When did everything get so sporty? Almost every carmaker these days is tailoring its more sensible family wares with a bit of added spice, and Skoda has been one of the cheerleaders of the faux-performance revolution. Sportline badged versions of the Karoq, Kodiaq and Superb have hit the ground running, and now it’s the Octavia’s turn.
Priced from £23,875 for the hatchback driven here, or £25,075 for the Sportline Estate, the usual racy trim level details apply. That means a set of black and silver 18-inch alloy wheels, sporty looking gloss black exterior trim, a small lip spoiler on the bootlid, LED headlights, a flat bottomed steering wheel and a pair of sports seats. The 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder driven here is the petrol option, and you can opt for a DSG automatic gearbox if you like. A 2.0-litre diesel with 148bhp is also offered.
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By and large it’s based on the mid-spec Octavia SE, but one or two additional pieces of equipment are thrown in on top of the styling and interior trinkets. Lifted directly from the big selling SE is an eight-inch touchscreen, cruise control, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, DAB radio and Bluetooth. Smartlink+ is also included, enabling Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
However, the Sportline benefits further, with navigation, integrated Wi-Fi and automatic wipers, going some way to justify the price. That makes it more than just a sporty looking SE – comparing favourably with the more expensive SE L car.
That’s said, you’ll find little to no difference in the way the Octavia Sportline drives compared to any regular member of the line-up, as there are no mechanical changes to go with the performance-oriented makeover. Perhaps the only tangible difference lies in the fitment of the Sportline’s 18-inch wheels, surrendering a bit of low speed ride quality on less than perfect tarmac. But it’s still comfortable and there’s little to suggest that families won’t gel with it.
Overall, the Octavia Sportline is a solid and sensible car rather than an exciting one to drive. Selectable driving modes are present, but toggling the car into Sport mode only induces a bit of artificial steering weight.
That’s said, the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine is good. Off torque it’s a little laggy, but above 2,000rpm there’s easily more than enough poke. Few will need any more power than this, it’s just not quite enough to push the Sportline into performance territory. At a motorway cruise it turns over at around 2,500rpm and is quiet, and 40mpg is easily achievable. The gearbox isn’t the strongest point however – it feels notchy and doesn’t shift all too cleanly.
The eight-inch touchscreen setup is bright, sharp and simple to use, and many may be tempted to spec the £450 optional 10.5-inch digital instrument panel, which serves up a dizzying amount of different map and instrument interfaces to choose from.
The new sports seats are wide and comfortable, though the headrests cannot be altered, and there’s not a huge amount of padding in them. Elsewhere, the materials and switchgear feel decent quality too, albeit they’re presented in a rather unexciting fashion.
It’s still such a practical car for the money though. The extended tailgate serves up a huge load bay, which sizes up at 590 litres. It’s way more capacious than the likes of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf or Honda Civic.
Ultimately though, will the average Octavia buyer be swayed? On a monthly PCP payment the difference between this newcomer and the 242bhp vRS is still fairly sizable, so there’s little danger of those with the cash for the Sportline being tempted to go for broke and get the flagship model instead. Alternatively the SE L, featuring the same equipment, is ever so slightly cheaper, but removes the sporty touches and adds partial leather and suede upholstery.