When the Skoda Octavia came to Ireland in the 1990s it quickly became a hit in rural areas especially.
There was an apocryphal story – which doesn’t mean it wasn’t true – that farmers liked it ‘because on a Wednesday I can put four sheep in the boot and bring them to market’.
I’m from rural Ireland. Just.
Just at the edge of The Pale.
So I know a lot of farmers – and know the story might well have been true.
I reminded a Skoda Ireland man about it at the reveal here in Prague on Monday night of the new generation Octavia.
“He could put five in this one,” he quipped.
And he could.
And if he bought the Combi wagon variant he might lose a small flock in there and have to send for Bo-Peep.
The new Octavia looks like being a seriously good car, when it arrives in Ireland for next July. Nearer that date, I expect that we will get extensive details of specification levels and pricing structure.
It’s longer, wider and there is more of that important sheep-pen space – sorry, cargo room.
There is a big up-shift in style, both inside and out.
And there is a big tilt at premium feel throughout.
Sure, they trot out the top spec at reveals such as Monday’s – now largely replacing motor shows.
But there is underlying stuff that will not change.
There is an elegance that gives the hatchback a distinctive coupe line.
There is a Combi wagon with an elegance that is likely to help keep that version in its place as Europe’s top estate.
In Ireland, I’ll already bet a packet of chocolate buttons that the wagon version will eat into sales of the exceptional Superb estate.
Soft touch surfaces and a range of trims for different grades won’t diminish the essentials.
Such as a dual-level dashboard that tastefully carries the multimedia screen.
The availability for the first time in an Octavia of a head-up display isn’t an essential.
Better will be the availability of LED matrix headlights which adapt to oncoming night traffic without compromising the driver’s visibility.
There’s more passenger room. Always an Octavia characteristic, it’s just getting better.
They can have lighting to suit their mood, with a range of LED ambient colours.
There are changes coming under the bonnet. A new plug-in hybrid option; mild hybrid boosting of fuel economy on other petrol engines.
Diesels – they’re not going away, you know – which Skoda says now emit a mere 20pc of the level of nitrogen oxides as previously.
Remember, it was NOx that brought everyone back to their senses about diesel.
The new Octavia will also be getting all the latest driver assist options.
Sense is getting in here too; nobody’s talking about levels of autonomous driving at the moment. Just keep your hands on the wheel; the car will tell you quickly if you don’t.
Skoda’s Irish market split has shifted over recent years. That original rural bias is no longer prominent.
City drivers are seeing the value of Octavia that taxi drivers have long known.
A big in-its-class car that is comfortable, reliable and holds its value.
Currently the second best-seller in its segment, after Toyota’s Corolla, the average owner age is around 48.
Skoda buyers in Ireland are teachers, engineers, professionals in law and other disciplines. And, no doubt, those farmers who always know value when they see it.
The new Octavia will come with an umbrella, a trend begun by the much-loved large Superb.
But it will also come with a brush.
No, not for hair. It is to clean your shoes if you happen to be getting into the car from mucky roads.
Could be great, too, for cleaning out after the sheep.