Skoda Octavia 4×4 | Shed of the Week

If you’re feeling a sense of déja vu right now, yes, this is the second Octavia we’ve had in the last month, but that’s not because Shed has been more distracted than usual by thoughts of taking his large package over to the postmistress’s place for a special delivery. He insists there’s method in his madness.

That other Octavia was a vRS hatch. This one is an estate, which means massive practicality. It’s a 4×4, which means massive capability on or off the road. And it’s a 1.8 TSI, which means massive – er, we’ll get into that in a minute.

At first, Shed thought this was an ex-police car, the main reason for this insightful deduction being the name of the selling garage, Ex-Police Car Centre. In fact, the vendors say that it isn’t ex-plod, which means we can shortcircuit the hoary old discussion about whether police cars are modified. Maybe the odd sneaky remap was done in the past. It’s rumoured that Volvo did that to at least some of its cars that were on the Constabulary Line. Shed thinks it’s an urban myth nowadays and that there’ll be people on the forum with more informed thoughts than him. 

So much for not having that discussion. Anyway, the Skoda is one of two non-cop cars on EPCC’s site, the other one being a black Jeep Wrangler. The rest of their stock is all in BIB white and includes an incredibly clean looking 2018 Discovery with 318,000 miles on it, a mildly pimped 66,000-mile 3.5 V8 110 Defender, and a Transit van that’s probably housed some real pimps in its built-in prison cell, which comes complete with a polite ‘Mind Your Head’ safety sticker. The cell can be removed, apparently, but for reasons that he isn’t prepared to go into Shed says he would happily take it as it comes. 

Back to the Octavia. ‘Using oil’ is a phrase you’ll see in quite a few TSI car ads. At least, you should see that phrase on there if sellers are being honest, because they’re known for using oil. Even VAG knew them for it. Dealers were told to explain that the engine was perfectly entitled, and indeed designed, to use half a litre of oil every 1,000km, or 625 miles in British, and what was wrong with that. Well, even if you agreed that such conspicuous consumption was OK, the problem was that some TSIs were burning through twice that amount of the slippery stuff.

Sometimes you’d be lucky and get a used one that wasn’t using any oil, but that might be because it had had a warranty replacement of its pistons, rings, oil spray jets and even rods, post-2011 pistons having wider-diameter piston pins. You might think that this warranty activity rather undermined VAG’s claim that they were designed to glug gallons of oil. TSI owners who have been there and done that recommend 5W40 rather than the 5W35 that they are often run on, not as a complete cure but as a way to hopefully staunch the flow a bit.

It’s a pity, because oil consumption apart these 1.8 TSI 4×4 Octavia estates were, and still are, very capable cars. They came out in early 2009 with the Superb-inspired Octavia facelift and the latest series-four Haldex AWD system from the Audi TT. There was raised suspension, tougher suspension and extra underbody protection. The 160hp 1.8 TSI was regarded as the best engine choice, being both smoother and quieter than either the 1.9 or 2.0 diesel and offering 184lb ft of torque at a satisfyingly low 1,500rpm. The 0-62mph took 8.1sec in most conditions and it whirred along from there to 135mph. Official average fuel consumption was just under 37mpg.

The slick operation of the AWD plus the brilliant passenger and cargo space helped these 1.8 TSIs to sell well in the lumpier sections of Europe like Switzerland and Austria, but they’re rare in the UK. During the course of what he laughingly calls research Shed saw just one more 1.8 TSI 4×4 estate for sale in the UK. That was the same year and colour as our 81,000-miler but had 16,000 more miles on it. Its price was £4,250. Our shed is £1,995. That £2,255 difference buys a lot of oil, even at today’s prices. It might even pay for an out-of-warranty warranty-style rebuild.

Last January’s test at 59,000 miles was a clean pass. The last of its three owners has rattled up an impressive 22,000 miles since then. We’re told there’s a service history. That might not show how much oil has been used, but the fact that it’s knocked out nearly twice the annual average bodes well for its reliability. All you need to do is pluck up your courage, lay down your £1,995, and buy shares in the oil company of your choice. 

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