ŠKODA OCTAVIA: 25 years at the top

ŠKODA OCTAVIA: 25 years at the top


The first days of September 1996 marked the beginning of the successful era of the ŠKODA OCTAVIA, which has now lasted for a quarter of a century. The car was officially unveiled on 1 September, and two days later the modern factory in Mladá Boleslav started mass production of the new car.

1. 9. 2021

The ŠKODA OCTAVIA made use of the latest Volkswagen Group technologies in the given class, such as the latest-generation PQ34 chassis platform. The platform was also used by the VW Golf IV and Audi A3, for example. The engines, gearboxes and some other components, such as the seats, were also identical to the Volkswagen Group’s siblings.

On the other hand, the interior and exterior design was distinctive. The team led by Dirk van Braeckel gave the body an unmistakable stamp of timelessly elegant design. For the first time in ŠKODA’s history, the designers worked with CAD (computer-aided design) technology. 

Emphasis was also placed on active and passive safety. The front airbags were supplemented by side airbags, until then available practically only in higher-class cars. For the first time, tubular door sill reinforcements and the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), which prevents the wheels from locking up under heavy braking, were used. The top-of-the-range OCTAVIA SLX 1.8 20V/92 kW had ABS as standard, otherwise it was available as an option. The first modern OCTAVIA was awarded four stars out of a maximum of five by Euro-NCAP, which was in line with the standard of competing cars on the European market.

A new factory

Mass production started on Tuesday, 3 September 1996. The new part of the Mladá Boleslav factory was built at a cost of CZK 11 billion, with the then Czech President Václav Havel cutting the ribbon. The factory had 32,000 m2 of production space, 2,500 m2 of office and team space and 3,000 m2 of social space. The generously glazed building, designed by the Munich studio of Günther Henn, enabled modular production: sections and units supplied by subcontractors, such as engines or seats, were assembled on the line and delivered in an efficient just-in-time system.

At the opening of the new part of the Mladá Boleslav factory, the ribbon was cut by the then Czech President Václav Havel.

The line no longer took the usual form of body frames travelling down the hall suspended on conveyors. They now travelled on a height-adjustable assembly table so that individual assembly operations could be carried out in a more ergonomic position. Overhead work and similarly strenuous positions were eliminated, and employees were able to step onto the platform so that components did not “get away” before they had completed a task. 

TOVARNA-nova_fabrika-copy ŠKODA AUTO has built a new part of the Mladá Boleslav plant for the production of the new OCTAVIA generation.

In the first year of production, OCTAVIAs with two four-cylinder petrol engines and one turbo diesel rolled off the line. The basic engine was a 1.6 MPI/55 kW, while for the more demanding driver ŠKODA offered a 1.8 20 V/92 kW engine with five valves in each of the four cylinders. The modern 1.9 TDI/66 kW direct-injection turbo-diesel offered impressive low-rpm torque and a standard fuel consumption of just 5.1 litres of diesel per 100 km. The engine range was gradually expanded, for example with the 1.8 20 V Turbo/110 kW or the 1.9 SDI/50 kW naturally aspirated diesel.

The popular estate

In September 1997, the spacious OCTAVIA COMBI turned heads at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The side of the body, formed from a single piece of deep-drawn sheet metal, required the installation of the company’s largest pressing plant to date. The stamping die alone weighed an astonishing 63 tonnes but was accurate to within a tenth of a millimetre.

OCTAVIA COMBI introduced in September 1997 in Frankfurt.

The Frankfurt concept was not too different from the one that went into mass production in February 1998. The first customers received their cars in May 1998. The wheelbase of 2,512 mm applied to the liftback, but the estate was six millimetres longer, 26 mm taller and – depending on the design – 15 to 30 kg heavier. The elegantly shaped rear offered plenty of luggage space, specifically 548-1,512 litres. The share of total OCTAVIA sales accounted for by estate bodies had risen from 15% to 40.5% by 2001.  In October 1998, the huge customer demand led to the launch of a new assembly line at the Vrchlabí plant.  

One of the virtues of the practical liftback was its high utility value. Besides being an eye-catching feature, the large boot lid running all the way to the roof gave excellent access to the 528-1 328 litres of cargo space. 

A much-loved model in many variants

The year 2000 brought a modernisation of the model, with the upgraded cars offered in Classic, Ambiente, Elegance and special Laurin & Klement trims. New safety and comfort features included the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which made it easier for the driver to control the vehicle in critical situations, such as a fast corner or on slippery surfaces.

ŠKODA OCTAVIA RS (launched in 2001)

The most dynamic version, the OCTAVIA RS, was launched in 2001. It was powered by a 1.8 l/132 kW turbo petrol engine, enabling the liftback to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 235 km/h. It also had disc brakes with internal cooling, attractive sports seats and steering wheel, stainless steel pedal contact surfaces and other extras. The car’s dynamic character was emphasised by the four colours on offer: Rally Red, Diamond Metallic Silver, Magic Black and Lemon Yellow.

The enormous popularity of the first modern generation was confirmed by the fact that the OCTAVIA I remained in production – with the distinguishing OCTAVIA TOUR name – after the second generation had been rolled out. After 2004, production of this line was concentrated in Vrchlabí, where the last OCTAVIA I rolled off the production line in November 2010. The company’s statistics show that a total of 973,071 liftbacks and 472,492 estates were made.