Road Tests

First drive: Skoda Octavia vRS Estate brings space and pace to hot hatch market

Time 5 months ago

The Octavia vRS has long been a very useable performance car, but has Skoda pulled off the same trick with the new one? Jack Evans finds out

What is it?

Ever since Skoda relaunched the Octavia name in the late 1990s, there has been a performance vRS version that offered almost everything its sister VW Golf GTI offered but in a more spacious, more value-for-money and, arguably, a more usable package.

Skoda has pulled the same trick with the new Octavia vRS as it shares its powertrain with the latest Golf GTI but also errs on the value side, too.

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What’s new?

Just like the standard Octavia, this is new refresh of the old model as the new Octavia model range sit on a new platform bringing more space and better levels of practicality. There’s a more angular look for all models in particular the vRS version, while the interior gets more tech and connectivity.

What’s under the bonnet?

A 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 242bhp and 370Nm, with power being sent to the front wheels through a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. Skoda quotes a 0-60mph time of 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 155mph.

Despite offering more than brisk performance, the vRS does well in the economy stakes, too. Skoda claims that you should be able to see up to 40.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of between 159-181g/km.

This isn’t going to be the only engine on offer with the vRS, either. A similarly powerful plug-in hybrid variant is due to be available too, as well as a more conventional diesel. The former will certainly be a hit with business users, owing to CO2 emissions as low as 26g/km.

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What’s it like to drive?

We were quite taken aback by how well the ‘standard’ Octavia rides, so it’s thankful that some of this has been carried over to the vRS. Yes, it’s firmer – this is a performance-based car, after all – but it’s got a setup which has been masterfully judged for the road.

The steering is lighter than expected but the gearbox is smooth and responsive – in fact, we’d guess most customers will leave it in full automatic mode.

The engine bucks the trend of current ‘performance’ powertrains in that it doesn’t crack, burble nor shout but gets the job done in a thoroughly understated fashion. The vRS isn’t razor-edged and the engine reflects this, providing brisk, muscular performance. Combined with excellent body control and pleasantly sharp brakes, it ensures that the Octavia provides extra sparkle to a regular drive without making the whole experience too overbearing or tiresome.

How does it look?

Previous vRS models have nailed the understated brief and it’s fair to say that it’s the same story again with this latest generation. It certainly has an elevated look over the regular Octavia, but it’s neither shouty nor in-your-face; just as a performance Skoda should be, in our opinion.

What’s it like inside?

As we’ve already mentioned, the new Octavia sits on a new platform compared with before, meaning it’s got more space to offer. Even sitting up front, it’s clear to see how hard Skoda has worked to make the whole cabin feel brighter, while the level of build quality is good enough to put many premium manufacturers to shame – we particularly like the Alcantara-lined dashboard. It’s a great place to be.

There’s a good amount of space, too – 600 litres with the rear seats in place, or 1,555 litres with them down. It’s a load area which dwarfs even those cars in the class above. For context, you’ll get just 500 litres of space in a BMW 3 Series Touring.

What’s the spec like?

Prices for the Octavia vRS start from £31,425 and there’s a wealth of standard equipment.
Our car chimed in at £36,240, with the bulk of the additional cost put down to only a handful of optional extras, such as a panoramic roof (£1,150) and Dynamic Chassis Control (£925). But realistically, there’s little need for customers to trouble the options list when there’s features such as dual-zone climate control, 19-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights and a 10-inch infotainment system all thrown in as standard.

What do the press think?

Autocar said: ‘As ever with Skoda, the really interesting bit concerns price. At £32,695 in DSG form, rising to £33,620 if you choose the optional Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers (and you should), the Octavia vRS Estate costs £1340 less than Volkswagen asks for the DSG-equipped Golf GTI hatch. It’s this, more than anything, that makes the Skoda impossible to ignore.’

What do we think?

It’s almost becoming a chore to keep praising Skoda models, but unfortunately, the Czech firm has made another stellar attempt with the Octavia vRS. It’s competitively priced, well finished both inside and out and far more practical than rivals. Add on top of this that it’s excellent to drive quickly and refined at a cruise and you find yourself looking at a car which really does tick many boxes.

A plug-in hybrid variant also gives an option for business users, but this standard petrol version already makes a solid case for itself. We reckon Skoda won’t be able to make them quick enough.

The knowledge

Model: Skoda Octavia vRS Estate
Price: £31,495
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Power: 241bhp
Torque: 370Nm
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 6.4 seconds
MPG: 40.4–35.3
Emissions: 159–181g/km CO2

TARGET BUYERS

Hot hatch buyers who want a little more space; family buyers and, with the plug-in hybrid version, business users

THE RIVALS

Ford Focus ST Estate, Cupra Leon ST, Volkswagen Golf GTI

KEY SELLING POINTS

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Easy to live with
Subtly aggressive
Quality interior with plenty of tech

DEAL CLINCHER
It’s an excellent all-rounder

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