The pace of a hot hatch, but more practical, cheaper and with fuel economy of nearly 50mpg – on paper, Skoda’s Octavia vRS TDI is a winner.
Although the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol version is a well known performance bargain, only now has the Czech manufacturer decided to introduce a diesel option. Producing 170bhp, the vRS TDI isn’t short of power and, in estate form, it should make the Octavia an unbeatable all-rounder.
Fire the engine, though, and initial impressions are that refinement is in short supply. The VW Group’s proven 2.0-litre TDI powerplant has taken on a rougher edge in return for its stronger punch. Take off for the first time and you’ll probably find yourself trying to rescue the Octavia from stalling. Even though there’s 350Nm of torque available from only 1,800rpm, the way the unit is set up means the car feels reluctant to pull away, and so accurate use of the clutch and throttle is required.
Once on the move, however, the Octavia hurtles forward as if pulled by a towrope attached to a high-speed winch. The surge of acceleration is strong in all of the gears but first, which is unusually short. Yet each burst of pace is over in a flash, as the powerband is frustratingly narrow. Grip is another problem when pushing on, as the front tyres constantly trigger the traction control in the wet.
In dry conditions, the new vRS TDI is every bit as capable a driver’s car as its petrol brother. It’s not as polished as a VW Golf GTI, but it turns into corners sharply, and its accurate steering matches the strong brakes.
Keen not to deter petrol-biased customers, Skoda has ensured hardly anything distinguishes the oil-burner, apart from the fuel it uses. The only clue is the trip meter, which should display something similar to the claimed 48.7mpg – much better than the petrol model’s 36mpg figure. And, with emissions of 157g/km, this Octavia would make the perfect high-mileage company car. The hatchback is £18,370, while the load-lugger driven here costs £19,220. That includes climate control, a six-CD autochanger and vRS-trimmed sports seats.
So, the vRS TDI is a penny-pincher’s dream. But you’ll pay £845 more than for the excellent 2.0-litre turbo petrol, which offers smoother power delivery – and will be the keen driver’s choice.