► CAR lives with an Octavia Estate
► Plenty of technology to test
► A-ff-C reports on life with the new Skoda
Keeping up with the Joneses has never interested me much. But that's clearly not the story at Skoda, where the tech message is: if you want to get ahead of them, you'd better buy an Octavia Estate.
It boasts five USB ports, but not as we know them; these are Type-C ports and, to the ff-C clan, about as much use as an ejector seat in a helicopter. A quick rummage round the homestead unearths three laptops, four diverse mobile phones, two iPads and one much fought-over PlayStation, all serviced by a veritable snake's kindergarten of cabling universally tipped at one end with a USB Type-A fitting.
Apparently Type-C stuff has been around a while now, and I'm sure there are plenty of thrusting young executives with wafer-thin-mint-proportioned laptops who would settle for nothing less. But I know a woman who'll settle for nothing less than being able to recharge her phone in the car, so the first thing I did on climbing aboard the Octavia was to climb straight out again and buy an adapter. Or four...
Having thus landed the tech Luddite custard pie with some vim, this SE L First Edition Octavia proves altogether kinder, and often rather clever, with the rest of its standard equipment list.
Please welcome, then: an umbrella – Rolls-Royce-style – in the driver's door; an ice scraper under the fuel filler cap; mobile phone pockets on the front seatbacks; a funnel built into the screenwash tank lid; storage space for the luggage cover under the load-space floor (much to the disappointment of our shed); and four curry hooks built into the side walls of said load space to stave off the world's biggest emergency slop.
The VW Group Virtual Cockpit is endlessly configurable, but the Classic format does the job well. With a digital speed read-out writ large in the middle, it rather negates the £690 optional head-up display, which the missus is only going to switch off anyway.
The infotainment screen is clear, fast and already infuriating. It may boast a touch slider along the bottom that can differentiate between one fingertip and two (volume and map zoom, since you ask), but scrolling through radio stations is fiddly even when stationary, hence destined to be a nightmare on the move.
'Laura', the voice-controlled digital assistant, sounds promising. I've yet to try her out, but we're assured she's bright enough to find me a decent curry in the area, and to differentiate between the driver's and front passenger's voices when responding to climate-control commands. Good job too, because the on-screen air-con control layout looks to be something of an intuition trip-hazard in waiting.
So there's plenty to explore and examine, just as long as everyone can find a USB adapter to plug in their phone.
By Anthony ffrench-Constant
Logbook: Skoda Octavia Estate SEL First Edition
Price £29,515 (£32,960 as tested)
Performance 1968cc turbodiesel four-cylinder, 148bhp, 8.8sec 0-62mph, 137mph
Efficiency 52.3-60.1mpg (official), 56.2mpg (tested), 123-141g/km CO2
Energy cost 13.8p per mile
Miles this month 342
Total miles 4038