Big, bold and brilliant value. Is the vRS the thinking man’s hot hatch?
Volkswagen are kings of the GTi world, dominating with their Golf, even if others offer more for the money. That’s very true of this, Skoda’s Octavia vRS, which shares an awful lot under the metal with Germany’s finest.
The Czech pretender packs in a lot more value through, offering an extra 43cm of metalwork that’s handily shaped like a big estate car. There’s only an extra 5cm in the wheelbase though, so it looks a little heavier than it could, but that’s balanced by some really sharp lines and creases that make the Octavia look somehow both sensible yet purposeful.
Purpose is provided a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, and that takes 8.2 seconds to hit the same speed, although it will go on to an attention grabbing top speed of 143 mph. If that doesn’t sound too scorching, you’ll be pleased to know that it feels a lot quicker on the road.
That diesel engine produces low down torque that positively catapults you out of bends with an anti-social level of speed, the front end clinging on to the road surface. Shorter springs that lower the car by 15mm, stiffer anti-roll bars, some new suspension geometry and the so-called XDS+ system, a system that brakes the inside wheels during enthusiastic cornering, all combine to help turn the car in and keep it in line.
Raw numbers might suggest that the vRS isn’t as much fun as it could be, and it’s not quite a hot-hatch through the bends, but for the last couple of miles home after a long motorway journey, there’s enough to make you smile.
Ease off the gas and it’s an economical thing, too. Despite the reasonable performance, economy of 62.8mpg is promised by the official combined figures, while CO2 emissions are 117g/km. That means you’re paying just £30 in VED a year, with a Benefit in Kind rate of just 21% if you use the Octavia as a company car.
While Skoda’s prices are creeping up, this model comes in at just £25,675. That’s more than £2,000 less than the equivalent Golf GTD, and that’s not even an estate.
There’s also plenty of equipment included, including headlights that turn to follow bends (bizarrely, there’s a Sport mode for these), 18-inch alloy wheels, multi-function steering wheel, climate control and lots of little touches around the car such as an ice-scraper nestled in the fuel flap or various hooks and eyelets in the boot to tie things down to.
Elsewhere, that huge lump of metal welded to the back allows you to carry up 610 litres of whatever stuff you can squeeze in. Fold the seats down, treat it like a van, and that extends to a massive 1,740 litres. That’s more than you’ll squeeze in to a Volvo estate.
The Volkswagen Golf GTD is an obvious rival, but that’s not yet available as an estate. It’s also more expensive, but does come with a couple of extra gadgets to boost driving dynamics.
A Volvo really isn’t a competitor for the Octavia though, missing out on the engaging performance aspect. Vauxhall’s new Astra estate comes with a twin-turbo diesel option that’s just as quick, while the Ford Focus Estate ST offers similar levels of performance for about the same money, but neither are as practical.
The Octavia vRS is a bit of a car for all people, offering performance, practicality, entertainment, economy and low running costs, but for ultimate hot-hatchery it’s best to look elsewhere.
However, for those times that you’re simply transporting a boot load of Ikea furniture or taking the family and dogs on a cross-country trip, you’ll appreciate the fact that it gives up a bit of its edge in order to provide some comfort. The fact you’ll be able to secretly enjoy some of the twistier sections is just a bonus.
It’s a car to buy with your head, while allowing your heart to interfere with the process just a little bit.
|Model Tested: Skoda Octavia vRS Estate 2.0 TDI 184PS|
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 143 mph
0-62 mph: 8.0 seconds
Power: 184 PS (181 bhp)
Torque: 380 Nm (280 ft-lb)
|Official fuel economy: 62.8 mpg
Road Test economy: 45.4 mpg
CO2 Emissions: 117 g/km
VED Band: C / £30 per year
Car insurance group: 26E
Kerb weight: 1,392 kg
The photographs associated with this review date back to 2013, but the content has been updated fully to reflect the latest specifications.