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Driven: Skoda Octavia vRS TSI. Image by Skoda.

Driven: Skoda Octavia vRS TSI
This car is essentially a Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7 underneath. The strange thing is, we'd rather have the Skoda...

   



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| Test drive | Skoda Octavia vRS TSI |

Overall rating: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: fantastic looks, lovely cabin, plenty of space for passengers and cargo, wonderful all-round dynamic abilities.
Not so good: ride very occasionally jittery, not quite the bargain it once was, is a 280hp version on the way?

Key Facts

Model tested: Skoda Octavia vRS DSG TSI hatch
Pricing: 24,700 as standard; car as tested 28,015
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed DSG twin-clutch auto, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Ford Focus ST, Kia pro_cee'd GT, Volkswagen Golf GTI
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Combined economy: 44.1mpg
Top speed: 152mph
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Power: 220hp from 4,500- to 6,200rpm
Torque: 350Nm from 1,500- to 4,400rpm

Our view:

Did you know that RS - and we're talking about the Skoda badging here - has been around for 40 years? It might be tempting to think that it was a performance brand thought up by marketing brains in the early days of the Czechs' ownership by Volkswagen, but in actual fact the first examples of the breed were the 180/200 RS rally machines of 1974, quickly followed by 1975's 130 RS. And vRS, the top-line Skoda badging that has been on three Octavias and two Fabias so far and counting, is UK-only; the 'v' foisted on the Czech firm at Ford's behest, and you can understand why over here, as in every other country the rapid Skodas are just called RS.

Granted, there was a 19-year hiatus between the 130's demise in 1981 and the 1.8T-powered Mk1 Octavia vRS surfacing in 2000, but since then the fledgling sub-brand has evolved into this, the third generation of the Octavia vRS - the culmination of four decades' worth of heritage. You can have it in manual or twin-clutch DSG auto format, as either a hatchback or estate, and with the same 184hp diesel as we tried in the Leon ST FR recently... or a 220hp, 2.0-litre TSI petrol. Those last two engines should be familiar to you if you're a Volkswagen fan - they power the Mk7 Golfs GTD and GTI respectively. But with those hot Golfs proving so adept, and with the much more powerful SEAT Leon Cupra now on the scene, does the Octavia still offer something the others can't?

What has always been the Octavia's 'ace up the sleeve' compared to its stable mates is that it is based on a C-segment floor plan, as per the Golf, SEAT's Leon and Audi's A3, but it has a D-segment-sized body. And while it could be argued that the Mk3 Octavia is only mildly evolved visually from the Mk1 that appeared way back in 1996, the vRS in classic Race Blue is stunning. OK, we're not about to say it's as beautiful as, say, a Jaguar F-Type, but for a big five-door hatchback the Skoda is spot on. You can walk around it all day and you'll never find an angle from which it looks anything less than perfectly proportioned, nor a detail that isn't tidy and crisp.

The interior carries on the theme, classily laid out and a bit more upmarket in feel than that in the newer Leon, with a better, bigger touchscreen in the dash, superb seats, a fabulous steering wheel and nice dials that look like chronographs - also, rev counters seem to be more appealing when they're rendered in 10 x 100 format, as here, rather than 1 x 1,000; don't ask us why. It's also huge inside, easily capacious enough for five chunky adults, and possessed of a truly massive boot. You can go for the estate if you must but we'd only suggest you'd need one if you had a couple of sizeable mutts. Skoda 1, GTI 0.

Thankfully, the car's dynamic ability does not disappoint after its initial aesthetic conquest. Its on-paper performance stats make it the fastest road-going Octavia built (we have to insert the qualifier because of the existence of the 227mph Bonneville Mk2 vRS, which Kyle drove two years ago), but it feels even quicker than you might be expecting. There's a lovely, long pull of linear acceleration thanks to torque and power delivery curves that are superbly matched to each other. Newton metres rule the lower rev range, power takes over at the top of the rev counter. It also sounds pretty meaty for a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, something we've noticed of other EA888-engined cars recently.

Furthermore, every major control is supremely well-weighted. The steering feels magnificent, maybe not perfect but close enough for it not to matter, and there's discernable difference between normal and sport modes. It rides better on its standard-fit 18-inch alloys than the aforementioned Leon FR, presumably thanks to its elongated wheelbase, although there are still times the vRS fidgets on poorer surfaces. Throttle response is razor sharp and the DSG transmission is fantastic whether you're cruising on the motorway or barrelling down your favourite back road; we'd still opt for a manual, though, as keener drivers. And on the financial front, it's well-specified as standard with some choice options available too, while the combined economy figure is reasonable - we saw almost 40mpg average during our time with it and that included a few, er, 'spirited' drives.

If you can't tell already, on first acquaintance the Skoda Octavia vRS presented its case very well, and then just grew on us more and more during our time with it. Granted, it is no longer quite the bargain it once was, but then neither is it as 'well, it's OK for what I paid for it' either. It's a genuinely class act all round, doing everything brilliantly without ever feeling the need to shout about it. So good is it, in fact, that we'd recommend it over a standard Golf GTI. But a GTI with a Performance Pack is a different matter, as indeed is the Golf R. However, if the rumours of a 280hp special vRS to celebrate that 40th birthday are true, Skoda could be about to unveil something remarkable.

Alternatives:

Ford Focus ST: as ever, a great chassis but the ride is never as composed as the Skoda's, plus we'd argue that - even with a recent facelift for the Ford - the Skoda is nicer to look at inside and out.

Kia pro_cee'd GT: now the 'acceptable value' brand as Skoda moves further upmarket, the GT is an excellent first attempt at a hot hatch but lags behind the more grown-up Octavia in every respect.

Volkswagen Golf GTI: it's more expensive and smaller, yet it'll depreciate less. An excellent car, no doubt, but without the Performance Pack? We'd have the vRS instead.


Matt Robinson - 3 Aug 2014



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2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.



2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.
 

2014 Skoda Octavia vRS. Image by Skoda.
 






 

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