducing the Skoda Octavia iV Estate

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk

Skoda delivered the Octavia iV Estate on December 14 with a Christmas tree on the roof and a Christmas card inside (adorned with the lovely pun, “The holly and the iV”), which was a lovely touch.

We already had a tree at our house but my elderly mum, who lives alone and, due to Covid-19, is insisting on spending Christmas Day on her own, did not — so the car’s first duty (after its photoshoot) was a trip to ma’s, where there tree was erected. I think it has made her Christmas. Skoda may not be seen as the most exciting car brand in the world, perhaps, but it definitely has a heart and soul.

So what is the Skoda Octavia iV all about? Well, it’s a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), which means it can be driven on electric power for a number of miles before a traditional combustion engine joins the party, after which it works pretty much like a standard hybrid. In the Octavia’s case, it’ll go for “up to 37 miles” on electric power, according to the official WLTP test, though from day one the actual range indicated by the car is 25 miles, and that seems to be pretty accurate so far.

As with most other PHEVs, you can hold the battery charge at any stage, so that you can use it later. In my extended test of the BMW 225xe, I found this really useful for maximising efficiency — I used electric power around town before switching to hybrid mode and holding the battery reserve for a stretch of 50mph dual carriageway, then went back to pure-electric for the final stint through central London.


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Due to coronavirus I’m commuting far less these days, with many more short, local trips. That means I should be able to get even higher fuel economy out of the Skoda than the 79mpg average in the BMW, especially as it promises an extra five miles per charge of electric motoring.

The official fuel economy is an eye-opening 188.3-256.8mpg, but take that with a massive pinch of salt: the real economy will vary massively depending on how you use it. If you spend all your time on motorways the figure will be much lower — probably lower than you’d get from a diesel car. But imagine if you plug in every night and only drive less than 25 miles per day — in theory you could never use a drop of petrol.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk

Of course, you will want to venture further afield on occasion, and that’s where a PHEV comes in handy — no need to wait at charging points for a recharge on your family holiday to Cornwall; you can simply refill the petrol tank and continue on your way.

I’ll be paying close attention to my personal fuel economy in future posts, in daily running but also on long trips, as well as ease of charging and costs. It’s worth noting that government incentives for plug-in hybrids have ended, and new hybrids will be banned from sale from 2035 (they want us all to buy pure-electric cars now), but PHEVs can still make a lot of sense depending on circumstances. One thing to look at in the coming months is residual values, with all that in mind.

This is the Estate version of the new Octavia that launched in 2020, and comes with a choice of two petrol engines, both of which come with a mild-hybrid set-up for improved economy, but these can’t run on electric power alone. There’s a 2-litre diesel engine, too, which can be specced with four-wheel drive, plus a sporty vRS version of the plug-in hybrid.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - interior

All are based on the new VW Golf 8, and there’s an Estate version of the Golf, so we’ll compare the two alongside some other Estate rivals in a future post, looking at practicality and features.

And as with the Golf 8, the new Octavia’s interior has been dramatically stripped backed and updated with new tech — I’ll devote another update to all the infotainment features available, including the connected phone app.

We can also explore the Skoda’s unique features, including the ones marked out as Simply Clever. At least one of them could prove very handy as the temperature drops.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk

I’m delighted about being sent the Christmas tree not only for the tree itself but also because it was strapped to Skoda’s bike carriers, so I can let you know if they’re worth £113 each, too.

So. there’s plenty to talk about over the next six months, so bookmark this page and return for the updates.

In the meantime: Merry Christmas!

Mileage today 1,124 miles
Distance since start 285 miles
Average consumption 61.8mpg / 7.7 miles per kWh (375 miles hybrid & 26 miles electric)

As always with our extended tests, you can ask questions at any time via my Twitter account or the comments below.

 

January 25, 2021: What’s the Octavia iV like to drive?

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk
Skodas have been good to drive for years now, and the Octavia iV Estate is no exception. The ride errs on the side of comfort rather than sportiness (if you want that, there’s the vRS model), so you get suspension that brilliantly soaks up the worst road imperfections.

It also means that driving over a sleeping policeman doesn’t rattle your teeth or jar the spine, but you do find there’s more vertical travel at the nose and tail than some rivals (I’m thinking of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 estates, for example), and the springs continue to compress and rebound for longer than one might expect.

Having said that, this is no wobbly blancmange by any means (we’ve owned a Citroen C4 Picasso, so we know all about that) – the chassis control is good, and when you’re carting around a family, the last thing you want is a car that feels like it has no suspension at all. My wife’s current car is a Mini Countryman and that’s as stiff as you’d want a family car to be – the Skoda’s ride is better judged for a wider range of journeys, I’d say.

The malleable ride also means it’s a brilliant motorway cruiser – very comfortable on long runs. Vibration and harshness are minimal, and the engine is barely audible.

Wind noise is a hard one to judge at the moment as it’s hard to say how much noise is coming from the roof rack and how much is generated by the mirrors and other exterior design elements. For a while I attributed a whistling noise about 30mph to the mirrors before realising it’s much more likely to be coming from a bike wheel strap (or the like) above my head. I have a couple of work events this week in the Midlands, so I’ll remove the rack before I head out and report back next time.

As a plug-in hybrid, it’s most economical on short trips near home, running on pure-electric power, but a 238-mile return trip around the M25 and up the M1, combining the turbocharged 1.4 TSI petrol engine with the electric motor, returned 52.3mpg. That’s not diesel-beating but it’s much better than I expected.

After that trip I filled up at the petrol station, and have travelled 146 miles since, almost entirely on electric. The petrol tank is still full, according to the gauge.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - infotainment

There are four driving modes on my test car: Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual, which allows you to tailor the steering feel and engine to your preferred setting – I like a firmer feel to the wheel so put that into Sport, but for efficiency’s sake keep the engine in Normal mode. You can also adjust the cruise control and air condition in the Individual settings, and there’s a Chassis setting, through I’m still to find out exactly how that affects the car; the suspension isn’t adaptive on our test car(it has coil springs and regular dampers), so it must be to do with the electronic stability system.

If you opt for the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system, which is a £945 extra, you do get adaptive damping and as a result, there’s an extra “Comfort” driving mode.

If you’re wondering whether the Octavia iV has regenerative braking, which slows the car down by turning the electric motor into a generator when you lift off the accelerator, it does. However, it’s an automatic system connected to the cameras and GPS that adjusts the strength of the “regen” based on how quickly you’re approaching a junction, which means it’s slightly unpredictable. I find it’s always best to apply some brakes – that way you get smooth, consistent deceleration every time.

One of the surprising things about the Octavia iV is that, unlike other PHEVs I’ve driven, there’s no “Battery hold” button (that I’ve so far discovered, at least). These, as you’d expect, hold the battery level at a specific amount and switch a car into hybrid mode. This means that when you approach a residential area, you can be sure you’ve got enough battery to drive through emission-free. It’s especially useful when you know you’re likely to enter a zero emission zone (ZEZ), which have been proposed in areas of London.

But there is a way to do it in the Skoda: by unticking the ‘Auto’ box in the Drive Mode menu on the touchscreen, you can set a desired battery level. If you have more battery than required, the car will keep running in electric until it reaches that level, then switch to hybrid and hold that amount of charge in the battery. If there’s not enough charge in the battery, the petrol engine will work as a generator and top it up to the specified amount. Which is good, but a simple Battery hold button would still be useful.

It’s been interesting driving the Octavia iV following recent snowfall, as I noticed the petrol engine firing up even when it had plenty of battery. I had wondered if this was because it was cold outside (-1 degrees C at the time), but Skoda says it will only automatically switch from electric to hybrid modes if the temperature dips below -10 degrees, so it was likely a bit of wheel slip on ice that caused it.

Obviously when driving on ice, four-wheel drive is preferable, but the Octavia managed my lockdown-allowed trip to the Tesco Metro without feeling like it was out of control, even on a particularly treacherous road and without winter tyres, thanks to the electronic stability system, which I knew from the twinkling lights on the dashboard was working overtime.

I put my foot down a couple of times to check the response of the traction control, which laughed off my foolishly heavy right foot and returned maximum possible acceleration, rather than spinning the wheels pointlessly. I also braked hard and found the anti-lock braking system kept the car pointing straight and true. It really was sheet ice on that road, I realised at that point, as it took an age for the car to stop, even from 15-20mph.

I’ve waffled on for too long but here are a couple of other observations about driving the Skoda Octavia in sub-zero temperatures.

One of the “Simply Clever” features of Skodas is the ice scraper fitted inside the fuel filler flap, but it’s not a push-to-open flap – it’s electric, with a button in the driver’s door, and when I pressed it the ice around the seal was holding it firmly shut. I had to run a credit card around the gap to release it. Fortunately the charging port is push-to-open.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - fuel cap ice scraper

The other thing is that there’s no quick-clear windscreen demist, so it takes a while to defrost the windows fully. Some electric cars, like the Renault Zoe, have heat pumps that warm the cabin very quickly but when you start the Octavia iV, with electric mode as the default, heat comes slowly.

I’d pre-condition the car’s interior using the Skoda app, but I’ve had a hell of a time getting it set up (for a future update), and in the end found that you need both keys to do so. Which means I’ve arranged to stop by Skoda’s press garage tomorrow en route to another car launch, to borrow the spare key and get it sorted.

Mileage today 1,296 miles
Distance since start 423 miles
Indicated long term consumption 149mpg / 23.7kWh/100km (2.63 miles per kWh)
Petrol fill-ups since test began One (tank still full, 146 miles after last fill-up)

As always with our extended tests, you can ask questions at any time via my Twitter account or the comments below.

 

March 17, 2021: How spacious and practical is the Skoda Octavia iV vs rivals?

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - combi boot luggage trunk space

I had wanted to write about the fuel economy in this update, and include information about how much my electricity bill has increased (and how many kWh I’ve been pumping into the car), but apparently Green Network Energy closed down in January. It’s being taken over by Eon but I haven’t yet got a login for the online account to view my energy statements, so change of plan: let’s talk about practicality.

The previous Octavia estate was known for the roominess of its boot versus rivals, and the new one is even more impressive: boot space is up from 610 litres to 640 litres with the rear seats in place. But the iV version is compromised here, with very little in the way of underfloor storage under its hatchback, due to the packaging of its plug-in hybrid powertrain. Lift the flat floor lid and there’s a cubby big enough for two charging cables and not much else.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - boot cable storage

Its total of 490 litres up to the shelf (with the rear seats in place) is actually slightly less than is offered by the Fabia Estate (530 litres), which is in the class below, but if you compare it to other similarly-sized plug-in hybrid estate cars, it fares much better (see table below).

Price from Overall length Boot space (seats up)
Kia Ceed Sportswagon PHEV £30,540 4,605mm 437 litres
Skoda Octavia Estate iV £32,185 4,689mm 490 litres
Mercedes C 300 e/de Estate £42,069 4,702mm 315 litres
BMW 330e Touring £41,530 4,709mm 410 litres
Volvo V60 T8 TwinEngine £45,230 4,761mm 529 litres
Peugeot 508 SW £36,545 4,778mm 530 litres

And 490 litres is still a healthy amount of boot space: I’ve found there’s plenty of room for even the biggest of grocery trips (we won’t talk about how the last one came to more than £200).

The problem, actually, is bags falling over due to the long, wide space back there, which is where Skoda’s multiple bag hooks (two on each side) come in handy, along with the optional cargo net, which you’ll remember was supplied with the test car. The net comes with hooks that can be attached to the luggage loops in the four corners of the boot, or clipped directly onto a number of smaller toggles.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - boot seat release

Also in the back of our test car is a 12v (cigarette lighter) socket, which is good because for some bizarre reason Skoda has decided to remove them entirely from the main cabin, where all you’ll find is a number of USB-C sockets.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - wireless charging pads

If you have a dash cam, that could prove a problem, and I spent some time complaining about it on Twitter before some people suggested I get a USB cable for the dash cam instead. Haven’t tried that yet but, assuming my Nextbase can be powered that way, there’s the convenience of a USB-C socket behind the rear-view mirror. That would make the cabling situation a lot tidier without having to hardwire the unit or tuck the power cord behind the car’s trim.

More frustrating was the lost time I spent trying to inflate the car’s tyres (after I received a warning on the dash). Again after much ranting on Twitter I was informed about the 12v socket in the boot by a helpful follower (to be fair to me, I had been told by a spokesperson there was no 12v in the car at all).

Further frustration set in when I found that my own tyre inflator’s cable was too short to reach the front nearside wheel, so I had to unpack the model supplied under the boot floor with the puncture repair gunk. A simple job made difficult, and my thoughts are with anyone who finds this all out after a puncture while in the middle of nowhere, at night, in the rain.

Let’s get back to some good features of the car, though. These are Skoda’s Simply Clever features:

– Two smartphone storage pockets on the front seatbacks
– Automatically retractable load cover
– Sleep package
– Electrically retractable tow bar
– Funnel integrated into the lid of the windscreen washer tank
– Storage compartment in the front doors with umbrella or snow brush
– Boot nets with convenient net opening SigmaQuick
– Retractable sun blinds for the rear side windows
– Water channels on the windscreen
– Electric tailgate incl. Tip-To-Close function and virtual pedal
– Multifunction storage pocket
– Easy-Open cup holder
– Double-sided boot liner
– Tablet holder on the headrests and for the rear armrest
– Ticket holder on the driver’s A-pillar
– Waste bin in the door trim
– Holder for multimedia devices
– Bag hooks in the boot
– Cargo fasteners in the boot
– Holders for 1.5-litre bottles in the front and rear doors
– Ice scraper in the fuel filler flap with a tyre tread depth gauge
– High-vis-vest storage in every door
– Electric child safety lock
– Storage compartment for the load cover under the false boot floor
– Removable ski bag

Before I finish, you’re probably wondering about space for rear passengers. Adults will find they’ve a good amount of room in the rear bench compared with a family hatchback such as a VW Golf or Ford Focus, though taller front occupants will need to slide their seats forward a touch to make things comfortable.

2020 Skoda Octavia iV Estate plug-in hybrid long-term review by Will Dron for Sunday Times Driving.co.uk - rear seats

I have had to do this when my children are in the back, using their child seats, though I am 6ft 5in tall, and it doesn’t make things uncomfortable – just a little less than ideal. If you’re a normal sized human being, you’ll find this car is an excellent blend of space, size and practicality.

Mileage today 2,079 miles
Distance since start 1,206 miles
Indicated long term consumption 103mpg / 14.6kWh/100km (4.25miles per kWh)
Petrol fill-ups since test began Two (tank at 80%)

As always with our extended tests, you can ask questions at any time via my Twitter account or the comments below.

April 6: The good and not so good of the Skoda Octavia iV Estate

The Octavia iV has been part of the family for long enough now for the best and worst of it to have been revealed. He are the things the things that I like and the things that I like and don’t like about four months with the car.

The good

Fuel economy: Officially it’s 188.3-256.8mpg but getting anywhere near that will be unlikely if you ever plan to take the car on the motorway. Last month the fuel economy was reading 103mpg over the previous 400 miles or so but a trip up the M40 recently has brought that down to 74.9mpg today.
Ride quality
Comfort
Charging port light
Space and storage
Interior design (lack of 12v socket aside)
High specification
Safety tech
Convenience tech, including the speed limiter if you’re on run-flats or a space-saver wheel
Low running costs (esp BiK)
Keyless entry on all door

Problems with the Skoda Octavia
Key badge breaks
Can’t get the app to work.
Bag hooks in the boot or too low.
The rear parking cameras sometimes doesn’t work is going to black screen.
There’s no 12 volt socket in main cabin. There’s only one in the boot.
The cruise control is behind the main steering wheel rather than on it
Predictive regen
takes a few seconds for the infotainment system to warm up.
the rear tailgate isn’t electric.
The fuel filler cap freezes in sub zero temperatures
Price

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