Bought the Skoda in 09 after owning the same rock solid reliable Nissan for 9 years and 110 000 miles. Nissan now seem to sell either tanks, midlife crisis mobiles or supermarket trolleys, all of which have their time / place, but that time or place wasn't then or there, so with regret I bade them farewell. I needed a family car, with an economical engine and an auto box. Toyota don't spec their diesel Avensis with an auto box, so I couldn't go for that.
I've never understood people who buy cars without first scanning JD Power or this site or any of the other robust survey info, and then wonder why the transmission's fallen out of their car - forgivable in the seventies when the data was under wraps, but no longer. So I looked carefully. Where did the research point me? The taxi guys' fave, the Octavia.
Bagging an auto diesel was hard. Couldn't bargain anyone down below £3600 for one with low miles and a service history. Octavias generally have a higher used value than competitor cars that size. The petrols are not as expensive, especially the 2.0. The poverty spec version - the classic - has no aircon, and is therefore a tricky on-sell.
I found my 02 Ambiente in Blackpool, originally a London car, nicely specced up - auto, metallic, electric sunroof, cruise, reverse bleepy thing. The computer was tuned to 'old man' mode too - blip the car shut and all the windows close too. It had 55K on the clock.
Now it wasn't a driver's car - it wallowed on corners, and was loud on starting and at low speeds. But I didn't much care. It was comfortable, towed well and made for a relaxed motorway cruiser at the legal limit. There's not much leg room, but my kids only have stupid short legs anyhow.
Three months in and the turbo failed - cost a grand to put right! Wished I'd gone for the petrol model at that point. To be fair to the car, that's all that did fail in the two years we owned it. I planned to wring every drop of life out of it as I had with the Primera.
I drove it from the North of England to the French Alps for a ski holiday, and it was the perfect transport. (Incidentally, why do french motorways have just two lanes? It's not like they're short of countryside.)
It met its highly premature doom on the school run in June this year (2011). There's a junction where I'd always advised my wife to turn left rather than attempt the tricky but more direct right. Now I realise it's very unusual for a wife to disregard the advice of a husband, but remarkably, that's what happened, and a Vauxhall van hit the side of the Skoda, taking out chunks of the front nearside steering geometry, rendering it a total loss.
I looked on Autotrader and ebay. The equivalent replacement was £2700 to £3000. I'd paid £3650 2 years previous, plus a grand 3 months later for the turbo. My insurance company, named after a high ranking naval rank, were quick to make me an offer. £1600,less the £300 excess. Now I'd been told that insurance companies were now more customer friendly and the old adage of 'don't take the first offer' is no longer applicable. Really? Much energy sapping wrangling followed, with me eventually saying 'find me the equivalent car then for that money!'
I settled for £2300. I gave up on finding an auto, and bought an 03 Skoda Octavia from a Leeds dealer for £2185, knowing I'd have to pay out to spec it up, have a tow bar fitted and replace its missing spare key. It had had the expensive timing belt done (as had the one that had just been written off, groan.) And it had 112 K on the clock, significantly more than its forebear.
Curiously the replacement car feels radically different. It feels more like a Focus than it feels like its predecessor Skoda. It's tauter, more responsive, and corners better. Why? Hard to say. It has alloy wheels, 20 more bhp (the old one had just 90), it's a year newer, and it's the top spec (Laurin and Klement.) Maybe it's something to do with all that.
It's more economical than the old one because it's manual (35 mpg on the punishing school run and 50 at M way speeds, all of which puts it in a cheaper road tax bracket.) And it's quieter.
Having had my fingers burned with the turbo failure, I'd considered buying the petrol model. But then after talking to my wife, we'd decided the diesel's better for towing. So we took the risk.
Dammit, three weeks into ownership and the turbo's packed up! Another grand! The dealer's saying 'sold as seen'.
But the legal advice I've received is that the 'sold as seen' concept does not apply when selling to a non dealer. So it looks like I'll see him in court. And again, apart from turbo, it seems solid. It's towed a c*ra*an across Wales and the Lakes this summer, and survived being clamped while I was emptying the boot (when are they going to fix that stupid law in the UK?)
So. I'll let you draw your own conclusions... I'd be interested to hear others' stories.