Prepare to say hello to the returning Octavia brand name in India, sometime during this year. I say returning because after the first generation Octavia did enough to establish the Skoda brand in this country, it continued in time honoured Indian fashion even after its successor was launched in the country but badged with an altogether different model name, the Laura. This time round though, it is the Laura which will continue in the Skoda India line-up with an all new Octavia making its return to prominence.
It was also saying something about the rich automotive heritage of the brand that the launch event was held at the spanking new Skoda museum at Mlada Boleslav on the outskirts of Prague. Just under a couple of years ago this venue was just the old assembly facility but the designers had refurbished it massively to bring the technology, design and performance traditions of this Czech automaker to life in the most glorious manner. In fact among the front ranked VW Group brands, Skoda lacked a museum in the modern vein but just two weeks prior to the launch and reveal of the third gen Octavia the new Skoda museum was up and running and the Octavia's launch also highlighted the first real view of the museum to the rest of the world.
The third generation Octavia was already on everyone's minds when Skoda showed its Mission L concept during the VW Group Night on the eve of the 2012 Paris Auto Salon. Based on the VW Group's much acclaimed MQB floor pan and parts matrix, the new car is cleaner, leaner, better proportioned, even more roomier and larger but yet lighter to the tune of 102 kilos and in line with its time honoured price-performance proposition.
None else but Skoda CEO Winfried Vahland acknowledged how important the Octavia remains to Skoda. "Our aim was to make this car even better for its third generation and this is reflected in the values of the new offering." Who could have foreseen that what was essentially a small family hatchback almost two decades ago has now grown in size and esteem to challenge the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia set. In India, I can just see it stamping its authority on the class in which unfortunately also resides the brilliant VW Jetta! Yes pricing and value proposition would count just as much if not more in India as well and should help Skoda India to establish its foothold in the segment even more strongly.
Sober yet striking!
The new Octavia is the handiwork of Skoda design boss Jozef Kaban who has taken the cues already penned into the Mission L as well as in the new European Rapid where the finely chiseled look and character creases were applied in fine sync to endow the exterior with a finely styled look devoid of any adornments or embellishments. In fact, the manner in which it has grown longer (90mm) and wider (45mm) and yet the proportions are so finely crafted means that the 108mm longer wheelbase seems to have presented Kaban and his band the rare opportunity to carve out acres of cabin space with good ergonomics and aesthetics to boot.
Speaking of which the cabin is huge but hasn't compromised boot space, now able to take in 590 litres of luggage as compared to the 585 litres of its predecessor. In fact, one cannot but marvel at the short rear deck and the swoopy C-pillar pulled far backwards which disguises the large boot and as with all Octavias, this third generation model also delivers its own take on the large tailgate meaning that practicality hasn't been neglected at all.
There is a certain dynamism to the new Octavia what with the very short front overhang, that all new Skoda front face and the valences bonnet along with those deliberate bonnet shut lines which overlap the fenders somewhat on both sides. The dynamic window line ends at the rear with a finely crafted 'fin' which hints at a new pushy direction for the Octavia brand. If that's not all, the typical Skoda values remain intact but there is a more sportier yet elegant air about the car which is a very welcome aspect. The C-shaped tail lights and the clean and precise shut lines are another exemplary detail of this Czech offering and overall the verdict is that it is surely a very good move forward from the Laura, a.k.a. the second generation Octavia.
Space, space and even more space
While it might have grown in length and width yet has more cabin space, weight has been lopped off with intelligent use of high-strength steels to slash the fab without sacrificing the rigidity of the structure. Credit this to the magic letters spelt as MQB. This modular matrix of floor pans, suspension, and drivetrain integration has already been a major ingredient for efficient production of many new VW Group models like the latest Golf, the Seat Leon and also the highly acclaimed Audi A3 but for sure it isn't going to be the last. However Skoda's approach to MQB has been in keeping with its standout value proposition in mind and the results reflect this effort.
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