Added multiple OEM upgrades to my preowned Skoda Octavia 1.8 TSI AT

My brother and I wanted the Virtual Cockpit more than any other feature or retrofit. However, with the Mk3 Octavia going out of production, the prices for these virtual cockpits skyrocketed all around the globe.

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Sprucing up my Octavia 1.8 TSI and customizing it to my liking:

As promised earlier, I am following up on a few retrofits and upgrades that I have done. These upgrades have been done in two batches total to reduce the downtime of the car. Here is the list so far:

OEM VRS230 Alloys:

Right when we decided to get the Octavia, I was sure of getting VRS alloys. I love the design, and it doesn't come with any of the fit related issues of the aftermarket options. It took me a considerable amount of time to find a good set of alloys, Most were either asking too much, or were battered by gashes. Although, I'd have loved to get the 18" alloys from the VRS 245, I felt 18" would be an overkill for Indian roads on the Octavia's suspension. When the time comes to overhaul the suspension, I'm going to get VRS 245's hardware. VRS 245's GC is slightly higher than the VRS230, this would help me tremendously on my apartment's pavement, and also the super tall speed breakers in my lane, while also giving me slightly better comfort in the cabin. Since the stock alloys were 16", I had to get tyres as well. After having tried Continental UC6 once and regretting, I decided not to compromise this time around, and got a set of the Michelin Primacy 4ST in 225/45 R17 size. I picked the Primacy over the Pilot Sport because 1) Primacy is more silent than the Pilot Sport, 2) Newer stock was available for the Primacy, 3) Primacy lasts longer than the Pilot Sport.

OEM VRS Tail Lamps:

Although the tail lamps are slightly different than the pre-facelift Mk3 Octavia, It was still looking largely similar to the pre-facelift Octavia, hence a little dated. I love the design of the tail lamps from the L&K. Since I was anyway getting brand new tail lamps, we (Nikhil and I) decided to get the VRS tail lamps as they are slightly darker and have black inserts, looking sportier than the L&K counterpart. The only hiccup was that the connectors of the newer tail lamps were different from the connectors of the stock tail lamps, and I did not want to do a jugaad install for the time being. I had to import and wait for the connectors to arrive before we could install the tail lamps. This upgrade also involves some amount of coding. The tail lamps, TPMS, and the Virtual Cockpit were installed and coded by Nikhil while I was in the US.

OEM Direct TPMS:

The Octavia came with In-Direct TPMS from the factory, having a direct TPMS system definitely helps as it shows the exact pressure in each tyre, and also integrates really well with the instrument cluster and the infotainment system. Furthermore, it also allows a multitude of options for tyre sizes, and presets for the load in the car to aid better. This is a fairly simple retrofit on most MQB cars.

OEM Virtual Cockpit:

This is another retrofit from the list that was ready before the purchase of the car. My brother and I wanted the Virtual Cockpit more than any other feature or retrofit. However, with the Mk3 Octavia going out of production, the prices for these virtual cockpits skyrocketed all around the globe (Europe, UK, Russia, Czech Republic etc). They were costing 1-1.2 lakh INR plus shipping and customs duty if imported. Just when we were making up our minds to place the order, Nikhil told me that there are Superb clusters which are being used with the Octavia's stock frame which were working out to be cheaper. The catch was that nobody had tried it in India yet at the time, and we do not know about any other caveats that might come with it. Since there was a considerable cost saving, we decided to take the plunge, and deal with any issues when the part arrives. As expected, it came with its own shock. I was initially very disappointed as we weren't aware of the ugly jugaad it came with. It was too late, and the part had already arrived India. If we were to ship it back, it would've costed a considerable amount of money plus the cost of the OEM Octavia cluster. Furthermore, Virtual Cockpit's now cannot be coded to other cars unlike earlier and are locked to the VIN. Nikhil and I discussed a bit on this and decided that if it fits snugly, and if its ugly side is not visible in the cabin, we will proceed with the installation. Unfortunately this is the only way possible for a Virtual Cockpit retrofit on the Mk3 Octavia's unless one is ready to spend exorbitant amounts of money on the part. I'm glad that it sits perfectly and does not have any fitting related issues. The only fly in the ointment is that the image is that of a Superb.

The white bars on the left are for the temperature, there are endless combinations of the information displayed on the screen, some of which will never see the light of the day.

The fuel indicator on the right side (white bars) when in reserve drops to a single bar, and changes the colour to red.

OEM Offline Navigation:

This retrofit is partly because I installed the Virtual Cockpit. The navigation on the cluster looks really cool IMO, however, without real time traffic data, these maps are useless in the city for a daily usage scenario. There were times when I was driving through forests and there was no signal for internet. In fact, I was even lost once because of this reason while I was driving to Wayanad from Mysore in my Vento. The issue with retrofitting this is that the Octavia's which do not have Navigation from factory do not come with an antenna on the roof. This meant that I will need to drill a hole in my roof for installing an OEM antenna, but I did not want to compromise on the structural integrity of the car. Hence I went ahead with an after market antenna which can be placed in the cabin. The next challenge was to place the antenna strategically so that it picks up signal in the well insulated cabin of the Octavia. At first, I tried placing it beside the glovebox, but the signal reception was poor, I later learned that below the centre AC vent there is a lot of space behind the Infotainment screen, and coincidentally, it is also a good place for picking up a strong signal. I then changed it's position and it now works well enough, however, I still lose signal sometimes when I'm in a basement. Since I was anyway getting a component protection unlocked radio, I wanted to get it with all the possible features enabled such as the Performance Monitor etc. I briefly contemplated on getting a more latest MIB 2.5 but this meant that I would also need to change the display, and the MIB 2.5 Radio's alone were costing around 50% more than the MIB2 Amundsen Radio. Overall, it was costing me slightly over double of what I would have to spend for an Amundsen including the display.

After having installed navigation, whenever the car is in reserve, upon starting the car, a prompt comes up on the radio asking if we want directions to refuel. I really like this as it reminds the driver to refuel.

OEM Blind Spot Assist:

My friend and fellow BHPian Fluidicjoy inspired and helped me a great deal to get the blind spot assist retrofit. This feature is tremendously helpful on the highways, and is very accurate. Unlike the blind spot monitor offered by Japanese and Korean cars, the one on the German cars is far superior. On the Japanese and Korean cars, they have simply placed a camera covering the blind spot, and when the respective indicator is turned on, the camera feed is relayed to the instrument cluster, needing active effort from the driver to focus on the video feed and try to make out any objects or vehicles. However, on the Skoda/VW cars, they worked based off of the radar's placed near the rear crash bar inside the rear bumper. There is one radar on each side, with predefined mounting points. Each of these radars continuously monitor the blind spots in all speeds and give an indication on either the ORVM or a lamp placed on the ORVM cap. This works very accurately, and there is barely any margin for error as the driver only needs to check if the light is lit to identify that there is something in the blind spot.

OEM Rear Traffic Alert:

This was a bonus feature unlocked by the hardware of the Blind Spot Assist retrofit. What this feature does is that it detects traffic and moving objects crossing the car perpendicularly while the car is reversing. It does so with a good margin of distance, thereby warning the driver well before a mishap. Overall, I love how accurate the blind spot monitor and the rear traffic alert features are. They make driving easier, but also spoil us for comfort and luxury. With the direction in which the features on the cars are moving (ADAS, Autonomous driving etc), I wonder if the drivers of the coming generations would know how to drive a car without all of these safety technologies.

The yellow lines are dynamic, according to the steering input, and the two polygons behind the car on the OPS display (left side) are for the rear traffic alert, If an object is detected, the area becomes red with audio warning like the usual sensor sound.

OEM PLA 3.0:

The Octavia's on sale in India which come with PLA from factory all come with PLA 2.0. PLA 3.0 is improved, and is more capable, but is far from perfect and reliable. It can detect both parallel and perpendicular parking spots in both forward and rearward. However, I did this only because it would add sensors on the rear which can detect and protect objects on the sides of the car. The PLA in my opinion is just a cool gimmick which works only in near perfect conditions which are rare to almost nonexistent in India.

The bottom left button with the steering is the button for PLA while the other P button with the cone is for PDC (OPS display).

OEM Mk4 VRS Steering:

The car's odo now stands at 20k kms. For a car that has been well looked after, and has barely been driven, the cabin and the body felt almost as good as new. However, the only part in the car which reminded of the age was the steering. It wasn't a flat bottom wheel, and the leather had patinated with a gloss black sheen. I did not like this, specially after getting used to the amazing Mk8 steering wheel on my Vento. Furthermore, the scrollers on the Skoda's are prone to breaking, and also do not work properly. This is probably the weakest part on the Skoda's. After installing the Mk4 VRS Steering wheel, the cabin now looks almost brand new and perfect. The perforated leather, red stitching, and the robust scrollers all make it a very good upgrade from the stock steering wheel.

OEM Highline Reverse Camera:

Dynamic guidelines always help to an extent while parking. The OEM camera can be properly calibrated to improve the accuracy of the guidelines, and the camera also comes with the feature of having a washer to clean the dust. However, Nikhil suggested against adding the washing functionality purely because of the risks associated in future in case of plumbing issues inside the cabin with a plethora of electronics and wiring. Hence, we decided to skip the washer feature.

OEM Ambient Lighting:

The top end variant of the Octavia Mk3 FL, and also the VRS duo come with 10 colour door pads ambient lighting from factory. I find this very upmarket and cool since the lighting creates a very good ambience inside the cabin, and also integrates well with the car's infotainment system. We have installed the door pad ambient light strips, along with the footwell ambient lighting, and enabled 30 colours. This also acts like a theme of sorts inside the car as the infotainment and cluster background change and match the footwell colour, the door pads light strip colour. The brightness is adjustable via the infotainment system.

With these upgrades, the original scope of retrofits that I had planned at the time of purchase are complete. All of these upgrades came with their own challenges as listed below:

  • The tail lamp connectors took their own sweet time to be found. The ones that were readily available were exorbitantly expensive to the tune of 10k INR for a set of connector's for one car.
  • The TPMS sensors I had initially purchased were not being detected by the TPMS module, we later had to use the ones that Nikhil had in stock.
  • The Virtual Cockpit's body came as the biggest shock/challenge.
  • The Navigation was confiscated by the customs authority and I was served with a show cause notice as the seller had mentioned it as "Radio" on the commercial invoice. Radio's (walkie talkies, and transponders etc) are banned from import in India. I had to post them a hand written letter and a declaration asking them to open the contents to examine and that it is actually a car infotainment system and not a literal radio.
  • The blind spot assist on Octavia Mk3 is actually supposed to work with indicators integrated into the ORVM's, these ORVM's were about 20k-25k INR each if imported. I initially had to temporarily use not so precisely cut mirror caps with blind spot lamps installed onto them. I later had to get the mirror caps laser cut, and install blind spot lamps in them, this project although exponentially cheaper than the mirror caps, was absurdly expensive, and I was left with a total of 2 spare pairs of the blind spot lamps. (The first pair got lost in transit, and I had to order another pair as I wanted them ASAP. Turns out that the seller shipped another pair for me).
  • The stock BCM on the Octavia Style variant does not have a RGB controller to support the ambient lights. We had to use a emulator which was tapping the LIN bus. I've observed that tapping the LIN bus adds a delay to the instructions being performed, as a result, any instruction I give to the ambient lights (brightness, colour etc) takes a few milli seconds to reflect.

Wish list:

  • Electrically adjustable front seats from the Octavia 1.8 TSI L&K. The TDI L&K offers electrical adjustment only for the drivers seat.
  • Travel Assist with its entire suite of driving aid systems such as ACC, Front Assist, Lane Assist etc. But this is a very expensive project on Skoda's because all hardware needed is missing unlike the VW's. My advise to anyone looking to get a car for the joy of retrofits, please get a VW, your pockets will be heavier.
  • Canton Music System.
  • 360 Cam.
  • KESSY with the latest gen keys.
  • VRS front and rear bumper.

P.S. Maybe I would upgrade the seats, but all the other items on my wishlist would cost me anywhere around 6-7 lakhs, I probably might never do them unless I happen to win a lottery.

Overall opinion about the car :

I find the DQ200 on this car to be much more smoother than it is or ever was on my Vento. I do not have any sorts of clutch slip, or the famous shudders (touchwood). Though this is no VRS, the 177 horses are clearly felt in the car. I love how smooth this engine is, and how sensitive it is to the accelerator, almost always ready to take off. The mileage figures give me tears sometimes . I intend to try out a remap but I'm skeptical over pushing the gearbox to its limits. If it ever gives up, I am going to go all out and do an AWD conversion. The MQB cars are definitely lighter than the PQ counterparts they are replacing, but this is as good an offering that is available on the market right now. I'm pretty satisfied with the car, and it is still very relevant even after being out of production for 2 years now. I hope to keep it that way with retrofits when it starts to show its age . I probably would have saved myself a lot of money and trouble had I found a good L&K in similar price bracket, but nothing beats a well kept low mileage car in my opinion. Having picked this up at just 11k on the ODO, I am glad.

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