It's all business for the all-new Skoda Octavia wagon
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We’ve just had an exclusive first drive of the all-new Skoda Octavia RS. About 10 metres out of a woodshed (a modern-day barn find?) into the great-but-rainy outdoors for a quick photo session.
We’ve become used to virtual/static new-vehicle launches in the Covid-19 era, but it’s unusual to attend an event in person, touch the metal and still not be allowed to go for a spin around the block at the very least.
Covid-19 gets the blame for this Skoda situation as well, albeit in a different way. Skoda New Zealand was able to meet and greet the media in person this time. What it couldn’t do was get enough cars on the ground for a media drive, thanks to the constraints put on supply by the pandemic.
Skoda NZ currently only has nine Octavias on the ground and only one registered. The morning of the event was literally the first time general manager Rodney Gillard had seen the new car up close in NZ (the pair pictured here were delivered straight to the venue).
“Covid-19 has definitely affected the NZ market and it’s going to be a fluid situation regarding shipping, supply and componentry,” says Gillard. “There’s a lot going on.”
“I see this carrying on for a while. I’m calling it a ‘heartbeat pattern’: supply comes along and you get a blip. It comes in big rushes and then we have nothing for a while. There are fewer ships coming, production is reduced… it’s going to be challenging.”
A Covid-related global shortage of semiconductors (tiny circuit boards that help control electronic systems in all manner of consumer durables) has hit Octavia especially hard. Other Skoda models are not affected at the moment, but this newest one is. Because it’s new: upgraded technology and new control units for Octavia means there’s no real factory stockpile of the vital components.
Every Octavia allocated to NZ so far (there are another 40 arriving in April/May) is already spoken for.
Canterbury | Christchurch
$532.33 p/w $2,129.31 p/m
Canterbury | Christchurch
$128.99 p/w $515.95 p/m
“It’s a drip-feed scenario and basically, Octavia will be a presold model for us,” says Gillard. “Obviously when you launch a car you want to launch with volume. We’re simply not in that position.”
It’s an SUV world at Skoda (like every other brand), but Octavia still has a loyal following – especially the wagon, which is the priority for NZ (although the sedan is available to customer order). Sales dipped to 157 last year in the wake of Covid, but Skoda NZ reckons Octavia is good for a return to the 250-300 volume of previous years.
If you read our Golf 8 launch story last week you’ll be familiar with the Octavia powertrain lineup. The entry $47,990 Style (above, on the left in green) has a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre with eight-speed automatic, while the hero $57,990 RS (right, bright blue) gets a 180kW/370Nm 2.0-litre (same outputs as the Golf 8 GTI). Despite the power/technology upgrades, the RS is actually $2k cheaper than previous model.
Both are still FWD-only for NZ, although the RS gets Progressive Steering and the trick XDS+ electronic “differential lock” (it’s not really, but it achieves a similar effect).
The new Octavia is slightly longer, wider and taller than the previous model, with an extra 30 litres bootspace (640l total). There’s plenty of that “Simply Clever” stuff, like a false boot floor for flat load-though and Skoda’s signature Velcro brackets to help keep your cargo still.
Much of new Octavia’s safety and infotainment technology is also carried across from Golf. It’s a virtual world inside, with a digital instrument cluster and big 10in infotainment display standard across the range.
It's hoped that the big move upmarket for the entry Style - which has the likes of adaptive cruise control, full keyless entry including the power tailgate and wireless phone projection - will attract more private buyers to Octavia. Currently, around 70 per cent of customers are business/fleet.
There will be a replacement for the crossover Octavia Scout, but that's in the "to be announced" basket.
Supply issues or not, Skoda NZ has committed to launching more new models this year. It’ll get the jump on VW Group stablemates Volkswagen and Seat by introducing a new plug-in model in the third quarter, a Superb PHEV with 55km electric range and a combined output of 162kW.
An Octavia PHEV is due early in 2022, although the highly anticipated Enyaq pure-electric SUV has been pushed back to 2023.
Despite Covid-related issues, Gillard reckons Skoda is good for over 2200 cars in NZ this year – roughly equivalent to the 1600-1700 of 2019 plus as many as 500 police Superbs.
The police order situation is “fluid” as well, says Gillard, but the contract was signed off at Skoda board level in the Czech Republic and the factory has assured that police cars and parts will get priority over dealership stock orders (but not necessarily customer cars) going forward.
Police cars are a big thing for Skoda globally: there are over 23,000 on the roads in Europe, for example.
And yes, the Superb PHEV is used by law enforcement overseas and will be a discussion point for the NZ Police.
SKODA OCTAVIA WAGON
ENGINES: 1.4 and 2.0 turbo-petrol fours
POWER: 110kW/250Nm (1.4) and 180kW/370Nm (2.0)
GEARBOXES: 8-speed automatic (1.4) or seven-speed DSG (2.0), FWD
0-100KM/H: 9.1sec (1.4), 6.7sec (2.0)
ECONOMY: 5.7-6.6l/100km, 131-151g/km