The Ultimate Grocery Getter.

BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

June 29

In a perfect world, we would all have one car each for every occasion – a hatchback for daily use, a sports saloon for fun drives, a ute/pickup for hauling stuff. But we don’t live in the perfect world and the Octavia Combi RS is perhaps the closest you can have to one car that can do it all.

Octavia in Latin means ‘Born Eighth’ and it is only fitting that we have one on our cover for the 8th Anniversary Special. It was their 8th car after World War-II and to symbolize that, Skoda decided to name that 1959 model, the Octavia. With 59 years of proud heritage, it is one of the longest standing brand names in automotive history.

 

The Mk1 Octavia, such as this, was the first model developed from scratch after VW took over Skoda. It was essentially a Jetta with better design. The Skoda Octavia was well received in India after its launch in 2002. 44900 were sold and in 2004, Skoda launched the Octavia RS which soon became the performance yardstick for cars. This Combi Estate was launched in petrol and diesel around the same time, and met the fate of most estate cars in India. Not many were sold, but the fast ones with the turbo petrol engine, ended up in the hands of enthusiasts like Dr. Joseph Manuel.

 

 

This 2008 Octavia Combi started off in life as a silver car. Joseph and his brother John owns J Garage, a Performance shop and Detailing shop which is another Pete’s subsidiary in Kochi. After the performance mods were in place, it was off to a complete paint job. It was painted Nardo Grey before that became a thing and one has to say, the wagon does manage to pull off the colour so well. The BBS CH 18 inch rims do look the part and are offset well against the body line with sufficient lowering to match. The front bumper gets a splitter and two Milotec bumper vents on either side. The interiors are bone stock save for some extra audio equipment. The leather trimmed seats feels as supportive as they were, when I first sat in one, 14 years ago. The roof box is there if the big wagon boot isn’t sufficient enough. Whatever stuff you carry though, is guaranteed to reach in the shortest amount of time.

 

 

Under the hood, it has a 1.8litre AGU block developing 150bhp and 210Nm torque. That is before Pete’s Performance had their hands on it. A Pete’s Custom Stage 2 Remap made its way in, along with an ABD induction system and a full Milltek exhaust. It has an APR R1 divertor valve, Spec Stage 2 clutch, Gates Kevlar timing belt and ECS tuning flywheel and pulleys. The extra grunt is obvious the moment you set off. Let go off the slightly heavy clutch, the low end only feels just about adequate. Once the turbo comes on, it goes like a scalded cat. The midrange is great and it revs all the way past 6000rpm. It is not blistering fast as the cars that came after it, but it is still addictive.

 

 

The Combi also gets KW variant 2 coilovers which transforms the way it drives. The turn-in is much sharper and the car feels glued to the road no matter the speed. Handling is good enough to qualify for a sportscar, let alone an estate car. There are stiffer KW anti roll bars at the front and rear, which make it feel more playful. It also feels tighter thanks to Powerflex PU bushes. It also benefits from EBC brake pads which improve the stopping power immensely. This car has seen some track use in its life and the owner does know a thing or two about driving fast.

 

 

Whether it’s setting down lap times, showing off at car meets or hauling groceries home- the Combi has never missed a beat. The owner says he has no intention of selling it and wants to keep it forever. We asked him, what mods he has planned for the Combi next and he said “it’s sort of complete”. For now – may be.  Knowing him,  I have a feeling, there is more to come.

 

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BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL

Editor-In-Chief

Vivek Venugopal is one of India’s top automotive writers with over a decade’s experience in road-testing and reviewing cars. He is currently the Editor of Quarter Mile magazine and a columnist in several leading magazines and newspapers. He is also a highly sought after consulting engineer and market analyst for many automobile manufacturers.

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