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Most of my friends and relatives know that I love driving.
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Many have handed over their keys to me hesitantly while few have said polite but firm NO when asked if I can drive their car a bit. Minimum age for self drive was 25 years sometime back but recently Hertz has brought it down to 23 years, obviously to target young executives.
This made me eligible for self drive. When a Mysore visit was being contemplated I decided to use this opportunity to indulge in what I always wanted to do-long drive in a sporty vehicle.
For the uninitiated, Self Drive is a rental scheme where you can take a vehicle from car rental company without a driver. You drive and take care of the car for the duration you rent it Dream brands like Mercedez were pretty expensive may be next time so I decided to settle for a Czech beauty named Skoda Octavia, which I felt sporty enough A beast of 1.
Got a booking confirmation from Hertz. They do fear for their lives, 2. Departure was on Thursday night so anyone joining me were required to apply leave on Friday, 3. The mail I had sent was a bit formal-demanding high punctuality but to my surprise many people showed interest. All 5 seats were full for Chennai Bangalore sector and I had to deny seats to two people who wanted to join.
For Mysore local site seeing I had my family members and relatives for company and for return journey It was a day journey-most of my passengers preferred to spend time with family during the day and start by night I had only one passenger-Nagaraj.
Passengers for Chennai-Bangalore sector Made adequate preparations for the journey- A first aid kit, a print out with name and contact details of hospitals in Vellore, Hosur, Bangalore, Madya and Mysore, pre boarding safety instructions to passengers etc.
But the 3 days journey ended smoothly without even a minor incident. I was anticipating problems like road blocks etc-because of fuel price hike and fertilizer shortage related agitations.
But was lucky not to face any. Got my hands on the Skoda at around hours on 5th June. To my disappointment, the car was several years old model and had age old cassette player, except front left, remaining 3 tyres hardly had any threads on them. Natural with its age, it also had several minor dents and scratches. Took the delivery, reached home and when I wanted to take a reverse I was in for a surprise.
All the cars I had driven so far had reverse gear on extreme right, below 5th gear, but in Skoda this was different-on the extreme left, adjacent to first gear. I could not move the vehicle backward-called the Hertz driver and he told that I need to push the lever down and then move to position.
Not sure why Skoda has this crazy position for reverse gear-very tough to identify if the vehicle is in 1st gear or reverse, unless you experience the vehicle moving. Loaded my luggage and picked up my co passengers. Removed my shoes and shifted to chappal, as I feel more confident and comfortable when I can feel the pedals with my legs and it was nearly hours when we left Chennai city limits.
I had covered Chennai Bangalore on bike some 2 years ago and had taken some 7 hours to reach Bangalore. This time in a car, I had benchmarks to exceed. Night driving was new to me but was fun. Making way through slow moving trucks soon we hit the relatively empty highway. Had slept for few hours previous evening to prepare myself for an all night drive. The visibility is great on the ORVMs however, the visibility through the rear window is quite compromised due to the rear window sloping a bit too much.
This is where the parking sensors and the rear camera come in handy. The parking sensors notify you of any objects both in front, the back as well as the corners of the car. This can get a bit annoying at times in traffic where there's almost always some biker trying to make his way through the stagnant traffic.
Initially, it is helpful while you are coming to terms with the size and dimensions of your car but after a while, it might become annoying to some.
There is an option to turn this off I believe but I will be keeping it on for a while longer. The rear camera along with the sensors are pretty good and shows you where your car would be headed based on the steering input.
There are different levels of beeping as well based on the proximity to the other vehicle or objects. Steering - The steering wheel actually feels a tad bit small for the car but the handling is exceptional.
It is really light and makes handling this big car feel like a breeze. I wish that they had provided a flat bottomed steering though which would've made it easier on the thighs and also made for better aesthetics.
Nonetheless, the steering looks very classy and all the controls and elements including the stitching are of high quality.
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You can control nearly everything from entertainment to the MID directly from the steering itself and that is a big relief. The scroll wheel in particular is one of my favourites and makes it easier to change the volume or scroll through items on the fly as opposed to pressing up and down cursor keys. I have put a steering wheel cover on top of it since I had issues with the leather tearing in parts due to sweaty palms while driving.
Don't want that to happen on this car as well. The horn is pretty easy to press but you need to get the location right or else you wont hear any sound.
I love the sound of the horn. Once you blare the horn with the windows rolled down is when you notice jus thow loud it is. It will easily grab the attention of any other motorist or pedestrian or animal on the road. Safety, Ride Quality and Suspension - One of the weird things I find with German cars is the fact that any passenger at any given point of time can just open the door. While that's alright if you have adults in the car, it becomes difficult with kids especially when sometimes they themselves may not intend to open but will just be playing with the handles.
So its extremely important to set a child lock when a kid who is perhaps too young to understand the consequences or the way German cars work gets in. I read that its a safety feature but at least on Indian roads, it becomes more of a hazard than anything.
While it is impossible to test the airbags, having 8 of them in crucial locations makes the heart a bit more stable when driving on highways especially. Every small aspect to make the car safer is welcome. One of the main issues I faced with my Vento is the rear bumper or the bottom of the car scraping or hitting the hump or similar surfaces when traveling. This only intensifies when there's more load on the car. Luckily the Octavia doesn't face this issue despite having a lower ground clearance of mm.
I guess the main reason at least in my variant is the multi element axle at the rear with one longitudinal and three transverse links and torsion stabilizer. I have not yet sat at the back but the passengers have loved sitting at the back so far and I look forward to trying it out soon as well. The supension at both the front and rear seems to be quite soft and feels like an air cushion. However that doesn't mean that it sinks too deep and hits humps like the Vento. It also does a great job at absorbing road gutters and bumps with ease.
I also noticed that there is very little body roll as well. The entire car seems much more planted to the ground than my Vento which itself was in a league of its own amongst competitors when it came to handling and cornering.
Storage - The boot is massive. No other way to talk about it. Everyone whom I have shown the car to has been amazed with just how massive it is. The light at the boot also helps when loading or unloading things in the dark. The Vento weirdly doesn't have an exterior button to open the boot.
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You either had to press and hold the boot unlock button on the key or open it from inside. Luckily, there is a button on the boot on the Octavia as well as on the key. Pressing and holding the boot button will unlock it and you only have to lift it up.
Its hard to tell that the boot is unlocked since it only lifts itself barely from the default position unlike the Vento which would leave a big gap between the boot and sides when open.
The hydraulic lift mechanism is buttery smooth and the tab inside also makes it easy to close. You only need a gentle tap to close the boot. However, I am pretty sure that securities at the mall are going to be smashing it everytime I enter one.
Would've really loved a self opening and closing mechanism or at least a self opening one.
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While coming back from Kerala, we had a lot of wedding gifts as well as luggage to carry back which meant that we had to fold out rear seats down completely and it took everything we had to carry and was perhaps as close to utilizing the litres of space as we would get in the future too. There are nice bag holders in the boot as well to help keep your shopping in place and to prevent it from falling out.
The quick access compartment hidden behind the armrest is also a nice thing to have especially on road trips where you want to have a clutter free cabin. Since the boot is massive enough, you can store stuff there and take what you want through the access without having to pull the car over to the side. The glovebox is cooled and has a built in light which is great for storing drinks. However, the cooling is only minimal and it does more of preventing the drinks from getting hot rather than actually keeping it cool.
The glovebox is smaller than the vento's because of the entertainment hub there which houses both the SD card slots. Its weird that they still have kept the size the same despite having no CD drive slot.
The storage underneath the centre armrest is pretty spacious and compensates for the glovebox being quite small. There is also a small sliding storage potion in front of the gearbox which also has a small ambient light inside it.
There is also a storage portion to the right side of the steering wheel which can be used to place tickets, receipts coins and much more. There is even a ticket and coupon holder on the glass in clear plastic. However, I haven't used it since I am afraid of scratching the glass and also causing smudges. Air-Conditioning - The Octavia comes with dual zone automatic climate control air conditioning.
You can use the physical knobs and controls or make use of the touchscreen to make adjustments to the cooling. The cooling is quite fast and effective but I find that the vents for the legs on the drivers sides to be quite uneffective. Not sure if its because of lack of space but the passenger side seems to get more air flow with the same settings as opposed to the drivers side.
One major advantage over the Vento is the ability to close the rear AC vent since most of the time there is no one at the back. On the Vento, you could close all the vents up front but the back would still be open. The MID also shows so much information and in different ways that you feel that you have a personal assistant taking down your driving habits and car's performance figures.
The 8 speaker system is pretty incredible in terms of quality. I remember thinking to myself and several of my friends and relatives would agree with me on this that the Vento had a really great stock soundsystem.
However, I did feel like upgrading it once or twice but resisted myself from the temptation. On the Octavia, I don't think that question even comes to mind. The quality of the sound outputted is amazing.
Used Skoda Octavia in Bangalore
It does really well in terms of the clarity, the bass, mids and treble. I guess only the highs could've been a bit better but thats just being picky. The shark fin antenna on the outside looks really nice and adds to the entire upmarket look and feel of the car. It does a good job at picking up radio signals as well but I have noticed some disturbances from time to time although my guess is that its not the fault of the car but more of the speakers being really good enough that it highlights the flaws of the broadcast even more.
The car is really smart and it reminds you to take your phone when you exit the car. It also automatically asks you if you want to find nearby petrol stations when the fuel is low and also gives tips such as reminding you to roll the windows up when the AC on for better mileage and efficient cooling. Tyres - Was initially thinking of changing the tyres to Pirelli or Continental while keeping the size the same for better comfort and lesser road noise.
However, the owner at the tyre shop that I frequently visit S. P Pitstop in Jayanagar advised me to stick to this itself. He could've told me to change and made earnings for himself but being a loyal customer, he chose to be honest and saved me from splurging un-necessarily as well. The Goodyear tyres that comes with the car are quite comfortable but I feel that they don't really do the best job possible at keeping a car like this at its performing best.
The rims are 16 inches and actually looks pretty correctly sized on the Octavia. I am planning to paint them in a glossy black colour to match the paint job. I might upgrade to a 17 inch in the future but will wait to hear feedback from fellow BHPians who have already done the upsize to know what the pros and cons of doing so are. There is a big variation in the recommended tyre pressure for the Octavia based on the number of passengers and the luggage in the car.
I have set it to 33 PSI for now and it took all the luggage that we brought back from Kerala with ease even after utilising the full litres of boot space. Perhaps to be a bit more safe, it would be good to fill the tyres up to 36 PSI instead. Will take a look in the future. All you have to do is set it after filling all the tyres to the same levels. I haven't yet received a warning about dropping pressures though. Key - The key is in typical VWAG fashion with the metal part neatly hidden only to be revealed when the button is pressed.
There is an indicator for low battery as well as three buttons for lock, unlock and boot open functions. Holding down the unlock button will open all the windows and the sunroof while holding down the lock button will close them all. If you open just the boot, the car will auto-lock itself after the boot is closed which is a good thing. Despite having the key in the pocket most of the time, it would've been nice to have a place to keep the key especially when there is another passenger in the car, you don't want it to go off.
There seems to be a placeholder for this but no actual slot like on the European variants. Keyless entry is as easy and simple as it gets. All you have to do is get near the car and place your hand in between the handle and the door to request for an unlock.
Once done, it will unlock the car and open the mirrors as well as enable the puddle lamps for you. Once in the car, you can start the car by just pressing the start button. Note that for ignition, you will need to press the brake in. The car does notify you if you step out of the car with the key by issuing a key not found message.
Sunroof - Despite not being the ideal city to use a sunroof because of dust, I have always loved sunroofs on cars. Primarily to use them to look up without the shade as it lets in more ambient light. The shade of the sunroof cuts out light but not completely. There are several different modes of opening the sunroof.
You can either just raise it for ventilation or open it in various stages. There is also a wind deflector to prevent too much air from entering inside and creating noise as well. It isn't apparent on the black variant but on the others, it seems like the entire roofline is done in a black colour due to the large sunroof glass.