TEST DRIVE: Skoda Octavia – the car that parks itself

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A BRILLIANT new Skoda that finds a parking space for you then automatically self-parks into it. LES OLIVER is very impressed by the new Octavia.

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NEVER again will you worry about getting into or out of a tight parking spot with Automatic Parking Assistant, a brilliant feature on the new Skoda Octavia.

At the press of a button the car will detect a suitable parking space as you drive past a line of parked cars. Then it will park the car for you!

It is an amazing experience. You can sit there without touching the steering wheel as the system takes over, parallel parking into the tightest of spaces.

It will manoeuvre into a gap with just two feet to spare front and back.

And there’s no need to worry about getting out of there when you return to the car. It will even drive itself safely out for you! No scrapes, no worries, no hassle.

As well as parallel parking in the street it will also self-park by reversing into a bay where cars are parked side by side as in a supermarket car park.

It also has traditional front and rear parking sensors.

Less sophisticated parking aids have previously only been found on very expensive upmarket cars.

Yet this must-have feature is an optional extra costing just £530 - probably less than the cost of replacing a damaged bumper.

On sale now at prices from £15,990, the third generation Octavia saloon is the most important car Skoda has ever launched, competing in the vital lower medium sector.

A completely new car, it is longer and wider but 100kg lighter than the previous model, boosting levels of technology and specification unseen in the model range, not to mention ground-breaking CO2 and and fuel efficiency.

The interior offers unrivalled passenger and luggage space in its class - the 590-litre boot is extendable to 1,580 litres).

With innovative safety and comfort systems and efficient economy Skoda product manager for Fabia and Octavia Vicky Magill says they expects to sell 10,000 in 2013 and between 17,000 to 20,000 in a full year.

Priced from £15,990, the new Octavia is dearer than the outgoing car but with reduced fuel costs, lower insurance groups and better residual values it is seen as offering better value.

There are four engines from 105 to 150bhp - 1.2 and 1.4 TSi petrol, and 1.6 and 2.0 TDi diesels.

And there’s a simple range of three familiar trim and equipment levels, S, SE and Elegance.

The premium from S to SE is £1,200, and moving up to Elegance is another £1,850, but Skoda says in each case the actual value of added equipment is worth double these figures and up to £5,300 on the previous model.

One of the new car’s strong points is its low CO2 and in fact the GreenLine model will have an impressive 87g/km when it joins the line-up later this year.

The Octavia is an extremely sophisticated car with all of its infotainment systems, Bluetooth, audio including digital DAB radio and satnav functions kept together in a single standard touchscreen display to minimise dashboard clutter.

With seven airbags it has already been awarded full five-star NCAP safety rating.

Advanced new safety features include automatic post-collision braking that reduces the risk of secondary impact in the event of an accident.

Also available is the new “Front Assistance” that applies the brakes if there is a danger of colliding with the car in front.

And a lane assistance system can steer the car back into lane if sensors detect it is wondering off line.

Driver fatigue sensors monitors your driving patterns and warns you if your attention dips.

Intelligent lighting will automatically switch on full beam or dip the lights if the onboard cameras detect another driver’s lights in front or behind.

Stop/start technology and energy recovery are standard on all models with fuel efficiency as low as 83mpg (combined).

The 1.6 TDi I drove was extremely smooth and quiet, its 105bhp power perfectly adequate for motorway, town and country driving.

Acceleration to 60mph is achieved in 10.4 seconds with a top speed of 121mph yet returns 74.3mpg and just 99g/km CO2. .

I can think of a number of friends and family who would love this car - for its clever self-parking feature alone.