Originally, I wanted to borrow an Octavia RS as the ultimate example of the “nice things you Americans can’t have”. But then I decided not to. I had three reasons. First, the RS, unlike “ordinary” Skodas, isn’t readily available in any shade of brown. Second, I had already tested a diesel, manual wagon recently. And third, the diesel wagon really isn’t the Octavia RS you really want. It’s a compromise, something you choose as a company car, because gasoline engines are verbotten by your company’s policy and you need the space for hauling stuff to your vacation home each weekend.
When the first pictures of the new Škoda VisionC concept appeared online, it quickly became one of the most popular cars in the “proof that Americans can’t have nice things and Europe is heaven” realm. The sleek “five-door coupe”, or liftback with a swooping roofline bears striking similarity with other VW Group’s sedan-coupes. So it’s only natural that most people started speculating about forthcoming “Octavia Coupe” – something like Passat-based Volkswagen CC, or Audi A5 and A7 “five-door coupes”. The budget, or “value” nature of Škoda brand is against that, but how else to explain a suspiciously production-ready concept like this?
Remember the time when you bought sport utility vehicles because you needed them? These were the original “off-roaders”, boxy beasts with live axles, low-range gearboxes, locking diffs and other very masculine stuff that’s perfect for adventures that require a farm tractor to rescue you from the mud. It was also very practical, because it basically looked like a huge box on wheels, with a smaller box in front for the engine. It was great.
When I think of an off-roader, I think of the Jeep Cherokee, before it became a jacked-up Alfa Romeo hatchback devoid of manly stuff like big levers to select 4WD modes. It even rides comfortably, which, of course, means it is a piece of junk, since it won’t be able to go rock-crawling and it won’t show your pals that you are the manly man by being noisy and uncomfortable.
While Skoda has long been the Cinderella story of the Czech Republic, Skoda could soon find itself deposed as sovereign of their domestic auto market.
Some time ago, I ranted on these pages about European methods of testing fuel mileage (and thus also CO2 emissions), and the way they give unfair advantage to downsized turbocharged engines, compared to good old N/A units. So it’s quite convenient that for my first TTAC European review, I got a Škoda Rapid, powered by a 1.2 TSI turbocharged four-cylinder – a typical example of downsized powerplant. With the Rapid being a relatively small and light family car, the little four-banger may have an opportunity to really shine, and show us whether downsizing works. Or not.
The Skoda Octavia vRS is almost like the VW Jetta GLI we should have gotten. Using the MK7 GTI’s MQB platform and 217-horsepower four-cylinder powertrain, the Octavia vRS is also available with a 2.0 TDI engine making 180 horsepower – and both powertrains can be had with the wagon bodystyle you see above.
I will be moving to Poland with my wife and baby son in July. We will need a car, and trying to calculate value is tough for me, knowing very little about the Polish market.
I don’t know how much we intend on driving, but probably the occasional couple hundred mile trip on the weekend. I would like to keep my purchase price below 5,000 dollars and have something that is easy to fix where I can maybe take it to the guy down the street who operates out of his house’s garage, and not be too afraid of the guy not being able to get parts, not having too many special tools, etc.
The other aspect of European cars is the use of natural gas. It looks like “lpg” is big in Poland as many of the cars I checked out on allegro.pl have the natural gas option. Does this add to the complexity of maintenance? Will this provide more value per mile than a diesel engine?
The car has to be relatively safe, and a wagon with the room would fit our style as a growing family. There seem to be a lot of 10+ year old German cars that can be had pretty cheaply (allegro.pl). So far I like the Mercedes and BMW wagons from the early nineties. But something tells me that a 5 year old Honda Jazz would be a much smarter choice even if it might cost more upfront.
Each weekend, TTAC turns its attention to some of the more obscure news and stories from around the world, taking you from Jakarta to Haiti to Monaco… and now to New Zealand. Hungarian Skoda blog stipstop.com takes us to New Zealand in 1966, when Auckland-based Motor Lines were able to adapt a Jowett Bradford-based utility vehicle made by Kawerau into a Skoda Octavia-based Land Rover lookalike… and the Trekka was born! Only 2,500 of the little runabouts were made in steel-paneled wagon and “ute” bodystyles (specs here), of which five served duty in Vietnam and one was purchased for unknown reasons by General Motors, which shipped it to Detroit in 1969. The Trekka was an “icon of the Kiwi can-do spirit” by the time it went out of production in 1973, and it was much loved in New Zealand, although it was never as capable as its Landie-alike bodywork suggested (a limited-slip differential was eventually developed for it). But the low-cost Trekka (it cost £895, less than a Morris 1100) was ultimately a product of New Zealand’s import tariffs, and as these began to fall in the 1970s, the Trekka’s day had passed. Today, fewer than 30 remaining models have been documented by trekka.co.nz.
I still remember when I accompanied a big cheese of Volkswagen to (then) Czechoslovakia in 1990, shortly after the iron curtain had rusted out. We went to Mladá Boleslav, near Prague, to inspect VW’s latest acquisition: Skoda. The place was pretty much empty.
“Where are the workers?” asked my guy. (Read More…)
When the automotive historians look back at GM they will point to many factors as to why they fell. Some might point to the Unions, some may point to their lack of reliable products, others may even point to their shoddy dealer service. But one factor which undeniably led to GM’s bankruptcy is lack of brand management. If anyone questions the harm poor brand management can do, then, may I point you in the direction of the Cadillac Cimarron? Muddled brands leave people confused and wondering why should I stay loyal to this brand? Your brand is your stamp of a promise to your customer. Safe cars? Volvo or Renault. Reliability? Toyota or Honda. Driving dynamics? BMW. Now I raise this point, because people said that this problem was endemic to GM only. It was a GM-centric problem. But is it, really? Was it really a GM-only problem? Or did GM suffer from “big company” syndrome? Well it seem there’s evidence that poor brand management isn’t just for American auto companies.
Der Spiegel reports that Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn, is utterly fuming at Skoda. What could the reason be? Profits? Well, they are down, but we’ll come to that later. No, the main reason why Herr Winterkorn is seething at Skoda is because Skoda is doing well. So, well, in fact, that their cars are now creating problems for VW cars, their main brand. (Read More…)
After decades of “up-positioning” and premium-branding, the sudden success of cheapskate models such as the Dacia Logan has not gone unnoticed at Europe’s largest automaker Volkswagen. Czech media is abuzz with reports of a new entry model, blatantly codenamed “A Entry,” which may be part of the Skoda line-up.
Reuters cites Czech media reports that the new model could be priced around $13,650, putting it somewhere between Skoda’s smaller (Polo-based) Fabia and the larger Octavia, which sits on a PQ35 (think Golf, Jetta) platform. Priced and positioned like that, it won’t be a Logan-killer. The Dacia goes for under $10,000 MSRP.
In the meantime, rumors that VW aims a lot lower won’t die in Wolfsburg. (Read More…)