Škoda claims with Octavia to deliver middle-class car qualities at a compact-car price, and you only have to look at how successful the five-seat car has been in Ireland to realise that this statement is true.

Octavia is built on the latest MQB platform, which is already used in the new Golf and Audi A3: this means its dimensions have grown. New Octavia is 90mm longer than the outgoing car. Octavia sits on a longer wheelbase (+108mm) and the track is wider, too, by some 45mm. As a result, Octavia is larger inside for passengers and cargo. Its legendary huge boot has grown to a massive 590 litres!

The exterior of the third-generation Octavia is simple, unfussy and quite like the last generation Audi A4. Seeing as Škoda is part of the VAG (Volkswagen/Audi Group) family, imitation is allowed. The front-wheel drive car, with its forward-set front wheels, looks very well proportioned - almost like its rear-wheel drive, especially when viewed side-on. Boot kinks (first seen on the Škoda Rapid) add sophistication to the rear of the car. The lights are elegant and, overall, the outside is a classier machine.

Inside, Octavia is about space. Like its larger sibling 'Superb', you won't feel short-changed inside the new Octavia. Rear passenger room is improved and the knee room excellent. Octavia, while looking like a notch-back saloon, is a hatchback. The lid opens wide to reveal a cargo area that is absolutely huge for its class. This is part of the reason Octavia is so loved by taxi drivers.

The greenest engine in the range produces just 89g/CO2 (GreenLine) and is capable of averaging 3.4 litres of fuel to travel 100 kilometres, or 83mpg in old money. The entry-level engine is a 1.2 petrol (€18,995), but Škoda Ireland expects the 1.6, 105bhp diesel to be the volume seller. By the time you add a good bit of specification you'll spend around €24,000.

A massive benefit of sharing components and platforms within the VAG Group is that all the kit you can specify in the new Golf is available in Octavia. New safety features available include: lane assist, multi-collision automatic braking (applies the brakes after a crash to prevent further collisions), driver fatigue detection and up to nine airbags - to name a few! From May this year, Škoda will make a 'front assistant/emergency braking function' available.

On the road, Octavia is a competent performer. The ride quality is impressive and the handling neutral. More enthusiastic drivers will have to wait a few months for the RS version to set pulses racing. The long wheelbase smoothes out the bumps. I took the chance to be driven while sitting in the back and had no complaints.

Škoda is a serious player in Ireland. The Czech brand is German-owned and built to exacting standards. While the badge mightn't have the same kudos as one with the letters VW, buyers are getting 'almost' the same thing.

New Octavia is a sensible machine that delivers a lot.

Michael Sheridan