Fans of good, honest, down-to-earth family cars and big, spacious estates, rejoice: the new Skoda Octavia is here! Yes, the Czech mate of the Volkswagen Golf, whose platform it shares, was revealed this evening in Prague, at a gala ceremony which involved the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and which was attended by none other than Andrej Babis, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.

Suffice it to say they’re pretty proud of the Octavia in its home country, then, so this new version is going to be big news over there, and so it goes at home too, with the Octavia one of Britain’s best-loved family cars. But what’s changed? Well, to help you work that out, here are seven things you really need to know.

It’s bigger than before

For once the hatchback version looks as good as the estate

For once the hatchback version looks as good as the estate

Yes, in contrast to the Mk8 Golf, which has actually shrunk compared with its predecessor, the Octavia has grown. The hatchback by 10mm, and the estate by 20mm, meaning the former now measures 4.7 metres - almost as much as a Volkswagen Passat.

There's even more room in the back

There's even more room in the back

The Octavia’s big USP has always been space, and as you might expect, that extra length has given it more room inside, with a whopping 640 litres of boot space in the estate.

It's just missing a couple of large hounds

It's just missing a couple of large hounds

The hatch is almost as big, too, with 600 litres on offer - that’s 225 litres more than that of a Ford Focus, and 14 litres more even than a Passat. And there’s still loads of room for passengers, too – despite those swoopier looks. On which note...

It looks good. Really good

The thing about the Octavia is that it’s always looked a little dumpy around the hind quarters. Utilitarian, even, you might say, especially of the estate. And while it’s had many good points, style has never really been one of them.

We can't wait to see the sporty vRS version

We can't wait to see the sporty vRS version

This latest Octavia, though, looks sharp. There’s a rising waistline, and a sweeping roofline that blends into a kicked up tail with a reverse rake. You can now specify 19-inch wheels, too.

Best looking Octavia ever? Vote in the poll at the bottom

Best looking Octavia ever? Vote in the poll at the bottom

Granted, it’s never going to steal attention away from a Lamborghini, but there’s undoubtedly been some clever nip and tuck to make it look tauter, sharper, and smarter than before.

There are more toys than ever

For the first time, you can now have an Octavia with a head-up display. You can add seats that heat, cool and massage your back, multicolour ambient lighting, and for the first time, you can spec your Octavia with tri-zone climate control, so that passengers in the rear get their own climate control panel. On the outside, meanwhile, there are new LED matrix headlights.

It’s gone upmarket inside

The old Octavia’s interior was one of its downsides. It wasn’t bad – just a bit average in places, with some scratchy plastics here and there and some fairly dour materials.

The modern car world needs more two-spoke steering wheels

The modern car world needs more two-spoke steering wheels

It looks like that’s no longer the case. Granted, the cars we had a chance to poke around in at the Octavia’s reveal were top-spec models with all the bells and whistles and, probably, a few options packs thrown in, but they felt great, with gorgeous swathes of leather, faux suede and cloth adding a real premium touch to the dashboard.

The best bit, though, is the new steering wheel. No, seriously. Skoda’s given the Octavia a mad two-spoke affair, with knurled silver roller switches and big, scoopy cut-outs either side of the central boss. It’s lovely to hold, brilliant to look at and much more exciting than a family car's steering wheel has any right to be.

But you (might) have to control the air con through the touchscreen

This one is bound to cause controversy. None of the cars on show at the unveiling event had physical climate controls on the dashboard, with the exception of a ‘Max demist’ button for the front screen.

The rest of the controls, it appears, have been folded into the touchscreen. That’s going to make adjusting the climate control fiddlier than it was before, as you won’t be able to do it by feel using a nice, tactile rotary knob any more. Instead, you’ll have to take your eyes off the road and steady your hand to make sure you’re prodding the right part of the screen.

However, we haven’t seen what setup the lower-spec Octavias will get; the smaller touchscreens may mean Skoda has an alternative solution which breaks the climate controls out into a separate panel, perhaps immediately below the screen, like that in the new Golf.

An ‘eTEC’ badge means a mild hybrid Octavia

As with its platform-mate, the Golf, the new Octavia will be available with a smattering of mild hybrid engines. There’s no confirmation on power outputs yet, but expect the range to be similar to that of the Golf – in other words, 109bhp, 129bhp, and 148bhp.

Skoda has also confirmed it will be producing diesel-powered Octavias which use the same ‘twin-dosing’ arrangement as the Golf, though again, it hasn’t confirmed power outputs.

There’s going to be a plug-in hybrid – and, yes, a vRS

Yes, there’ll be a version of the new Octavia badged iV – Skoda’s new ‘all things green and planet-friendly’ sub-brand. The Octavia iV will use a 201bhp plug-in powertrain that European buyers will also get in the Golf – though we won’t. However, unlike the Golf, there won’t be a GTE-rivalling 242bhp plug-in version.

But if you fancy a fast Octavia, you needn’t despair – there is a vRS version on the way, and we’re told it looks very aggressive. No word yet on what will power it, or indeed what sort of power it will produce, but expect it to arrive on the scene very soon after the next Golf GTI, with which it will probably share a powertrain, which should mean some time in mid-to-late 2020.

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