Skoda Octavia vRS review
The Octavia vRS is great value for money - but ignoring the cost, you're left with a car that doesn't tick every box.
The Octavia vRS comes with a choice of two engines - the 197bhp 2.0-litre T-FSI petrol from VW's Golf GTI, or a 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel. The diesel is highly-tuned, which means power delivery is not as linear or consistent is it could be, making it tricky to drive at slow speeds. It's also noisy on start-up and diesel clatter is noticeable. However, on the motorway it's excellent, and overtaking is a breeze. The petrol sounds almost as good as it does in the Golf GTI, thanks to a fruity exhaust note. It's genuinely fast and punchy; 60mph in 6.7 seconds is just a tenth of a second slower than the Golf. It's just a shame neither model has a rewarding gearbox; the six-speed shift is notchy. Riding 12mm lower than the standard Octavia, the vRS's ride is firm, and it picks out potholes too easily. It is a little nose-heavy, too, but there is plenty of grip and the steering feels positive. Although it is a bit noisy at speed and not as cosseting as it could be on the motorway, the Octavia is still dynamically very accomplished and reasonably good fun. It's just the driving experience lacks depth.
The Octavia vRS is Skoda's most powerful road-going machine. Nevertheless, the firm has always been keen to highlight its practicality and low running costs too; that's why a diesel model is available alongside the 197bhp petrol. With deep bumpers, boot spoiler, twin exhaust pipes and alloy wheels, the vRS' additions make the most of the standard Octavia's sharp lines, giving it an athletic look. Visually, diesel and petrol are indistinguishable. Although larger than most hot hatches, it's still very keenly priced to compete with the Ford Focus ST, Golf GTI, Vauxhall Astra VXR and sister company Seat's Leon FR.
The cabin is quite conservative, with a three-spoke leather steering wheel, black rooflining and aluminium-effect trim on the centre console being the key differences from lesser models. We'd have liked Skoda to make it feel more special, but at least the black and grey sports seats lift the cabin with their green vRS badging. There's no arguing with the Octavia's practicality, with bags of storage up front thanks to deep door pockets, a large central bin and dash-mounted cubbyhole. The boot is excellent, too, though it's a shame the CD changer is mounted there - it seems a step back in time, when both VW and Audi place changers in the glovebox or centre console. However, all-round build quality is good, while the Golf-sourced switchgear and robust plastics give the cabin an upmarket feel. It's cracking value for money too, and the equipment list is very comprehensive; although curtain airbags are optional, it comes with ESP, climate control, a CD changer and sports seats as standard. By class standards, both engines are fuel-efficient and Skoda's image means used prices are strong. Servicing prices shocked us with their expense, although variable intervals mean attention should only be needed every 18,000 miles.