► Plug-in load-lugger offers big boot and electric range
► Ideal for private or company car drivers alike
► Standard iV makes more sense than vRS version
Some cars appeal to your head, while others grab you by the heart. Then there are modern Skodas – some of which start with the former but end up doing plenty of the latter, to a fairly unexpected extent.
Few will browse and configure an Octavia iV in the advanced stages of face-flushing lust, but it’s easy to find yourself getting a little hot under the collar at the idea of a handsome estate car with 43 miles of electric-only range, a ludicrously low benefit-in-kind tax rate, a handy 201bhp with which to get around and the promise at least of some very miserly fuel consumption.
This, smaller, iV (the bigger Superb launched first) goes about its business with the kind of quiet and classy competence that, in time, is likely to nurture a real if unlikely love for this hunk of smartly-creased, petrol ’n’ electric metal.
What’s the Skoda Octavia iV like to drive?
Under the hood is a 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder, an e-motor the other side of the clutch (housed within the twin-clutch gearbox) and, out back, a 13kWh battery that, in return for that decent all-electric range, steals some boot space and adds 135kg of weight.
On the road, the iV just works, blending quiet and refined (if steady) progress on electric power alone. The petrol motor feels reluctant to contribute in the best of PHEV traditions, so it’s easy to whisk around on quiet e-power without having to keep half an eye on the gauge to make sure you’re not about to inadvertently fire up the four-pot.
In more conservative drive modes the Octavia coasts forever too, meaning you can release the gas hundreds of yards before a roundabout or junction and roll up to it silently and efficiently. If you’d rather the regenerative brakes assist your deceleration in a more natural way then simply switch into Sport mode for one-pedal regen up to every traffic light and junction.
Handling-wise there’s plenty of grip and ride comfort, even if the car’s weight and soft set-up conspire to create a floaty sensation at times and a decent slug of roll should you get carried away, with nicely weighted and calibrated driving controls (abrupt brakes aside).
Does it work as a PHEV?
If your usage is textbook PHEV – off-street parking with a garage for charging (albeit on a three-pin plug) and daily short journeys – then, within those parameters, the iV excels.
Anything less than ideal conditions will see the fanciful fuel economy claim drop but you should get 55mpg at the very least, and in cold weather on a route poorly suited to EVs, we ‘lost’ around 20 per cent of the displayed battery range (covering 21 miles on 24 miles of range and 16 on 21 miles).
You can well imagine going months between fill-ups, so little work does the engine do if you exhibit a shred of restraint – a stern challenge on motorways, where the Skoda’s weight, drag and e-power limits you to a mobile-chicane 70mph.
What’s it like inside?
In the cabin there’s space, order, a touch-based interface you can work with and the unmistakable perfume of VW Group quality – the Octavia’s is a £35k interior that feels like a £45k one.
The Octavia has the least fussy infotainment system of its Golf/Leon/A3 siblings, with physical buttons on the centre console and clear, and well laid-out menus. Small annoyances remain – static home and menu buttons on the 10.25-inch touchscreen are a useful touch, but they’re positioned on the side of the screen furthest away, and fans of a physical volume knob will still have to retrain their fingers to the slidey arrangement now used across the VW Group.
In terms of PHEV-specific giveaways though the only obvious change is a battery level meter on the left-hand side of the digital cockpit where the coolant temperature used to be. Positioned opposite the petrol gauge, this gives a clear and instant view of your remaining fuel and charge.
Practicality-wise the iV loses little – the gargantuan rear legroom remains and the boot is only mildly inconvenienced, with the space under the floor taken up by the battery, and cable storage slot. The Octavia’s boot is so large anyway this reduction in volume is of little consequence, dropping from 640/1700-litres to 490/1555 seat up/down – the same as an Audi A4 Avant or BMW 3 Series Touring.
Like all plug-ins the Octavia makes sense for regular, reliable journeys within its electric range (which in fairness is usefully long) and the occasional longer jaunt on petrol power. Basically, it’s a great company car if you live 20-30 miles from the office, and still visit it five days a week.
Its ultra-low 6% BiK rate thanks to low CO2 and decent e-range means it’s good value for business use, although perhaps not so good as those willing and able to take the plunge into a full EV.
There’s also a vRS version of the Octavia iV if your heart craves a little more speed, body control and kudos. We think that the uprated plug-in powertrain becomes unresponsive and at times confused in a hot hatch setting, undermining the keen steering and chassis, though.
No, stick with the standard iV. And be prepared to fall for – of all things – a plug-in estate. Not exciting but classy, refined, a pleasure to drive.