The Skoda holds on to its crown as our favourite tow car weighing less than 1400kg, and does so in some style.
As you’d expect of a former overall winner, it tows beautifully. Only in strong crosswinds or when towing the illegal side of 60mph did our test drivers need to make corrections with the steering. Data from the Al-Ko ATC system shows just how stable car and caravan were when slowing from high speeds.
In the lane-change test the Octavia inspired confidence. On the third and fastest run the caravan was sliding dramatically, but the Skoda pulled it straight again without being dragged off its line.
The Skoda is happy to tow at a decent pace, too. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is used by the Volkswagen Group in a number of larger, heavier cars than the Octavia, so it has no trouble pulling the Skoda and a lightweight caravan. As the 30-60mph time of 12.2 seconds shows, if you’re stuck behind slower traffic you shouldn’t be there for long. With plenty of pulling power lower down the rev range there’s no need to work the gearbox hard.
Some smaller cars struggle with the hill start test, but so long as the Skoda’s handbrake was given a firm pull it held the car still on the 1-in-6 slope. Pulling to the top needed some balance of clutch and throttle, but by the standards of this class the Octavia took the hill in its stride.
We’re judging cars first and foremost on towing ability, but the Octavia is just as happy to put in a shift on the daily commute. It handles tidily, rides well and is quiet at speed.
It’s also immensely roomy, with more than enough space for tall adults to travel comfortably in the back. What’s more, the 590-litre boot is likely to impress owners as much as it impressed our practicality judges, who rated the Octavia the most practical small tow car by some margin.
The Skoda’s a safe place to put your money, too, with respectable resale values and low running costs. It’s hard to find any significant weakness.