Skoda, so sensitive to the new Octavia using two totally different rear suspensions, didn’t mention the chassis in a detailed media briefing before journalists drove the cars at the press launch.
“We’re not trying to hide anything, it’s all in the press kit,” says Karl Gehling, VW’s communication boss. “We wanted journalists to drive the car to discover for themselves if there is any difference [between the torsion beam and multi-link rear suspensions]. If they’d been aware [of the torsion beam] beforehand some may have prejudged it negatively.”
Octavia versions with less than 110kW —the 103kW 1.4-litre petrol and 110kW 2.0-litre DTI — use a torsion bean rear suspension with coil springs and trailing arms, while those with more power — the 132kW 1.8-litre petrol and upcoming 162kW RS — employ the VW’s Group’s multi-link independent rear suspension. In Australia, all Golfs with 90kW or more — all models current on sale — employ the more sophisticated multi-link suspension. VW’s MQB architecture, that underpins both the Golf and the Octavia, has been designed to accommodate both systems; the idea is for cheaper models to offer the torsion beam set-up and more upmarket variants the independent suspension.
According to Gehling, after the test drive only one journalist mentioned the suspension and he presumed all cars use the torsion beam rear end.
After back-to-back testing of the two suspensions on a challenging section of launch roads, Wheels concluded that the multi-link offers a clear advantage in ride quality with superior compliance delivering improved initial bump harshness and more suppleness for the same relaxed road manners as the Golf. Not that the torsion beam cars ride badly, just that the driver is more aware of surface imperfections. Both cars handle well with mild understeer, plenty of grip and well weighted, and quick, electric power steering.
The compromise was an increase in tyre noise from the lower profile 225/40 R18 rubber fitted to the132kW Elegance, compared to the 225/45 R17 and 205/55 R16 tyres fitted to the Ambition and Ambition Plus variants.
The new Octavia is much bigger than the old car — wheelbase extended by 108mm to 2686mm (cars with the independent suspension are 2680mm, 50mm more than the new Golf) and length by 90mm to 4659mm — is now effectively a mid-sized car, though the entry level price of $21,690 is deep in small car territory. That’s $3300 cheaper than the RRP of the outgoing model and only $200 more than the notably smaller 90kW base Golf. Skoda offers both hatchback (it looks more like a sedan) and wagon variants of the Octavia in three trim levels, with the wagon adding $1300 to the price. The Ambition Plus begins at $24,490 and DSG-only Elegance at $32,190 for the 103kW version, $34,690 for the 132kW variant.