THIS will sound comical but I have just got out of a car where it seemed Big Brother was watching me!

The fictional character in George Orwell’s novel 1984 kept a sinister eye on everyone and that was how it seemed in the Skoda Octavia. As soon as I turned the ignition a message came up telling the driver not to press the accelerator when starting. Oh, sorry but I always do that.

Then I slipped it into neutral while following a stream of slow-moving cars downhill. Another message telling me not to do that either. Later I dared to open the window while driving and was ticked off for doing that as well.

Of course, there was nothing sinister going on, the messages that come up in the driver’s binnacle are all tips to improve economy, so good for Skoda. The company has always tried to show consideration for its clients and the telescopic umbrella stored under the passenger seat is another example of its caring nature.

Skoda has grown in stature over the last two decades and is doing particularly well at the moment. Being part of the Volkswagen-Audi empire helps but it has worked damned hard to build a solid reputation from the days when its cars were considered nothing more than a joke.

Octavia has played a big part winning over the Brits and is still Skoda’s best seller in the UK. At first Octavia carved a niche of its own sitting between VW’s Golf and Passat so it was the price of a Golf but nearly as big as a Passat. Now it is more into Passat territory, still offering good value for money and a huge amount of space.

Open Octavia’s tailgate and it is like looking into a cave. To give you an idea about what this car can take I travelled three up loaded with three sets of golf clubs and three power trolleys. Impressive or what?

Come to think of it Octavia’s boot capacity has always been the main talking point but this time it has been eclipsed by its engine. On the face of it the idea of a one litre petrol, with just three-cylinders, providing the power for a car of this size is barmy, isn’t it? I thought so.

One litre three-cylinder petrols are nothing new. They have been popping up faster than weeds offering an alternative to the small diesel, punching well above their weight on performance, economy and, more significantly, puffing out lower emissions. But they are generally used to power smaller city cars or superminis with a few family hatchbacks thrown in like Ford Focus and Honda Civic.

Surely a one litre can’t work in a five-seater Octavia, a car than transport three hefty adults and all their golf gear? The build up has hardly been subtle so you can guess the answer.

The first thing I did when the car was delivered was check the journey’s economy stat. Just over 50mpg at the end of 156 miles so an encouraging start. What I really couldn’t wait to find out was whether a one litre could haul this cavernous five-seater.

I got the answer within a few hundred yards. Octavia’s first job was to pull up a gradient from my cul-de-sac and that is when I knew this engine was something special. Three-cylinder engines are good for picking up at low revs and this was effortless and smooth with none of the putt-putt clatter from engines of the past.

For the next week a day didn’t go by when I marvelled at how such a small engine could provide such impressive performance in such a big car. Even Mrs Rogers, who normally finds things to complain about in test cars, could not hold back on her praise for Octavia’s sprightly performance.

And the 120 mile round trip to Bull Bay golf course on Anglesey yielded 52.4mpg. I think that just about covers all that’s good about this engine.

You do not hear many complaints about Octavia, yes the interior is a bit funereal but that’s the way it is when you are part of the Volkswagen quartet. Nothing flash, no creeks or rattles, and everything laid out with typical Germanic precision. The inset eight-inch touchscreen for navigation, radio etc is quickly mastered and the heating controls are separate. Just how I like it.

Octavia is a solid, safe buy, I would even go so far as to say it is one of the great family cars. And guess what, I stopped pressing the accelerator to start the engine. Well, I didn’t want to get ticked off again.

Key facts

Octavia SE Drive


1-litre TSI 6sp manual 115bhp

0-62mph 10secs; 127mph

48.7mpg combined

110g/km. 1st year road tax £150

Boot space 1580 litres max

Insurance group 14