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SKODA Octavia RS wagon – Bohemian Unicorn

My daily driver is a 2018 SKODA Octavia RS Wagon and here’s a bold shout to start us off… it’s the best family wagon in New Zealand! The Czechs got so many things right with that car that they’ll have to pull some sort of a rabbit out of the hat to top it with the all-new 2021 model.

On arrival at the new Ebbett SKODA showroom in Hamilton East, it was absolutely bucketing down and what better way to start off a test run in a spirited front-wheel-drive wagon than heading out to the Waikato countryside to see if I can put it into a ditch.

3rd and 4th generation SKODA Octavia RS wagons at Ebbett SKODA in Hamilton.
Parking up the old Octavia RS wagon for a cheeky spin in the all-new 2021 version. Rain or shine, this will be epic.

First impressions

The new Octavia didn’t receive any radical exterior re-design, which is great because it didn’t need it. Whilst decidedly more modern, it is still your familiar Octavia wagon, like we saw at the national press launch a few months ago. Practicality is at the forefront here and there’s no shortage of clever little SKODA features to make your life better with it. Cargo space is big at 640-1700L and there’s all the hooks and levers you’d expect to find. It’s a car that’s made with everyday active use in mind at every step.

Power has been cranked up to 180kW (370nm torque), which should get you to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds or you can choose to drive more sensibly and get a tree hugging 6.7 l/100 km economy.

The Drive

There’s a new bass-heavy soundtrack and whilst I love a great sounding engine as much as anyone, this is a bit much; especially knowing it’s just piped through the speakers to entertain the 12-year-old inner me. That said, it does elicit the intended emotion and gives the car a more distinct character and it didn’t take long for me to enjoy it for what it is… just a bit of fun.

2021 Skoda Octavia RS seat
Seats in the 2021 SKODA Octavia RS wagon offer plenty of support and they carry the sporty look from the exterior of the car.

The new Octavia offers an easy drive. Quick off the mark as you’d expect and the steering is responsive. It’s not a rocket or even a handful by any stretch of imagination, but it’s not meant to be. This is a civilised family wagon where the emphasis is on everyday practicality rather than white-knuckle performance. The 2021 SKODA Octavia RS Wagon is plenty fast to be lots of fun and makes overtaking safe, quick and easy, but it’s not a “hot” wagon like its Audi RS or CUPRA cousins and nor does it cost as much. I was pleasantly surprised that the new Octavia is far more forgiving of bumps on our roads than its predecessor so they’ve found a more suitable suspension setting for our less than perfect roads.

I did a mix of city, rural and motorway driving and the car was truly confident everywhere I went. It likes a dynamic drive on a curvy back road and offers a relaxing commute on State Highway 1. It’s not quiet; there’s a fair bit of road noise that leaves the refinement level wanting somewhat, but the car’s electronic driving aids like Adaptive Cruise Control and Head Up Display work absolutely flawlessly; even in very wet conditions where our family SUV, the SEAT Ateca, might lose sight of what’s ahead.

The driver’s seat offers plenty of electric adjustments in all the expected directions and the seat is a comfortable place to be. The SKODA seat is perhaps made for someone slightly larger than me, but there was still no shortage of support.


This was the first time I got to play with the new generation Volkswagen infotainment system and I approached it with a sense of horror and fear of new technology; a true hallmark of a modern dad. Guided by a preconception instilled in me by European reviews that have slammed the disappearance of traditional buttons and dials, I hated it as soon as I sat behind the wheel.

2021 Skoda Octavia NZ
No more analogue dials. Everything is big, digital and in glorious high definition.

Deep breath. Count to 3. Open eyes and start waving your hands and… well, the SKODA responds like a well drilled orchestra. Yes – that’s right – I don’t care what everyone else says, it’s not that difficult to operate. Scratch that… it’s not difficult at all to operate. The volume slider is absolutely fine and I don’t feel the need to take my eyes off the road to operate it like some other reviewers and even then I tend to just use the thumb roller on the steering wheel anyway. I was also pleased to note that Laura – SKODA’s onboard assistant – could understand my foreign accent and managed to assist me where I needed. Same can’t be said about the previous iteration of the VW voice command system.

The stock sound system isn’t great, especially at the lower end of the register, so if you enjoy your music on the go, you’ll want to tick the box to upgrade your sound system so that’s an easy fix.

The screens are big and responsive but it does take a little bit of getting used to the new setup with gesture controls. The wireless charging pad and – finally – wireless Android Auto make for a great way to marry your device and the car. I found the wireless connection cut out on first day of testing and thought we might have an annoying system on our hands, but it may have been more of a problem with my data than anything else because subsequently there were no problems at all streaming audio through Spotify and the like.

You get two USB Type-C ports in the front and another pair in the back so everyone in the car gets to keep their devices charged up. Some folks will need to grab an adapter for their ancient USB cable or just pop to your nearest petrol station, computer store or supermarket and grab a new USB Type-C lead for a few bucks.


Smiling toddler in a SKODA Octavia RS wagon
The 2021 SKODA Octavia RS wagon is safe, super practical and bags of fun to drive. The boot is also plenty big for a clumsy middle-aged dad to climb into with ease.

Is the new 2021 SKODA Octavia RS wagon as good as it’s predecessor? Absolutely. Minor marks down for sound system and noise level in the cabin, but it is still bags of fun to drive and it’s a sub-$60k car! The seats are comfortable, all key surfaces are plush and the car drives with confidence and precision even in challenging conditions. You get the full 5-star safety rating and SKODA’s simply clever features all over the cabin and in the boot. Best part… it’s not an SUV!

2021 Skoda Octavia NZ
The new SKODA Octavia RS front grille looks every bit of the part of a strong performer without going silly, resulting in a classy all-rounder.

Wagons aren’t mainstream right now, but they are a phenomenal option for Kiwi life. If the SKODA doesn’t float your boat, you’ll need to spend more to maintain that sense of fun in your wagon driving experience. Nearest option is the yet to be released CUPRA Leon ST for an extra $8,000, but you will gain 4-wheel-drive and bags more power or there’s always the Audi RS6 wagon if you want to spend more than a downtown apartment.

It looks the part, doesn’t miss a beat no matter what your life throws at it on a daily basis and it’s a fun, brisk car to drive at a normal family friendly price tag. Too bad it’s rarer than a unicorn and you can’t get one for love or money. The team at Ebbett SKODA are working on a 4-month best case scenario for deliveries so if you want to treat yourself for Christmas, you’ll want to get down to your nearest dealer now and put your name on the list.

Download all the nitty-gritty detailed info, spec sheets and brochures from SKODA New Zealand and get down to Ebbett SKODA‘s new digs and put your name down on the list. It really is that good!

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