Skoda Octavia vRS Estate review
The Skoda Octavia vRS Estate is even more practical than the hatchback version, yet offers the same thrilling performance
The Skoda Octavia vRS Estate almost seems too good to be true: a near-200bhp performance car with reasonable running costs, hot hatch pace and estate car practicality. Badge snobs may prefer the VW Golf GTI on which it's based, and there's no denying its other sister car, the SEAT Leon Cupra R, is more attractive to look at, but there's no arguing with the sheer value for money on offer with the Skoda. Plus, neither of those cars are available in estate form, so if you need load-lugging ability, it's the only one to go for.
Our choice: vRS 2.0 TDI CR Estate manual
Those who buy a car with their heart rather than their head will be disappointed with the Octavia vRS Estate. Although a facelift in 2010 smartened up the front end with more distinctive headlights, the car is still pretty dull to look at overall – its appeal lies in knowing how much car you've got for your money, rather than attracting admiring glances from passers-by. The vRS model does get some choice styling additions, however, such as a subtle rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, an aggressive front bumper and lowered suspension that gives it a more purposeful stance.
Two engines are available: a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel. The petrol is the more powerful of the two, with 197bhp, and this sees the vRS cover 0-60mph in only 7.2 seconds. The 170bhp diesel takes 8.3 seconds, but its power delivery is perhaps better suited to everyday urban driving than the more frantic petrol. Even in large estate form, the Octavia vRS is a great handling car, with sharp steering and well controlled body roll. The VW Group's renowned DSG twin-clutch gearbox can be specified with both the petrol and diesel engines, offering a choice of either smooth automatic upshifts or precise control via steering wheel-mounted paddles.
As the MkII Skoda Octavia design first appeared in 2004, it's a little out of step with the competition when it comes to safety, scoring four out of a possible five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test. You do get all the latest safety kit, such as traction control, ESP, plus front and side airbags, though, so it's not a major worry. And there are no big concerns over reliability, either: Skoda was the best-placed manufacturer in our 2012 Driver Power ownership survey, and the Octavia itself was the fourth-best individual model.
The Skoda Octavia Estate is simply one of the most practical cars on sale today: with the rear seats folded down, it will swallow 1,655 litres of luggage. With the seats in place and rear passengers enjoying the plentiful legroom, you can still fit 605 litres in, so there's very few situations where the estate will come up short. Cabin storage is good, too, thanks to deep door pockets, a large tray between the front seats and a handy cubby built into the dashboard.
The Octavia vRS outdoes nearly all its rivals in this department. Especially in diesel form, it's one of the most cost-effective performance cars you can own. Low CO2 emissions keep annual road tax affordable, and a manual-gearbox diesel-engined car will return a claimed 50mpg. The petrol-engined version can't match these figures, of course, but it's still a very reasonable ownership prospect, with 38mpg fuel economy. The diesel falls into insurance group 28 and the petrol into group 30, so annual premiums won't break the bank, and the Octavia holds on to its value well.