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Driven: Skoda Octavia Estate vRS 230. Image by Skoda.

Driven: Skoda Octavia Estate vRS 230
Just ten extra horsepower? Yes. But the vRS 230 is a wholly worthwhile upgrade.

 



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Skoda Octavia Estate vRS 230

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: all the usual excellent Octavia vRS attributes, only with better turn-in and a bit more pace.

Not so good: the ride suffers as a result of the 230 upgrades.

Key Facts

Model tested: Skoda Octavia Estate vRS 230
Price: Octavia Estate range from 27,990; vRS 230 from 28,940; car as tested 29,040
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed DSG automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 147g/km (Band F, 145 annually)
Combined economy: 43.5mpg
Top speed: 152mph
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
Power: 230hp at 4,700- to 6,200rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1,500- to 4,600rpm


Effectively the same process as Volkswagen carries out on the Golf GTI for the Performance Pack, this Skoda Octavia vRS 230 is a slightly more powerful version of the regular model. The output of its EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is up 10hp to 230hp in total, hence the car's name, but torque remains unchanged at 350Nm. However, the delivery of those figures is marginally different compared to the 220: peak power arrives 200rpm later, at 4,700rpm, but by way of compensation the torque is held for an extra 200rpm, to 4,600rpm.

That improves the car's performance, although the increases are next to negligible - the manual hatchback 230 is the first Skoda to require a 155mph electronic limiter, but this DSG estate is the slowest of all four 230 models, with a 152mph top whack and a 0-62mph time of seven seconds flat. So, as you can see, 'slowest' is hardly the appropriate term for what is a pretty pacey wagon.

Elsewhere, the big news is the addition of the electronically controlled differential lock, which is known as XDS on the Volkswagen. It can shunt 100 per cent of grunt to either front wheel if required, which promises to cut down on any under- or torque-steer the 220 might exhibit. There's also a noisy sports exhaust (if the car's in one of its more focused driving modes), some colossal 'Xtreme' alloys wheels that are finished in black with five misshapen octagonal grey highlights on them, a '230' decal on the rear doors and lots of black detailing - which works very well against this Corrida Red paint. Inside is lovely vRS-logoed black leather with superb sports front seats.

You pay more than 2,500 to upgrade a 220 hatch to a 230, although on the estate the premium is a slightly more reasonable 2,120. However, there's more standard equipment, which means that using the cost options to specify a 220 to the same level of luxury as these 230 models would cost more money, so - before having turned a wheel of the new Octavia range-topper - in value terms it's actually a decent upgrade.

That's despite the 230 still lacking some creature comforts, like KESSY (Skoda's keyless entry and go system), meaning you have to do such quaint things as blip the fob to get in and then actually turn the key in the ignition to start the engine; oh, how delightfully archaic!

If all the above sounds distinctly underwhelming, prepare yourselves for a shock: this is about the best Skoda we've ever driven. OK, so it's all little tweaks here and minor additions there, but working off the fantastic Octavia vRS 220 as a basis isn't a bad place to start. And if you like a touch more excitement to your daily driver, the 230 provides it.

Press the performance mode button and put the car in its Sport setting, and the exhaust makes a terrific racket under hard acceleration, with pops and bangs on both flat-throttle upshifts and when coming back down the gearbox. To hear this sort of noise coming from an Octavia Estate is wonderfully perverse and something guaranteed to put a smile on your face the first time you hear it.

It's the diff, though, which makes the real difference, eradicating the vague numbness in the steering rack of the 220 and making the 230 much keener to turn in. Despite the fact the on-paper stats suggest only incremental uplifts in the Octavia's speed, Skoda says it is ten seconds quicker round the Nordschleife than the 220. Even driving it at a fair old lick on the road, that claim feels entirely believable. The 230 has so much more bite and traction that it feels more like a 280 in the way it can eat up ground. Maybe the raucous exhaust tricks you into thinking it's quicker than it really is, but we wouldn't complain in the slightest about its urgency or road-holding.

Everything else is as you were for the Octavia vRS. It's still a huge, practical machine, even more so in estate guise like this, it's still massively refined when you just want to tool around like... well, like you're in a Skoda Octavia and you're popping down the shops, and it still looks bloody great with its neat creases and tidy front/rear design. It's extremely hard to criticise the Octavia.

It's not quite perfect for fans like us. The ride on those striking 19-inch rims is not as smooth as on the standard 220 vRS, as the 230 makes adequate road surfaces feel poor. It's fine enough on the motorway, but if you do a lot of urban driving, its crunchiness is probably going to grate. Also, the DSG has a coasting function in Eco mode, which disengages the clutches on the gearbox to save fuel. This robs the car of any engine braking whatsoever, meaning you'll be on the anchors more often than usual in the sort of surging 50- to 70- to 50mph traffic that characterises our motorways in this day and age. And it didn't seem to help fuel economy that much - we did more than 500 miles at a 44mph average and saw 35.3mpg as a result.

Other than that, though, we fell in love with this big, rapid and capable wagon. When car manufacturers put the drivetrain that would befit a supercar into a by-the-numbers four-door and create super saloons, like the old V10-engined BMW M5, everyone goes mad for them. Skoda has done a similar job here, it's just that it has enacted the subterfuge at a lower - and therefore more relevant - level, because the Octavia is an elegant and practical family car, with the underpinnings of a very, very decent hot hatchback lurking beneath. We've always loved the Czechs' C-segment machine, especially as a vRS, but this 230 is undoubtedly the best model yet. With an ever-so-slightly smoother ride, we'd have probably given it full marks.

Alternatives:

SEAT Leon ST Cupra: much more power than the Skoda and sharp to drive too, it starts from 29,670 so it's again an in-Volkswsagen-Group-house fight between Spain and the Czech Republic. The Octavia is more refined and practical, if that helps...

Vauxhall Insignia VXR SuperSport Tourer: aimed at the likes of the Audi S4, you get a lot of performance (170mph) from this Griffin, but with a new Insignia on the way, time is running out for the big VXR.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance Pack: Volkswsagen doesn't do the GTI as an estate as yet, but the hatchback has the same mechanical updates as the Skoda. We'd have the Octavia wagon first.


Matt Robinson - 27 Nov 2015









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2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.

2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.2015 Skoda Octavia vRS 230 Estate. Image by Skoda.








 

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