First Drive

Skoda Octavia iV 2020 UK review

Unlike the days of the low-CO2 diesel tax specials that were designed to slip under the then magic 100g/km threshold, the Octavia iV is not wanting for performance in its pursuit of ultimate tax-friendliness.

It gets peak outputs of 201bhp and 258lb ft, and defaults to electric-only mode at start-up should there be sufficient charge. Select the hybrid mode and power will be best deployed as the car sees fit. On top of that are three driving modes to select through: Eco, Normal and Sport, the former of which saps a lot of power and the latter of which gives you all of it – so much in fact you’ll find yourself spinning the wheels with even moderate throttle inputs and not just off the line, so quickly is the chassis overwhelmed.

Best leave it in the Normal mode, where you can make smooth but brisk progress and transitions between electric and hybrid power is almost undetectable. That transition can be a bit more jerky when slowing down however, and also in more stop-start traffic when the battery is depleted.

Speaking of slowing down, the brakes need a much firmer jab than you initially expect, which takes some getting used to. As does the lack of any real regenerative braking when driven in the Normal mode; come off the throttle and the car coasts along pretty much at the same speed you came off the throttle at, which is a bit disconcerting. Only going down a hill really causes the car to intervene, unless you put it in Sport mode which adds in an aggressive level of regenerative braking. 

As for that electric range, on a cold November day we squeezed just over 30 miles out of the battery before it was empty. This is about typical with other plug-in hybrids tested for a drop-off of about 25% in colder weather, so we’d expect a figure closer to 40 miles when the sun comes out again. 

Dynamically, this is not a car to engage, and is geared more towards comfort and trying to hide as much of the extra weight as possible. The ride is passable; smooth and comfortable enough when the road is smooth enough but it doesn’t take too many abrasions on the surface to unsettle the car. Push on and all you’ll be met with is body roll and another memory of that extra weight. Gets the job done for its intended purpose, is probably about right in describing it.

The interior is anything but offensive. It’s a real high point of the car, feeling a big step on in both quality and technology for Skoda. It’s comfortable to be in over long distances and nicely laid out, but remember that those batteries in the boot mean a 150-litre penalty in luggage capacity. The 600-litre boot of non-iV Octavias stands at 450 litres here. 

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