Owning a Skoda is no longer an automotive faux pas - in fact, the latest Octavia is more than a match for Western Europe's finest. To some extent, it's the original Octavia that's responsible for tidying up Skoda's reputation. It was launched in 1996, and was based on the MK4 Golf. It didn't handle very well (largely VW's problem, the MK4 Golf wasn't the sharpest tool in the box), but it was solid, dependable and keenly priced. The current model is based on the MK5 Golf, and feels all the better for it. It embodies Skoda's philosophy, by offering the engineering quality and precision of a VW but for a fraction of the price. The VRS version is the one to go for, with 197bhp from its Golf GTI motor.