Skoda Octavia SE 1.4-litre TSi.

Price: £18,390.

Top speed: 134mph.

0-62mph: 8.1 seconds.

Fuel: 53.3mpg (combined figure).

CO2 emissions (g/km): 121.

Verdict: Great to drive, punchy and economical motor, spacious, practical, excellent build quality, well equipped, splendid all-rounder.

SKODA’S new Octavia picks up the best Volkswagen qualities of great handling, potent engines and quality build both inside and out to make it an excellent allround family vehicle.

It’s bigger than the outgoing model and easily the most spacious car in its crowded class with a particularly large boot.

The Octavia’s looks have changed, too. The hatch is longer, lower and wider with cleaner, modern-looking lines to make it a better looker.

Initially, Skoda offers two petrol and two diesel motors at a starting price of £15,990 and rising to £21,990 for the 2.0-litre TDi Elegance but more models will be joining the range.

Octavia prices have also risen but the new vehicles are better equipped and because of the extra kit are better value for money.

The turbo-charged petrol units are the 103bhp 1.2-litre and 138bhp 1.4-litre. Both are very lively and the less expensive 1.2- litre with a standard six-speed manual gearbox is proving popular with many buyers.

However, the 1.4-litre, also with six-speed manual transmission, is the more impressive, being smoother and quieter and offering punchy performance, matched by a pleasing fuel consumption of 53.3mpg on the combined cycle. In manual form it is an excellent car to drive.

Those who prefer automatics can choose from a six or seven-speed DSG transmission.

The diesels, the 1.6-litre and 2.0- litre TDis, are also advanced motors, and as one might expect are finding favour with the fleet market besides private motorists.

The Octavia rides on the VW Golf’s new platform and it shows, with an involving drive and excellent composure and grip on fast and twisty routes.

The suspension has the ability to soak up large bumps well and give a supple and comfortable ride over most surfaces. On the motorway the car cruises quietly and has plenty of power in reserve for swift overtaking or lane changing.

With plenty of adjustments, the driver can arrive at a comfortable position with an excellent view of the road ahead. The steering is precise and accurate with plenty of feel to let you know exactly what the front wheels are up to.

Cars with SE and Elegance trims have the benefit of three driving modes – normal, sport and eco - which change the throttle and steering weight. You’ll notice more zip in sport mode while the eco mode is the one for fuel efficiency on long runs.

Skoda has also concentrated on the interior with a further improvement in cabin quality.

Not only is the cabin classy but spacious for five and with the rear seats folded offers a cargo area which is simply cavernous for a car in this class.

While prices have risen, Skoda’s value-for-money ethic remains and being both safe and practical the Octavia makes great sense.

There are three trims – S, SE and Elegance. The cars have airbags galore, including side and curtain, a stability programme and traction control. The SE gets alloy wheels, electric windows, front and rear, intermittent wipers, climate control, Bluetooth, and rear parking sensors.