A very popular sight on the road, the Octavia is well known in the UK as a taxi, and therefore it makes sense as an every day car for personal use. The Elegance model is near the top of the range and has electrics all round and air con, which still works ice cold after 13 years. Alloy wheels makes this one stand out; most taxis are lower spec models with wheel trims, which are kind of dull, but it's amazing what the right color and a nice set of wheels do to an otherwise ordinary car.
The 1.9 TDI engine performs just fine. I have the 110 HP version - most Octavia's you will see are the 90 HP engine, which is still a great engine, but performance is no more than adequate. Definitely get the 110 TDI if you can, it does the same MPG as the 90 (55 MPG average) with a bit more performance. Heard there's even a 130HP version. No sports car, but when the turbo kicks in I've had no problems overtaking... :)
The car handles like any predictable front wheel drive car, gear change is slick and the brakes feel tight. Ride is smooth enough though it is a little noisy in the cabin with that diesel engine, however at motorway speeds all you hear is a light hum in the background. Wind noise is louder than most cars I've had though, which I find strange as the car looks aerodynamic enough as any car from this time period; makes you wonder where it's coming from.
The interior is dull and full of grey plastic, but it is all functional and the sunroof brightens things up on a sunny day. Boot space is huge, but I've had bigger more comfortable cars - this one feels slightly small, with a stupidly designed armrest that you can barely pull the handbrake on if it's set in the down position, and that is my only complaint, but if you are looking for a good reliable car with the same spec and performance, the Skoda Superb would be the next obvious choice to the Octavia, which I am definitely switching up to next when I change this car.
However I hope to hold on to the Octavia for many miles more, as it has caused me no problems so far, and has been one of the best all round cars I've ever had. Definitely consider a good low mileage example, if looking for a private car for personal use - avoid ex taxis unless they are really cheap and been looked after, though they will have insane miles on them, 300,000 plus is not uncommon.